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.



Comments

  • Seal

    Lawn Mowers of the SEA !!!

    Friday, Aug 3 @ 9:44 am
  • 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 from that they were left in the dark and could only estimate.

    So why were the economists left in the dark when NC DMF staffers knew what SC had done and chose not to furnish that information to the economists when they furnished them other information to go over?

    A lot of unanswered questions meaning the MFC has nothing that says definitively that the changes the NCWF is suggesting would bring economic harm or reduced access to shrimp in NC. Actually, Virginia, SC, Georgia, and the east coast of Florida whose proliferation of local shrimp in restaurants and markets definitively shows that it is not necessary to trawl in a shrimp nursery to attain them, but rather wait until they all return to the open sea as mature adults to capture. That fact can not be disputed.

    Friday, Aug 3 @ 10:12 am
  • 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 !!!!

    Friday, Aug 3 @ 10:38 am
  • 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.

    Friday, Aug 3 @ 12:45 pm
  • 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

    Friday, Aug 3 @ 3:30 pm
  • George crabber

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

    Friday, Aug 3 @ 5:48 pm
  • Ruthless

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

    Friday, Aug 3 @ 7:39 pm
  • 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 a cooler cause you can. Other than that the one thing NC has is trawling in nursery areas, not sustainable, period. There are other factors too, development, runoff and such but slaying so much small fish in a trawl just can’t be sustained. Another hung that is gone, small mom and pop commercial fishermen! All lost to the large fleets, don’t see as many small time shrimpers anymore. Throw those big steel hulled ocean boats out in the ocean where they are meant to work. You can find fish, grew up here fishing and I know where to go and how to do, if I was from Raleigh or inland I wouldn’t waste my gas or time to come to the crystal coast; better to go to SC, the difference is shocking. J

    Friday, Aug 3 @ 9:55 pm
  • Manteoer

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

    Friday, Aug 3 @ 10:02 pm
  • 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 Shrimp.. It’s INSANITY!
    Put those TRAWLERS were they belong..
    IN THE OCEAN!

    Saturday, Aug 4 @ 4:56 am
  • 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 !!!

    Saturday, Aug 4 @ 8:45 am
  • 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.

    Saturday, Aug 4 @ 10:35 am
  • 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 this article. By supporting the obvious reduction of the sound to its current level of minimal production of finfish, as well as the disappearance of numerous species such as those gray trout and spot and croaker, and then saying that croaker don’t reach sizes above 7.5″ is a telltale prevarication that nonetheless seems true here in NC where flounder and stripers are pretty much obliterated from the list of available species for anglers, who resoundingly report abysmally low success in our previously bountiful estuary. If the DMF and the commercial fishing community ignore the need for conservation of these species, then it is their decision to defy the senses and intelligence of those who see what really has happened, and when the real green weenies become aware, I will have to sadly laugh at their tears and high dudgeon because the only course for the intelligent among us, commercial and recreational fishermen, is to demand the husbanding of the resource for sustainability. Instead, the vociferous anti conservation faction finds its voice right here, in a publication that should wield the banner of sustaining the reasons people visit this coast. Angling is greatly diminished as one of those reasons because of our actions as a people, and we bring destruction upon ourselves when we ignore the devil staring us in the face, or worse, call him God. Good luck in your fishing endeavors in that reality.

    Saturday, Aug 4 @ 11:03 am
  • 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.

    Saturday, Aug 4 @ 11:20 pm
  • Truedowneast

    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.

    Wednesday, Aug 8 @ 10:33 pm
  • 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.

    Thursday, Aug 9 @ 2:13 pm
  • 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 a large school of hard head mullets but turned out to be a gigantic school of yellow belly spots. I feel I will never see that again.

    Big Trawlers I am opposed to, I think they are destructive. Dragging a net/bag for hour or so just drowns everything in it. Yes it is more work to haul it in every 30 45 min.
    I also see the big trawlers as corporate/ big business. And I feel most of them are trying to scare the small fisherman in order to have more voices standing up for them, but not really caring at the end of the day as long as their agenda is met.

    Trawlers should be in the ocean.

    Skimmers I am okay with as long as the bag is checked regular basis in order to help cut down on the mortality rate of the by catch.

    I support the clammers and the oystermen I support eh crabbers (as long as they throw back the sponge crabs)
    I support local seafood and will not eat foreign shrimp or farmed fish is possible But i do not support the trawlers in the sound.

    Also the writer doesnt know what she is talking about at 7.5 inches max length. Then again maybe thats all that is out there at this time.

    Friday, Aug 10 @ 11:19 am