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Marine Fisheries Commission takes action on several issues (nr 40-13)


MOREHEAD CITY – The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission took action last week on several issues impacting commercial and recreational fishermen, including votes on two petitions for rulemaking.

The commission voted to:

  • Deny a petition for rulemaking that proposed reclassifying most internal coastal waters as secondary nursery areas. The effect of the proposed rule would have been to halt shrimp and crab trawling in North Carolina inshore waters.  The petitioner has the right to seek judicial review of the decision.
  • Approve a petition for rulemaking that sought to prohibit the use of commercial fishing gear and certain types of recreational fishing gear on and around the Oriental Artificial Reef in the Neuse River. The decision begins a rulemaking process that will include fiscal analysis, notice of text in the state register, a public comment period and at least one public hearing. If approved, a final rule would not become effective until the spring of 2015.
  • Instruct the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ director to implement recommendations from a Bottlenose Dolphin Take Reduction Team, endorsed by the National Marine Fisheries Service Southeast Regional Office, that prohibit setting small mesh gill nets within 100 yards of the beach at any tide. Two areas are to be exempted from the regulation: Cape Lookout to Bogue Inlet and from Carolina Beach Inlet to the South Carolina line. Strike nets also are to be exempted from the restriction.
  • Keep the current recreational and commercial size and possession limits for spotted seatrout pending a scheduled review of the Spotted Seatrout Fishery Management Plan. The plan, adopted in February 2012, included a provision for implementing stricter regulations in February 2014, if needed, to reduce the daily recreational bag limit to three fish per person, implement a Dec. 15-Jan. 31 recreational closure, reduce the commercial trip limit to 25 fish and eliminate commercial closures.
  • Send a proposal for a Jan. 1, 2013 moratorium on commercial and recreational harvest of American and hickory shad to the Finfish and regional advisory committees for review.
  • Ask the Division of Marine Fisheries to design a study that compares closed trawling areas, specifically the Newport River, to open areas to determine the impact trawling has on sedimentation in primary and secondary nursery areas.
  • Delay review of the N.C. Red Drum Fishery Management Plan by one year, from July 2014 to July 2015, so the state may use the results of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Southeast Data, Assessment and Review stock assessment slated for 2015.

The commission also heard an update on the state Division of Marine Fisheries’ application for an incidental take permit for sea turtles in the gill net fishery. The division is waiting to receive this permit from the National Marine Fisheries Service before deciding when to reopen waters to large mesh gill nets. The division hopes to receive the permit by mid-September, and requirements of the permit will impact the division’s decision on when to reopen the waters, including the Pamlico Sound Gill Net Restricted Area.

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