Division of Marine Fisheries receives sea turtle permit for gill net fisheries
MOREHEAD CITY (9/11/13) – The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries today signed an agreement with the National Marine Fisheries Service that implements a statewide incidental take permit for sea turtles in the estuarine large and small mesh gill net fisheries.
The permit authorizes the limited take of sea turtles in these fisheries and will allow the state to reopen some waters to gill net fishing that have been closed since July.
“This is the result of a lot of hard work by dedicated division staff,” said Louis Daniel, director of the Division of Marine Fisheries. “The flounder gill net fishery is an important economic factor in Eastern North Carolina, and this permit will allow it to continue on a limited basis while protecting threatened and endangered sea turtles.”
The division is considering when to reopen different waters based on the presence of sea turtles, because the number of allowed takes in some areas is low, Daniel said.
“A lot of these waters are going to close with one interaction,” Daniel said.
Also, the number of allowed takes for each area is for the entire period of Sept. 1 to Aug. 31 each year, so if an area must close, it closes the entire year.
The permit carries the same restrictions on soak times and gear requirements and requirement for observer coverage as was previously implemented through a lawsuit settlement agreement between the state and the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center.
In addition, the area previously known as the Pamlico Sound Gill Net Restricted Area now falls under the same soak times, gear requirements and observer requirements as other areas.
Daniel stressed the importance of fishermen complying with these regulations, including allowing observer coverage.
“If we do not meet the required percentage of observer coverage, the National Marine Fisheries Service can revoke this permit, which would close the fishery,” Daniel said.
Another new requirement is that all commercial and recreational fishermen must report any incidental capture of a sea turtle to the division at 252-726-7021 or 1-800-682-2632. This includes all gears.
“If you hook one as a recreational fisherman, you need to call it in,” Daniel said.
The permit and implementing agreement can be found on the division website at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/ under Hot Topics.
For more information, contact the division’s Protected Resources Section Chief Chris Batsavage at 252-808-8009 or Chris.Batsavage@ncdenr.gov.