The North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission will hold two public hearings online this month on proposed amendments and the readoption of 50 rules under a state-mandated periodic review schedule.
Rules deal with shellfish lease user conflicts, reclassification of Special Secondary Nursery Areas, oyster sanctuaries, classification of shellfish growing waters, and sanitation standards for commercial crustacea processing procedures. Other rules pertaining to joint fishing waters are proposed for readoption with no changes.
The public can join the online meetings at 6 p.m. Oct. 21 and 6 p.m. Oct. 27. Those who wish to comment during the hearing must register to speak by noon on the day of the hearing. Sign up to speak and read more.
The proposed rule changes will be presented to the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission for final approval in February and have an earliest effective date of April 1.
Members of the public can submit written comments through an online form or mail to N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Recreational Water Quality Rules Comments, P.O. Box 769, Morehead City, N.C. 28557. Comments must be posted online or be received by the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries by 5 p.m. Nov. 30.
According to Marine Fisheries, the proposed rule changes will do the following:
- Address user conflicts associated with shellfish leases while supporting a productive shellfish aquaculture industry, as required by NCGA Session Law 2019-37. The proposed changes will increase setback requirements from developed shorelines for new shellfish leases; limit the allowable number of corner markers for demarcating shellfish leases to simplify the polygon shapes; set new criteria for shellfish lease stakes and signage to alleviate navigation concerns; and, initiate a new shellfish leaseholder training program that emphasizes user conflict reduction strategies.
- Reclassify nine Special Secondary Nursery Areas to Secondary Nursery Areas, as recommended by the Shrimp Fishery Management Plan Amendment 1. The nine areas have not been opened to trawling since at least 2004, so there will be no effective change to the shrimp trawl fishery; however, the reclassification will result in a small mesh gill net attendance requirement in these waters, except for Scranton Creek. All areas have gill net attendance requirements now; the proposed rules would require additional attendance in all waters, not just 50 yards from the shoreline, from May 1 to Nov. 30.
- Amend the oyster sanctuaries rule by adding five new sites (Long Shoal, Little Creek, Pea Island, Raccoon Island, and Swan Island), updating boundaries for three existing sites, Neuse River, West Bluff and Gibbs Shoal, and removing two sites that no longer function as sanctuaries, Ocracoke and Clam Shoal.
- Update shellfish sanitation laboratory procedures, sanitation survey reporting requirements, standards for classifying shellfish waters, and definitions to conform with current national standards.
- Readopt with no changes nine rules that pertain to joint fishing waters, in accordance with a state-mandated periodic review schedule.
- Correct grammar, typographical errors and update agency names.
For questions about the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission rulemaking process, email Catherine Blum, rules coordinator for the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries.
Links to the public hearing registration form and online comment form, as well as text of the proposed rules and links to join the meeting, can be found on the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission’s proposed rules page.