Another Assault On North Carolina’s Commercial Industry
Draft Amendment 15 to the Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP) was released and circulated for public scoping in May of this year.
I do not expect everyone to read this document but it is important to see some of what our industry and their representatives are having to navigate through. This 598 page, 1.5” thick document looks to add more restrictions and greater burdens to the Pelagic Longline (PLL) industry as well as further crippling our fish houses, seafood trucking, and consumer access. With the current Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Management Plan document itself already at 1629 pages, it is a wonder anyone in the PLL fleet can operate in compliance as is.
Dare county, the home port of most of our PLL vessels, has the highest annual commercial landings value in the state of North Carolina with the town of Wanchese competing for the highest earning town in the state with Beaufort/Morehead City. Tunas are the second most valuable commercial finfish species harvested in NC and swordfish is in the top ten. Both of these are primarily harvested by PLL vessels.
The PLL fishermen are no stranger to increased regulations. It can easily be argued that they are the most regulated fishing sector on the east coast. The number of participants in this industry from Maine to Texas has been reduced through regulations by approximately 75% since 2000. There are currently around 70 boats participating in the PLL fishery with around 15 operating out of NC.
Currently, requirements to participate in this fishery is having the necessary limited assess permits, a 24/7 boat tracking system, 2 onboard cameras observing 100% of hauls, and 7-10% human observer coverage. They also must fill out logbooks of all fish caught on each individual set and report any bluefin tuna interactions within 12 hours. Fish buyers must also record weights of each individual fish sold and report this data weekly. If any of these requirements are not met, these vessels cannot operate.
Another issue the PLL industry has had to deal with is Amendment 13. Implemented at the beginning of this year, Amendment 13 reassessed the Individual Bluefin Quota (IBQ) program which immediately caused issues. Unbeknownst to fishermen, there were malfunctioning issues with their vessel monitoring systems, which caused some PLL vessels to not receive enough IBQ to go fishing. Luckily these vessels still had paper logbooks to back up the electronic tracking data that was missing. Even though a lot of this mess is mostly sorted out for now, some vessels were tied to the dock for months during the lengthy appeals process with no income.
This latest assault on our PLL fishermen, Amendment 15, just keeps piling on additional burdens to the fishery. No rewards for being held accountable, drastically reducing effort, and being monitored 24/7.
Amendment 15 is not only looking at closing more areas to the PLL fishery but they are also wanting the PLL vessels to pay for the cameras, camera installation, repairs, and all costs associated with reviewing the footage.
Unjustified closures aside, putting the cost of monitoring solely on the vessels will cripple this industry.
The document clearly states:
“The direct social and economic impacts of Alternative F2 on pelagic longline vessel owners is expected to be moderate to major adverse. The sampling expenses associated with EM (electronic monitoring) programs are large and varied and may represent a meaningful portion of the median revenue per trip. Since costs would be negotiated directly between vessel owners and vendors, estimates of those costs are difficult to calculate.”
This is the “Preferred Alternative” selected by NOAA Fisheries! They clearly state that the estimated cost to review the video will be $280 a set and account for “approximately 19% of net revenue on a median trip.” And this value only accounts for reviewing the data! The documents also says, “requiring vessels to procure and install their own equipment would increase costs by about $9,000 per vessel.” Which with cameras that are already 8 years old on most vessels, we will be seeing these costs sooner rather than later.
Tell me what business in today’s economy can afford to spend an extra 19% of net revenue and continue to be profitable! I’m having a hard time controlling my words and anger, but only the Federal Government could propose such a choking measure on small businesses!
If you want our commercial industry to survive, we need to support these PLL vessels at all cost. Without them the commercial seafood industry cannot survive in our state, the PLL fishery is an integral part of keeping the doors open at our fish houses, keeping fish trucks on the road, and allowing consumers to enjoy NC caught seafood.
Public hearing on Amendment 15 is this Tuesday (Aug. 22), 5:00-8:00 pm at:
Dare County Administrative Building
Commissioners Meeting Room
954 Marshall Collins Drive
Manteo, NC 27954
HMS Amendment 15: Spatial Management and Electronic Monitoring Cost Allocation
In Person Meeting: Tuesday August 22nd, 2023 5:00 – 8:00pm
Dare County Administration Building, Commissioners Meeting Room
954 Marshall Collins Drive, Manteo, NC 27954
Proposed Rule: Proposed Rule
Story Map: Story Map(link is external)
Meeting Materials: Draft Amendment 15 and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS)
Online Comment: Submit Comment
North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC)
Thursday August 23rd – Friday August 25th at:
Hilton Hills North Raleigh
3415 Wake Forest Road,
Raleigh, NC 27609
Link to: Meeting Agenda
Link to: Complete Briefing Book
Link to: Join the Meeting Online
6 pm Wednesday, Aug. 23 and
9 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 24
Public comment will not be taken through web conference.
Link to: Submit written comments online
Comments can also be mailed to:
August 2023 Marine Fisheries Commission Meeting Comments,
P.O Box 769, Morehead City, NC 28557
or dropped off at:
Division of Marine Fisheries’ Morehead City Headquarters Office
3441 Arendell St., Morehead City, NC 28557