From a Carteret County News-Times report
EMERALD ISLE — State fisheries managers have chosen their preferred shrimp trawling regulations, which leave out many area closures the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries recommended.
The North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission held its business meeting last week at The Islander Hotel & Resort. During the meeting, the commission selected its preferred management options for the Shrimp Fishery Management Plan Amendment 2.
The Division of Marine Fisheries recommended to the Marine Fisheries Commission a suite of management measures that included closing 315,206 acres of coastal waters to shrimp trawling to reduce bycatch. Combined with existing areas closed to trawling, the division recommendations would have closed 62.1% of the state’s estuarine waters to such activity.
The amendment, particularly its recommended closures, has faced considerable opposition, including from commercial shrimpers, consumers and government officials.
After lengthy deliberation, two public comment periods, and a motion on the Division of Marine Fisheries recommendations failing 4-5, the commission selected it’s preferred management measures 5-3, with members Robert McNeill, Tom Roller and Chairperson Rob Bizzell opposed and member James Konegay abstaining. These preferred measures now go to the state Department of Environmental Quality for review.
The commission’s preferred management measures include some area closures to trawling. If given final approval, the measures will permanently prohibit all trawling in crab sanctuary areas and also prohibit shrimp trawling in Bogue Sound and its tributaries, as well as in Carolina Yacht Basin, except for the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway in both areas.
Most of the about 55 speakers during the public comment periods Wednesday and Thursday were opposed to the division’s recommendations, alleging there’s no scientific data to support widespread closures to shrimp trawling and that it would severely affect the commercial shrimp industry, putting many smaller fishermen out of business.
State Sen. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, was present at the meeting Nov. 17 and spoke during public comment. The senator, who sits on the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, called the DMF’s recommendations “death by a thousand cuts.”
“You need to be thinking about and representing everyone,” Steinburg said.
Several county leaders, including Carteret County Commissioner Chris Chadwick, spoke at the meeting, as well.
“Many families up and down the coast rely on shrimpers,” Chadwick said. “The totality of the impacts (of the proposed closures) is more than many commissioners would like to admit. If you fail these working watermen, you’ve also failed the eastern North Carolina consumer.”
Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina Executive Director David Sneed and President Dr. Chris Elkins spoke in favor of the DMF’s recommendations. Elkins said the amount of bycatch in shrimp trawling is “obscene” and more consideration is needed for protecting the resources for recreational fishermen.
Division staff stressed their recommendations were made on the best information they had available at the time. Director Kathy Rawls said the recommendations were “grounded in the data” and “reviewed by the public” during a rulemaking process that began with direction from the Marine Fisheries Commission in 2018.
“There’s a difficult balance to strike here between maintaining access to a resource and to protect one of the best natural resources on the Atlantic Coast,” she said.
This story is provided courtesy of the Carteret County News-Times, a newspaper published in Morehead City. Coastal Review partners with the News-Times to provide our readers with news of the North Carolina coast.