SAVE THE DATE
NCDMF MARINE FISHERIES COMMISSION WILL MEET NOV. 17-19, 2021
IT IS VERY IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO GIVE PUBLIC COMMENT ON NOVEMBER 17 AND ATTEND IN PERSON FOR PUBLIC COMMENT ON NOVEMBER 18, 2021 IF YOU CARE ABOUT NC SHRIMP AND SHRIMPING IN NC.
WE HAVE ATTACHED BELOW THE SHRIMP FISHERY MANAGEMENT PLAN AMENDMENT 2 DECISION DOCUMENT WHICH CONTAINS NCDMF RECOMMENDED MANAGEMENT MEASURES FOR YOUR REVIEW
What has North Carolina done to reduce the bycatch of finfish, protected, threatened, and endangered species in the shrimp trawl fishery and protect critical estuarine habitat?
- In 1992 NC became the first state to require all shrimp trawlers to use Bycatch Reduction Devices (BRDs) to allow juvenile finfish to escape the trawl
- In 2009 NC required the use of Turtle Excluder Devices (TED’s) certified to reduce the take of endangered sea turtles by at least 97% TED’s also allow marine mammals, sharks, rays, and finfish to escape capture, adding to the reduction of finfish that had already been achieved through the required use of BRD’s
- In 2015 NC became the first and only state to require the use of two Federally or state certified BRD’s, each certified individually to reduce the bycatch of juvenile finfish by at least 30%, once again increasing the reduction that had already been achieved through the previous BRD and TED requirements
- In 2019 NC required all shrimp trawlers operating in Pamlico Sound and its tributaries to use 1 of 4 gear combinations, tested and shown to reduce the bycatch of finfish by 40% to 57% more than the existing BRD and TED requirements. This made NC the most progressive coastal state in regard to the use of bycatch reduction devices, with bycatch reductions doubling the federal requirements.
The majority of shrimp harvested from NC waters come from Pamlico Sound followed by the Atlantic Ocean harvests. The gear configurations required in Pamlico Sound are also used in the ocean fishery significantly reducing the bycatch of finfish in the two primary areas of the state where trawling occurs.
- Trawling is prohibited in our estuarine water on weekends, statewide
- In several areas of the state nighttime trawling is prohibited
- Approximately 1 million acres or 1,562 square miles are permanently closed to shrimp trawling accounting for 47% of the state’s estuary.
- Over 200,000 additional acres are seasonally closed to shrimp trawling. With a combined total of 1,207,463 acres or 1,886 square miles are permanently or seasonally closed to shrimp trawling
- Over 143,313 acres or 224 square miles of North Carolina Ocean waters are permanently or seasonally closed to shrimp trawling
In all, slightly over 3.5% of the state of NC has been closed to shrimp trawling in order to protect critical estuarine habitat and provide a safe haven or “nursery area” for finfish and other marine species.
To put this into perspective for citizens across the state the area of estuarine waters closed to shrimp trawling are similar in size to:
- Washington, Tyrell, and Bertie counties combined, or
- Wayne, Lenoir, Pitt, and Greene counties combined, or
- Johnston, Wake, and Durham counties combined, or
- Alexander, Wilkes, Yadkin, and Iredell counties combined, or
- Cherokee, Graham, Macon, and Swain counties combined!
According to the Division of Marine Fisheries the goal of Amendment 2 to the shrimp FMP is “to provide adequate resource protection, optimize long term harvest, and minimize ecosystem impacts.” While those are certainly respectable goals, NC statutes state that the goal of a Fishery Management Plan is to ensure the long-term viability of the fishery. This raises a very important question.
How much more area can be closed to trawling without jeopardizing the long-term viability of North Carolinas estuarine shrimp trawl fishery?
The answer is very little, if any!
Most of the areas where shrimp trawling is currently allowed are vitally important either recreational shrimpers, smaller commercial vessels or large commercial vessels. In order to ensure the long-term viability of each of these independent and very important shrimp trawl fisheries, and meet the statutory goal of the FMP, these areas must remain open to trawling!
The only quantifiable reductions in bycatch have been achieved through the testing and required use of BRD’s. NC has a long and proud history of achieving significant reductions in shrimp trawl bycatch and the North Carolina Fisheries Association strongly supports the testing and use of BRD’s as the preferred method for reducing shrimp trawl bycatch while allowing access to this important resource.
REMINDER: IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM THE NORTH CAROLINA FISHERIES ASSOCIATION
Next week at their November 17-19 quarterly business meeting the NC Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) will hear public comment and vote on preferred management options for Amendment 2 to the Shrimp Fishery Management Plan (FMP). (https://deq.nc.gov/media/25170/open) The options being considered range from status quo (no action taken) to a complete closure of Pamlico Sound, and possibly all estuarine waters, to shrimp trawling.
North Carolina has the second largest estuary in the U.S. with over 2.1 million acres or 3,281 square miles of estuarine (internal salt) waters. Currently approximately 1 million acres (47%) of our estuary is permanently closed to shrimp trawling and an additional 200,000 + acres are managed with seasonal closures, with a combined total of 1,207,463 acres or 1,886 square miles permanently or seasonally closed to shrimp trawling. These area closures, many of which were implemented 50+ years ago, were intended to protect areas identified as critical estuarine habitat and create safe havens or ” nursery areas ” for juvenile finfish and other marine species.
After decades of restrictions and monitoring, the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) acknowledges that they can’t determine whether closing over half of the second largest estuary in the country, to shrimp trawling, has resulted in increases of abundance for any particular species of finfish or the improvement \ restoration of critical fish habitats within the closed areas. They also acknowledge that the potential benefits of additional area closures are unquantifiable as are the potential negative impacts, if any, to overall fish abundance or habitat from shrimp trawling under the current management strategy.
Despite the high degree of uncertainty surrounding the potential impacts of trawling or the potential benefits of area closures, on November 1, the DMF made public their recommendations, to the MFC, for additional area closures.
The areas identified for closure to shrimp trawling, by the DMF, are vitally important fishing grounds for recreational shrimpers and commercial fishermen who operate smaller vessels who depend on these waters to feed their families and yours. Again, the potential benefits from these recommendations are unquantifiable but the devastating negative impacts to recreational shrimpers, fishing families, coastal communities, and seafood consumers are undeniable!
While the DMF’s recommendations seem extreme given the undeniable uncertainty, please don’t focus solely on these recommendations, as noted above the Commission can pick from a wide range of options, some more extreme than those recommended by DMF. Instead, oppose all unquantifiable
restrictions and demand fair and equitable treatment for all stakeholders commercial, recreational, and consumer.
Effort in North Carolina’s shrimp trawl fishery has declined dramatically in recent years, yet it has remained one of the top two fisheries by value in the state, contributing nearly $100 million and thousands of jobs to the state’s economy annually. Shrimp remains the #1 seafood preferred by American consumers and studies have shown that consumers prefer domestically produced shrimp, like those harvested from NC waters, over imported products. Even more important is the fact that food security equals national security as many Americans have recently realized due to the impacts the global pandemic has had on food supplies. Simply put, a nation that cannot feed its citizens cannot protect them!
At this time it’s clear the negative impacts of further restrictions to shrimp trawling in NC far outweigh any quantifiable benefits , therefore the North Carolina Fisheries Association strongly urges all commercial fishermen , recreational shrimpers , and seafood consumers to join us in opposition to any further restrictions to shrimp trawling in NC waters until the state can quantify both the impacts of trawling , if any , under the current management strategy and the potential benefits , again if any , of further restrictions.
It’s not unreasonable for an industry to demand to be scientifically identified as a problem before being labeled and managed as one! Is it?
Public comment will be heard at The Islander Hotel & Resort
102 Islander Dr, Emerald Isle on Wednesday Nov. 17, at 6pm and the discussion and vote on preferred management measures will occur on Thursday Nov. 18. Please plan to attend on both days and let your opposition to further restrictions be known.
North Carolina Fisheries Association, Inc.
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE for 11.12.2021
GENERAL ASSEMBLY: It now appears that the General Assembly will send the budget to Governor Cooper next week There is a strong possibility the Governor will sign the budget.
Last week we listed the newly drawn district lines for coastal counties. The Congressional districts are much simpler for the coast. There will be District 1 which starts in the northeast and goes south to include part of Onslow County. Greg Murphy currently represents that district.
District 3 includes part of Onslow and goes south to the South Carolina line and is currently represented by David Rouzer.
Of course, there will be challengers, so we will list them as they become available. We try to use this update to advise you when candidates are having a meet and greet, fundraiser, or event of any kind, but can only do that if the candidates or their supporters let us know about them.
The primary is scheduled for March 2022.