NC Saltwater Fishing Decline…….Marine Fisheries Taking “Public Comments”……Time For Action!
For many months we have talked about the needed changes in the management of North Carolina’s saltwater fishing resource. The ongoing decline has resulted in a continued failure on the part of the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries. This is clearly seen in multiple areas, especially in the area of commercial trawling in the inside waters of the North Carolina Coast.
Currently, the NC Division of Marine Fisheries is accepting Public Comments on proposed management changes. They will continue to accept these Public Comments until June 30, 2021. To date, the commission has received numerous comments from the commercial fishing and seafood sales industry and no comments from the state’s recreational fishing sector.
While these potential changes do not cure all of the North Carolina’s Marine Fisheries issues, it is an important step to beginning the restoration of what has become a greatly abused resource. However, it will not take place without the support and voice of the recreational fishing community. This may be our only chance to reverse the mismanagement of the past.
Please read the information below and submit your comments online. Emailed or mailed comments will not be accepted by the Division of Marine Fisheries. This opportunity is what we have been working for over the past several months. Let’s make it count!!!
|The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries is accepting public comment on proposed management changes to further reduce bycatch of non-target species and minimize ecosystem impacts from North Carolina shrimp trawling.
Draft Amendment 2 to the Shrimp Fishery Management Plan contains a suite of management options that range broadly from status quo to a complete closure of all inside waters, including Pamlico Sound, to shrimp trawling.
Studies have consistently indicated the shrimp trawl industry catches and kills some 3-4 lbs. of finfish as bycatch for every pound of shrimp caught. Yet, the industry is asking the public and the MFC to ignore this data. (Brown, 2009-2010, 3.3 lbs.; Brown, 2015-2018, 3.6 lbs.)
In 1997 the combined total commercial harvest of spot, croaker and weakfish was almost 17 million pounds. In 2019 it was 1.8 million pounds. This represents an 89% decline in these three species since the Fisheries Reform Act of 1997. These three species were also identified in the Brown 2009 study as three of the top five species of finfish caught as bycatch in the shrimp trawl studies.
So, the data clearly shows that by trawling on top of identified nursery areas we are allowing the depletion of important finfish by shrimp trawl bycatch, and if the MFC chooses to ignore this information they are stating clearly that the “multi-million-dollar shrimp fishing industry in North Carolina” is more important than ending the depletion of the people’s fish.
Objectives of the new FMP include reducing bycatch of non-target species of finfish; and promoting the restoration, enhancement, and protection of habitat. DMF staff has stated, “Status quo does not meet the goal and objectives of Amendment 2”.
We urge the MFC to focus on how area specific shrimp trawl closures can be implemented to protect critical habitats and how area restrictions could Reduce Shrimp Trawl Bycatch in the nursery areas of the Pamlico Sound. “If a complete closure or an option that closes areas in the northern and western portion of Pamlico Sound is chosen, a complete closure of Neuse River should be strongly considered. If status quo or other smaller scale options are chosen for Pamlico Sound, additional options could be considered for Neuse River.” (p. 134 of Draft FMP) Identical recommendations are made under discussion of the Bay River, Pamlico/Pungo rivers, and Roanoke/Croatan sounds.
Much of the presentation from DMF staff focuses on the need for more studies but what cannot be ignored is what we already know. We call your attention to the graphics provided by DMF scientists that clearly show we have been trawling for decades on top of nursery areas for spot, croaker, weakfish and flounder. The hotspots identified by DMF juvenile trawl index surveys make it crystal clear that we are allowing trawling right on top of areas within the Pamlico Sound that have been identified by DMF as nursery areas for important commercial and recreational species of fish. (Pages 177-186)
The easiest way to comment is by Submitting Online Comments through the DMF link – Click here Public comments will be accepted using this online form until 5 p.m. on June 30. Emailed comments will not be accepted.
More specifics on the Draft Shrimp Amendment 2 can be found on the Shrimp Fishery Management Plan Amendment 2 Information webpage.
The Marine Fisheries Commission is scheduled to consider public comment and advisory committee input and select its preferred management measures for departmental and legislative review at its August business meeting and give final approval of the amendment in November 2021.