State to Take Closer Look at Bycatch in Shrimp Fishery
RALEIGH – The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries will take a more in-depth look at ways to reduce bycatch in the state’s shrimp fishery.
The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission voted last week to initiate the process of amending the state’s Shrimp Fishery Management Plan. Through this process, an advisory committee will explore issues surrounding bycatch and recommend management strategies to address these issues.
In the coming weeks, the division will send out a news release soliciting for applications from those who wish to serve on this committee.
The division is required by law to review each fishery management plan every five years and determine if changes in rules or management strategies are needed. If changes in management strategies or rules are needed, the division pursues a plan amendment, where division staff and an advisory committee develop positions on specific issues that need to be addressed. If no changes in management strategies are required, the division proceeds with a revision, which is a more abbreviated process that involves updating data and fishery information contained in the plan.
The division had initially determined that no rules or management changes were needed at this time in the shrimp fishery and took a draft revision out for public comment. After receiving a great number of comments from the public that expressed concern about bycatch in the shrimp trawl fishery, the division shifted its position and recommended that the commission begin the amendment process.
The commission also selected its preferred management measures for the commercial fishery for a draft amendment to the state’s Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan. These draft management measures set minimum regulations for the commercial flounder fishery that, if adopted, will remain in place even if restrictions to protect sea turtles are relaxed. These limit large mesh gill net sets to:
Four nights per week (Monday -Thursday) north of Beaufort Inlet, excluding Albemarle, Croatan and Roanoke sounds and Pamlico, Pungo, Neuse and Bay rivers;
Five nights per week (Sunday -Thursday) south of Beaufort Inlet;
A maximum of 2,000 yards per fishing operation from Croatan and Roanoke sounds to Beaufort Inlet;
A maximum of 1,000 yards per fishing operation from Beaufort Inlet to the South Carolina line;
A maximum of 3,000 yards per fishing operation in the Albemarle, Croatan and Roanoke sounds and Pamlico, Pungo, Neuse and Bay rivers.
The above represents the least restrictive management measures that could be in place to end overfishing and rebuild southern flounder stocks. However, more restrictive measures may be put in place to reduce interactions with protected species. For example, regulations restricting the use of large mesh gill nets in Albemarle Sound to 2,000 yards to reduce interactions with endangered Atlantic sturgeon remain in place.
The draft amendment, which already includes previously selected recreational measures, will come back before the commission for final approval at its February meeting after review by the secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and a legislative committee.
In other business, the commission:
Approved a draft American Shad Sustainable Fishery Plan for fisheries in the Albemarle/Roanoke, Tar/Pamlico, Neuse and Cape Fear river systems. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is requiring all states to adopt an American Shad Sustainable Fishery Plan in order to continue this fishery.
Changed the commercial trip limit for weakfish back to 100 pounds. The trip limit had been at 1,000 pounds but the weakfish catch could not exceed 10 percent of the total finfish catch. The change was requested by two commercial fishing groups that indicated the gray trout catch has been high in relation to other finfish. The two regulations are considered conservational equivalent by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
Moved forward with the administrative process for six rules that implement management measures from the N.C. Estuarine Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan. The draft rules will come back before the commission for final approval at its February meeting after a public comment period. The rules have an intended effective date of May 1, 2013.
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