The latest battle facing North Carolina fishermen is the recent filing of a petition by the state’s Wildlife Federation with the Division of Marine Fisheries that would severely affect the shrimp fishery.
The petition asks the commission to designate all coastal fishing waters not otherwise designated as nursery areas as special secondary nursery areas; establish clear criteria for the opening of shrimp season; and define the type of gear and how and when gear may be used in special secondary nursery areas during shrimp season. Specific requests of the petition include limiting shrimp trawling to three days a week in the daytime only, limiting the total trawl head rope to 90 feet, and limiting tow times to 45 minutes.
“The ink is barely dry on Amendment 1 to the Shrimp Fishery Management Plan, so one needs to ask, why?,” says Jerry Schill, president of the North Carolina Fisheries Association. “What they are proposing are severe restrictions for our shrimpers, even in the ocean out to three miles.”
The petitioners of the proposed restrictions claim the measures are needed to protect juvenile fish and habitat. Such claims are being categorically dismissed by the state’s fishing community as part of a more sweeping plan.
“Bull! It's part of the agenda to ban shrimping and ban gillnets in our state,” says Schill. “Much of our internal waters are already off limits for trawling for various reasons.
“The petitioners filed the petition because the science does not agree with their preconceived notion that all nets should be banned in North Carolina. That's their ultimate goal. They call themselves environmentalists, but they are out to destroy the lives and communities in eastern North Carolina.”
DMF must grant or deny the petition by March 2, 2017.