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February 27, 2017 9:30 pm EST
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 MOREHEAD CITY mndash; An amendment has been filed to a petition for rulemaking calling for habitat protections that, if adopted, would impact shrimp trawl fishing in most North Carolina waters.


The amendment to the petition, submitted to the Marine Fisheries Commission Jan. 12, makes the following changes:

    Modifies the original proposal to reduce the maximum headrope length to 90 feet on all shrimp trawls operating in North Carolina coastal waters. The petitioner now requests that the maximum headrope length be reduced from the current 220 feet to 90 feet in all internal coastal fishing waters and to 110 feet in the Atlantic Ocean.
    Modifies the original proposal to restrict trawling to three days a week in special secondary nursery areas. The petitioner now requests limiting trawling in special secondary nursery areas in internal coastal fishing waters to three days per week, but allowing trawling four days per week in the Atlantic Ocean.
    Recommend that the Marine Fisheries Commission order a mesh selectivity study to determine what mesh size will most effectively limit the harvest of juvenile Atlantic croaker and spot, and once the study is complete, adjust existing rules to reflect this data.
    Asks the Marine Fisheries Commission to immediately initiate rulemaking, no later than Aug. 31, 2017, for petition measures adopted.

The original petition, submitted Nov. 2, asks the Marine Fisheries Commission to designate all coastal fishing waters (including the ocean out to three miles) not otherwise designated as nursery areas as special secondary nursery areas; establish clear criteria for the opening of shrimp season; and define the type of gear and how and when gear may be used in special secondary nursery areas during shrimp season.

Five advisory committees to the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission will meet jointly Tuesday to discuss and take public comment on the petition, submitted by the North Carolina Wildlife Federation. The meeting will begin at 12:30 p.m. at the New Bern Riverfront Convention Center, 203 South Front St., New Bern.

To accommodate as many speakers as possible, those who wish to give public comment at the meeting will be limited to three minutes per person. Also, the public will not be allowed to bring signs inside the meeting room.

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