With possible shrimp trawl closures ahead of state fisheries commission, industry workers and advocates express concern over ‘damaging’ proposal | News
EMERALD ISLAND – State fisheries managers are to decide on preferred management options for shrimp at their next meeting, and the NC Marine Fisheries Division recommends closing more coastal waters to shrimp trawls.
The division released an announcement Monday that the NC Marine Fisheries Commission, the regulatory body that creates regulations for commercial and recreational fishing on the coast and in state waters, will meet from Wednesday November 17 through Friday 19 November at the Islander Hotel & Resort on the Emerald Isle. The committee will discuss Amendment 2 of the shrimp fishery management plan in the afternoon of November 17, after which the committee can vote on its preferred management options and send the draft plan to the quality department. of the North Carolina environment.
The division’s recommendations include a series of shrimp trawl area closures in the state’s coastal waters, nearly 69,000 acres, according to the division’s documentation. He says this region produced an average of 476,296 pounds of shrimp per year from 2010-19, valued at $ 696,000 per year with 119 participating shrimp vessels.
According to the documentation provided on the proposed modification of the management plan for the shrimp fishery 2…
According to a local shrimp trader, the closures could put many local fishermen out of business.
Marshallberg part-time shrimp trader Zack Davis said in an interview on Friday with the News-Times the proposed closures are “detrimental to the industry as a whole”.
“It puts the little man out of business, people with 40- to 50-foot boats,” Davis said.
He went on to say that with so many coastal areas closed, shrimp boats should go deeper into open water, where weather conditions and waves can put the lives of small vessels at risk.
“I have a 65-foot boat,” Mr. Davis said. “I can fish for shrimp in most weather conditions, but I have fished for shrimp in many boats that cannot go out in dangerous weather. When you stick these boats in the middle of Pamlico Sound there is a risk of loss of life. “
In addition to shrimp fishing, Mr. Davis also teaches seafaring and welding at East Carteret High School. He said the shrimp fishery can generate a good income, “but there is no guarantee that the industry will be there next year” because of the proposed closures and similar restrictions.
“I am 37 years old and have been fishing for shrimp for 25 years,” said Davis. “I paid for my university studies with shrimp. I built a trawler about 5 years ago. I am just a small fisherman, you have people who have invested a lot more.
In Morehead City, Blue Ocean Market general manager Jeremiah Tryon said in an interview on Friday that he had never heard of the proposal. Mr Tryon went on to say that his information on the proposed regulations and management measures comes from several different sources, including contacts with DMF.
“It’s a confusing system,” he said.
On the recommended closures, Mr Tryon said he should look at the specific areas under study and that he would support the closures if they were “good for the fishery”, but did not support “the bureaucracy for the good. bureaucracy.
“Shrimp are a big contributor to our business,” Mr. Tryon said. “It’s a huge part of our business. “
When he learned of the division’s recommendations, Mr Davis said he first heard about them during Monday’s announcement. However, this may be due to Mr. Davis following DMF activity closely. He has applied for membership in the PAF Shrimp Advisory Committee and attends committee meetings.
A former MFC member, marine biologist and self-proclaimed recreational fisherman, Jess Hawkins, is not happy with the DMF’s recommendations or the time the public has to respond to them.
Owner of Crystal Coast Ecotours, Mr. Hawkins said Thursday that he found how the recommendations were formulated and announced “deeply troubling”.
“The division is the scientific arm of the commission,” Mr. Hawkins said. “The way they’ve done it doesn’t reflect what our state leaders expect to see out of the Fisheries Reform Act (NC). They only informed the public of these options on Monday (November 1); that only gives the public two weeks to comment.
The stated objective of the amendment is to reduce the bycatch of fish in the shrimp fishery. Mr Hawkins said this issue, like many, deserves a debate, but in this case he believes the DMF has “ignored all (industry) collaboration to reduce bycatch.”
“North Carolina was the first state to include exclusion devices in shrimp trawls,” he said. “The measures they are pursuing now, I don’t know how they would quantify success. “
He also expressed concern that commercial fishermen are being pressured to go further out to sea to fish and catch shrimp, forcing fishermen on small boats to go into dangerous waters.
“Seventy percent of our shrimp trawler fleet is made up of vessels under 50 feet,” he said.
Mr Hawkins also questioned areas being considered for closures. He said the proposed closure areas are not where fish tend to spawn, but are connection areas between nurseries.
“From a scientific standpoint, (the DMF) says there has to be connectivity between these habitats,” Mr. Hawkins said. “It’s a strong theory in terrestrial habitat, but in marine habitat, it’s unknown.”
A local seafood organization is also opposed to the proposed management measures. NC Carteret Catch President Barbara Garrity-Blake said she and her organization, which is dedicated to educating consumers about the benefits of eating locally harvested seafood, believe the proposed measures go “in the wrong direction. direction”.
“These measures put fishermen with the lowest carbon footprint at a disadvantage, with the shortest distance to travel (to harvest shrimp),” said Ms. Garrity-Blake. “We believe that managers should take these factors into account. They operate on an outdated concept of conservation.
It’s not just the environmental effects these closures could have that concerns Ms. Garrity-Blake, but also the effects on the local shrimp boats themselves.
“We are concerned that these measures will wipe out our small-boat fisheries,” she said. “These fishermen are not equipped to go out in open water. I live in Gloucester; when i look across the street i see shrimp boats and i can recognize their boats.
There will be public comment periods at the MFC meeting at 6 p.m. on November 17 and 9:30 a.m. on November 19. the website deq.nc.gov/about/divisions/marine-fisheries/marine-fisheries-commission/marine-fisheries-commission-meetings# quarterly-business-meeting — november-17-19.
The commission will consider the recommendations of its advisory committees and the DMF, which enforces fishing regulations and performs fieldwork, studies and data collection for the MFC.
Responding to concerns expressed, DMF Public Information Officer Patricia Smith said the DMF first released the draft management plan in June.
“During the 30-day public comment period, MFC’s five advisory committees also met to review the project and provide comments and recommendations,” she said. “We encourage any public interested in this issue to consider Draft Amendment 2… and its associated decision document, which includes the rationale for the Divisions’ recommendations. “
Contact Mike Shutak at 252-723-7353, email [email protected]; or follow us on Twitter at @mikesccnt.