New shrimping rules slowly migrate through sea of bureaucracy

By on August 3, 2018

(N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries)

Almost two years after it surfaced, a proposal to radically curtail commercial shrimping is crawling through the state’s rule-making process.

The North Carolina Wildlife Federation petitioned the Marine Fisheries Commission for the new rules in November 2016, and after modifications, the panel accepted the request on Feb. 16, 2017.

Several changes would cripple the shrimp trawling industry, critics say, and would raise the size limit on spot and croaker so high that they would effectively eliminate both fisheries for recreational and commercial fishermen.

But the rule-making part isn’t on the horizon yet.

The North Carolina Administrative Procedure Act requires a regulatory impact analysis before the state can adopt any proposed rule with a potential economic impact of more than $1 million.

About 18 months later, the Division of Marine Fisheries has only produced a draft, which next needs the approval of the State Office of State Budget and Management. The OSBM can approve as-is or send it back to the Division of Marine Fisheries for more work.

After the document is approved, it will then go to the MFC for approval and a notice of text can be published. Following that, the commission must hold a public comment period and, likely, a public hearing before considering final adoption of the rules.

The proposed rules then must be sent to the State Rules Review Commission for approval. If that is gained, then before the adopted rules can be implemented, fishery management plans for any impacted fisheries must be modified to reflect the new rules.

If after adoption by MFC, there are 10 objections filed, then the matter is sent to the General Assembly to decide what, if anything, should change.

The petition proposes designating all inland waters and 3 miles out into the ocean as Special Secondary Nursery Areas (SSNAs), thus prohibiting almost all shrimp trawling, and restricting days and times, including prohibiting nighttime shrimping.

North Carolina has three shrimp species found in the sounds, and each is harvested at different times beginning in the Spring and stretching into the fall.

One of the species is mostly caught at night when it is most active.

Designation of the SSNAs would carry with it a prohibition of shrimping and other trawling activities such as crabbing and clamming in the sounds and flounder in the ocean from May 15 to Aug. 15. It also would limit shrimping to three days a week and enact 45-minute tow times.

If adopted, it would require two by-catch reduction devices, but that has been in place for years, as well as turtle excluder devices. Additional work is under way to add more adaptations to further reduce by-catch.

About 45 percent of the estuary, 900,000 acres, is already closed to trawling, but the petition seeks to expand that to a 100 percent closure of 2.2 million acres of coastal waters.

Normally, SSNAs are closed based on specific criteria, which include data on fish and shrimp abundance, habitat amond other things. Currently that information doesn’t exist for the huge area being considered.

The prohibitions also would also impact crab and peeler trawling, clam kicking and live bait harvest.
The petitioner asserts that stocks of spot, croaker and weakfish (gray trout) are suffering from trawling, but there is no science to support that.

Spot is listed as a “concern,” but there is no coast-wide stock assessment, and fisheries scientists are unable to determine if it is over-fished.

Croakers are listed as “concern” but are also noted by DMF staff as not being over-fished. The N.C. Wildlife Federation wants a 10-inch size limit on this species. but it rarely grows larger than 7.5 inches. If the petition’s requested rules are adopted, the size limit for spot would be increased to 8 inches.

Weakfish stocks have continued to decline for decades and scientists have eliminated overfishing as the reason.

The petition has drawn objections from many fisheries scientists who have noted incorrect, incomplete data and in some cases, the use of information taken out of context.

According to Marine Fisheries rules, petitions are not to be accepted by the commission for consideration for rule-making unless accompanied by an economic impact statement. To comply with the mandate, the Division of Marine Fisheries hired an economist and the cost of the work was taken from the division’s budget.

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Salty

From the middle Banks. Fished NC Coast and still do all my life. From being with my grandma (when you could park anywhere) to being a pier rat. on the old Emerald Isle pier to helping mate once in a while. I remember I could (and used to) take a cast net before sun up and catch spots around the pilings of the pier blind casting. (Before I could afford a boat) Know I think the spots that we so much love are few and far between. I saw a school of fish coming down the beach that looked like… Read more »

Mike Gaskill

There isn’t 10% of the shrimp trawlers around as there were 25 years ago. So this non sense liberal CCA agenda needs to end. I don’t take orders from Raleigh Yankees. Sorry you wanna carry that boat from Durham down here to catch a fish. Then whine about your lack of skill set when you strike out. Get over it. Stay in the piedmont.

Hear you go boys and girls “how bout if the they stopped and shut down everything and then PROBLEM SOLVED “. Then everybody can stay home and eat peanut butter.

Fred McPeters

It sounds to me like some of you have placed the cart before the horse. This is a proposed rule change that has a long way to go before being approved. Instead of arguing about the merits of the proposal, or, how big a croaker gets, maybe we should work together to make sure this proposal never becomes a law.

Speckeye

If Sandy represented the situation fairly, the reader might get the impression that there are many thoughtful people who grieve for the heritage that rapacious exploitation enabled by the state, and executed by corporate actors who have zero interest in keeping traditional fishermen working have wrought upon the estuary. However, she ignores and obfuscates the mammoth bycatch that the draggers destroy daily during the shrimp season, bycatch that has been repeatedly documented over years. That a supposedly conscientious community of fishermen can deny the destruction of their heritage is an enigmatic insult to logic and intelligence of everyone who reads… Read more »

Pat M

“The N.C. Wildlife Federation wants a 10-inch size limit on this [croaker] species. but it rarely grows larger than 7.5 inches.”

Regular mowing ensures that my lawn grass doesn’t grow longer than 3-4 inches. Left alone, it would be knee high.

Seal

Crabby i havent bashed anyone, but if the facts hurt ya to bad !!!
I’ve worked shrimp boats buddy and seen what they do !!
And your delusional thinking you own these waters, and your killing them for the sake of the allmighty dollar and a shrimp cocktail !!!
Because you dont !!!
Do us all a favor and get Educated before you start your Liberal insults !!!!
The numbers are out and the facts dont lie !!!

David

Folks, I’m talking my piece from waaay down South of OBX… Wilmington, N.C. In fact.. I can tell you THIS by first hand experience.. We, down this way, had “Spot Runs” every fall. Since WE down this way have found out these HUGE Steel Hulled Trawlers have been working the Sounds up that way.. OUR economic livelihoods (Piers/beaches etc) have taken a HUGE HIT.. WE NO LONGER see “spot runs” anymore… In the Fall, BECAUSE of the Trawling of the Pamlico sound for KING SHRIMP.. Killing All those Juvenile Fish, as “By-Catch”, 4+ pounds of Fish for each pound of… Read more »

Manteoer

I love to eat NC shrimp……….. especially the ones I caught myslf.

Jason

Croakers don’t get over 7.5″?? Yeah they don’t in NC cause they die in trawls. Go to VA and the croakers get regularly 3 to 4lbs. Grey trout get huge north of us! VA to NY, why not in NC? Heck I remember as a kid netting huge grey trout in Bogue sound, no longer though? Why?. Spots, well used to ride down the causeway in Beaufort and see loads of boats catching them, you don’t see that any longer, they are gone. On those there needed to be a limit! I will say there is no reason to fill… Read more »

Ruthless

How much of that by catch survives to be thrown back alive?

George crabber

Seal ur an idiot find something to do other than bash commercial. Fishermen

Michael

Seal , you and others do actually realize that most of the by catch is alive and thrown back over? The hard working shrimpers don’t want that by catch. That’s not what pays the bills. Let’s get some facts straight. So people do understand how commercial fishing actually works

Ol' Chicken Wing

Croaker don’t get bigger than 7.5″. Of course they do. If the trawlers aren’t catching fish over 7.5″ I think that kind of supports the idea that they are fishing in a nursery area.

Seal

Ray Brown you are absolutely correct !!! N.C is the only state on the east coast that has allowed trawling in its nursery waters, in Va., N.J, S.C, and Ga. a 10 pound Flounder or Trout is not uncommon, the same in Fla. for Trout, in N.C you have a better chance of seeing a Unicorn than netting one of these !!!
Facts don’t lie !!!! Ten pounds of bycatch to one pound of shrimp is unacceptable !!!!

Ray Brown

The economic report ends by saying in essence that it can’t really determine what would happen financially if the requested changes are made. But that really begs a follow up question by those who have followed this closely for years. The state of SC removed virtually all shrimp trawling from inside the inlets around 30 years ago. They know exactly what happened to their landings and the value of shrimping to that state once it was done. So with that knowledge, and with NC’s economic study saying basically that no information was available where something like this occurred to draw… Read more »

Seal

Lawn Mowers of the SEA !!!