This report has been updated to note the Environmental Management Commission’s action Sept. 9 and correct date for the Marine Fisheries Commission meeting.
This report was updated Sept. 3 to include details on stakeholder recommendations.
The North Carolina Environmental Management Commission voted Sept. 9 to approve the 2021 amendment to the Coastal Habitat Protection Plan for public comment and advisory committee review.
The North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission voted Aug. 27 to approve the proposed update for review. The latest action marks two of the three required approvals needed before the public review period can begin for the Department of Environmental Quality plan and related stakeholder recommendations. The Coastal Resources Commission is expected to consider approval for public comment during its meeting Sept. 15.
The 2021 amendment contains several recommendations focused on achieving the plan’s goal, which is long-term enhancement of coastal fisheries through habitat protection and enhancement efforts.
Stakeholder recommendations also approved
The approval for public review also includes Appendix A, the findings, conclusions and recommendations of an independent stakeholder workgroup convened by the North Carolina Coastal Federation and The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Input for the stakeholder workgroup came from a broad array of expertise, including farming; fishing; wetland and water quality mitigation practices; land development; local governments; environmental programs, laws and regulations; environmental engineering and management; and property management. The group reached consensus and recommended an array of nonregulatory actions to improve water quality.
In December 2004, the North Carolina Marine Fisheries, Environmental Management, and Coastal Resources Commissions unanimously adopted the North Carolina Coastal Habitat Protection Plan, which is to be revised every five years to reflect changes in the status of habitat protection, according to NCDEQ.
Other commission business
The commission also Thursday opted not to immediately initiate modifications to small-mesh gill net rules but agreed to address gillnet issues as needed through the fishery management plan process.
The commission considered a suite of potential management options for the small-mesh gill net fishery that focused on reducing regulatory complexity, potential bycatch, and user conflict. The Division of Marine Fisheries developed the proposals at the direction of the commission.
Division Director Kathy Rawls assured the commission that the division already does and will continue to address gill net issues through the fishery management plan process, according to the release.
In other business, the commission voted to:
- Ask the division to develop an issue paper to assess needed changes the mutilated finfish rule (15A NCAC 03M .0101).
- Set the cap on the number of licenses in the Standard Commercial Fishing License Eligibility Pool for fiscal year 2021-2022 at 500.
- Approve the five-year Fishery Management Plan schedule for review and final approval by the secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality.
- Approve notice of text to begin the process of readoption, repeal, adoption, and amendment of a slate of rules under a mandatory periodic review schedule (G.S. 150B-21.3A).
- Re-elect Doug Cross as commission vice-chairman.