The North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission is accepting public comment until Nov. 30 on proposed amendments and readoption of 109 rules under a state-mandated periodic review schedule.
Most of the rules pertain to artificial reefs in state ocean waters, shellfish leases, shellfish and crustacea public health protections, and marking requirements for certain commercial fishing gears. Several rules contain only minor technical changes, according to Division of Marine Fisheries officials. Text of the proposed rules can be found on the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission’s Proposed Rules Page.
A public hearing is set for 6 p.m. Oct. 27 by web conference. Meeting event number is 161 493 7847 and password is 1234. The public can also call in to listen, 415-655-0003. To comment during the hearing, register online by noon Oct. 27.
The public may submit written comments through an online form or through the mail to N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Rules Comments, P.O. Box 769, Morehead City, NC 28557. Comments must be posted online or be received by the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries by 5 p.m. Nov. 30.
Three of the rules would restrict highly efficient fishing gears on the 13 artificial reefs in state ocean waters out to 3 nautical miles, to protect all species of finfish, reducing the likelihood of overexploiting resources on the reefs. Fishing gears considered highly efficient would be all those other than hand line, hook and line, rod and reel, and spearfishing gear, according to the division. All harvest by spearfishing gear would be restricted to recreational limits. The rules are proposed as a complement to federal restrictions for snapper grouper species that became effective earlier this year for the 30 artificial reefs off North Carolina in the Exclusive Economic Zone, from 3 to 200 nautical miles in the Atlantic Ocean.
The division said other proposed rule changes would:
- Continue supporting the efficiency of the state’s shellfish lease and aquaculture program and shellfish production. Specifically, changes would streamline and shorten processes for shellfish lease applications, shellfish lease application grievances by the public, production reporting requirements, and shellfish lease transfers and subleases. Also, changes would continue to address user conflicts associated with shellfish leases.
- Clarify the different types of shellfish management areas, including oyster sanctuaries and seed oyster management areas, and delegate proclamation authority to the division director for flexibility to manage areas that are no longer productive, as well as for user conflicts. This authority would also allow for further protection of public health and help prevent resources from being overexploited.
- Strengthen the ability of Marine Patrol to enforce permit and fish dealer requirements for sanitary handling of shellfish and crustacea (crab meat), to prevent illness. Specific requirements for shellfish and crustacea permits, shellfish tagging, and depuration of shellfish are proposed.
- Standardize marking requirements across all rules pertaining to commercial gears, including new requirements for pots and trotlines to have buoys engraved with certain information. The requirements would allow Marine Patrol, fishermen and boaters to more easily identify gear, potentially reducing user conflicts.
- Correct grammar and punctuation, update agency names and make other minor technical changes.
The proposed rule changes are to be presented to the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission for final approval in February 2022 and have an earliest effective date of May 1, 2022.
For questions about the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission rulemaking process, email Catherine Blum at Catherine.Blum@ncdenr.gov, rules coordinator for the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries.