Marine Fisheries Commission to meet this month in Morehead City
MOREHEAD CITY – The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission will meet Feb. 19-21 at the Crystal Coast Civic Center, 3505 Arendell St., Morehead City.
The Wednesday night public comment period will be organized differently for this meeting. It will begin with an informal question and answer session a 6 p.m. Feb. 19. Commission members and Division of Marine Fisheries staff will be available to answer questions from the public. Afterward, the commission will hold its regular public comment period at 6:30 p.m.
The business meeting begins at 9 a.m. Feb. 20 and at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 21.
The commission also will hold a workshop on basic voting procedures from Robert’s Rules of Order in advance of its business meeting. The workshop will start at 3 p.m. Feb. 19 at the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ Central District Office, 5285 U.S. 70 West, Morehead City.
The meeting and workshop are open to the public.
At its business meeting, the commission is slated to vote on a draft supplement to the Spotted Seatrout Fishery Management Plan. The decision will set spotted seatrout fishing regulations to be implemented when the season reopens June 15.
A 14-inch minimum size limit, four-fish recreational bag limit, 75-fish commercial trip limit and weekend commercial closure in waters managed jointly by the Division of Marine Fisheries and Wildlife Resources Commission (except in Albemarle and Currituck sounds) had been in place prior to a Feb. 5 season closure that was implemented due to cold stun events. The regulations were set to become more restrictive this month, dropping to a three-fish per-person daily recreational bag limit with a Dec. 15-Jan. 31 recreational season closure and a 25-fish commercial trip limit with no commercial closures.
The draft supplement provides the commission with the option of maintaining the regulations that were in effect prior to the Feb. 5 closure. It also provides the commission with the option of implementing less stringent regulations.
The commission is also slated to discuss setting fees for fishing permits and other possible future funding sources for the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ Observer Program.
The observer program collects information about commercial and recreational catches by observing fishing, either onboard fishermen’s vessels or from a division vessel operated in the vicinity of fishing activity. Observer coverage is a requirement of the state’s sea turtle incidental take permit for the inshore gill net fisheries. Without this coverage, the fishery must close.
The N.C. legislature appropriated $1.1 million for the Observer Program for fiscal year 2013-14, but approved increases in commercial fishing license fees for future funding. The legislature also authorized the Marine Fisheries Commission to set fees of up to $100 each for a number of fishing permits issued by the division. The legislature instructed the division to seek public input and develop a plan for additional funding for the program.
In addition, the commission is slated to select preferred management options for draft amendments to the state’s Shrimp, Bay Scallop and River Herring fishery management plans before sending the plans to the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the state legislature for review.
The draft amendment to the shrimp plan includes proposals for industry testing of bycatch reduction devices, updating testing protocols for the state bycatch reduction device certification program and requiring additional bycatch reduction devices in all shrimp trawl nets.
The draft amendment to the bay scallop plan includes proposals to manage waters south of Bogue Sound as a separate unit from Bogue Sound (currently waters south of Bogue Sound open based on sampling in Bogue Sound) and to modify commercial harvest limits.
The draft amendment to the river herring plan includes proposals to eliminate the discretionary harvest season and to implement a rule in joint and coastal waters to prohibit the possession of river herring greater than six inches while fishing or boating, as well as remove alewifes and blueback herring from the mutilated finish rule. This would complement the August 2013 rule enacted by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission in inland waters.
A meeting agenda is attached and a full briefing book can be found on the division’s website at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/mfc-meetings.
For more information, contact Marine Fisheries Commission Liaison Nancy Fish at 252-808-8021 or Nancy.Fish@ncdenr.gov
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