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Public Comment Sought on Proposed Fisheries Rules
Thursday, August 01, 2013 @ 15:38:18 EDT

Public Comment Sought on Proposed Fisheries Rules

 

MOREHEAD CITY – The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries is accepting public comment on a slate of proposed rule changes on a proposal to give the division director proclamation authority to manage the sheepshead fishery and other topics.

 

Three public hearings on the proposed rule changes are set for:

           

            Sept. 17 at 6 p.m.

            N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries

            Central District Office

            5285 U.S. 70 West

            Morehead City

 

            Sept. 18 at 6 p.m.

            N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Regional Office

            943 Washington Square Mall

            Washington

 

            Sept. 19 at 6 p.m.

            N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Regional Office

            127 Cardinal Drive

            Wilmington

 

Sheepshead is a highly sought recreational fish, and is also caught in a variety of commercial fisheries. Until last year, sheepshead was managed under the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan, and was included in a 20-fish snapper-grouper recreational bag limit aggregate.

 

When sheepshead was removed from the South Atlantic plan, management of the species was left up to the state. The proposed rule change will give the division director proclamation authority to set size, recreational bag, commercial trip, gear, season and time restrictions on the taking of sheepshead if needed to maintain a sustainable harvest.

 

Other proposed rules would:

 

Give the director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries proclamation authority to implement federal shellfish harvester and dealer requirements for the protection of public health;
Designate new seed oyster management areas at Possum Bay and Swan Point in New River;
·         Clarify what organizations and activities are eligible to receive Scientific and Educational Activity permits and Coastal Recreational Fishing License Exemption permits from the Division of Marine Fisheries;

Clarify that the exemptions to the general 4-inch size limit on fish only apply to finfish;
Correct an error in the Inland/Coastal Waters boundary line in Queens Creek, Onslow County;
Repeal a rule on hybrid striped bass culture that references outdated N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission rules;
·         Implement an amendment to the Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan by:

-   Broadening the authority of the director of the Division of Marine Fisheries to manage the blue crab fishery by proclamation under an adaptive management strategy. This includes the authority to implement more restrictive measures for the use of pots; restrict means and methods for managing the use of escape rings; and designate additional areas as crab spawning sanctuaries and extend the time that harvest restrictions are in place for all crab spawning sanctuaries.

-   Clarifying existing rules and relocating rules in the rulebook for better organization.

-   Codifying current proclamations, including one for the taking of mature female blue crabs with pots, reducing the exempted area for the Pamlico Sound Outer Banks region, but providing more clearly delineated boundaries for this area and the Newport River area. Other codifications include establishing a dividing line in Pamlico Sound for the taking of hard blue crabs using trawls of certain mesh sizes; closing the lower Broad Creek area (Neuse River) to crab pots June 1 through Nov. 30; and using the existing no trawl line along the Outer Banks in Pamlico Sound as the new boundary line where closure of escape rings to take small mature females is allowed.

-   Using the type of bait instead of pot mesh size to define escape ring requirements in a crab pot.

-   Requiring terrapin excluder devices in crab pots, following development and approval of criteria by the Marine Fisheries Commission.

-   Opening eight non-pot areas (long haul areas) in the Pungo River to the use of pots, but keeping the Long Point non-pot area in Pamlico River closed to the use of pots. The director of the Division of Marine Fisheries implemented this regulation by proclamation in June until the rule change can be adopted.

 

The public may also comment in writing to Catherine Blum, Rulemaking Coordinator, N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, P.O.  Box 769, Morehead City, N.C. 28557 or send comments by email to Catherine.Blum@ncdenr.gov or fax to 252-726-0254. The public comment period will close at 5 p.m. Sept. 30.

 

The commission is scheduled to vote on the proposed rules at its Nov. 13-15 meeting. If approved, the rules could take effect as early as Feb.1, 2014.

 

For more information on the proposed rules, go to http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/mfc-proposed-rules-links or contact Blum at 252-808-8014 or Catherine.Blum@ncdenr.gov.
 

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