There will be a PUBLIC MEETING ABOUT THE SHRIMP PETITION NEXT TUESDAY, January 17th, beginning at 12:30pm at the RIVERFRONT CONVENTION CENTER IN NEW BERN, NORTH CAROLINA.
In North Carolina right now there is a conflict between the sports fishermen and the commercial fishermen. Please keep in mind that in North Carolina the commercial fishermen are generally family business that have fished our waters for generations–they are not large commercial operations with no relationship to the area. There is currently a petition to turn our major fishing waters into shrimp nurseries. While all of us want to protect our local shrimp, this is not necessary.
Here are a few things to remember as you hear the discussion of this issue:
Measures proposed by the North Carolina Wildlife Federation (NCWF) were thoroughly considered by the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries (NCDMF) and North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission (NCMFC) and recently addressed in the 2015 North Carolina Shrimp Fishery Management Plan-Amendment 1.
North Carolina, namely Pamlico Sound, is one of the few water bodies that supports commercial quantities of pink, white and brown shrimp in the south Atlantic.
Shrimp trawling effort peaked at 40,000 trips in 1982, and has declined since 1994 to an average of 7500 trips over the last 5 years, with the decline being completely unrelated to shrimp abundance.
North Carolina has the largest estuarine system within any one state of the entire USA. It is unique and caution should be taken in comparing management with that in other estuarine systems.
North Carolina is the only state that has formally designated primary and secondary nursery areas for juvenile fish, shrimp and crabs. All bottom-disturbing fishing gear, including shrimp trawls, has been prohibited in these areas for over 35 years.
North Carolina has 2,220,000 acres of estuarine surface waters with over one million acres or 48% of estuarine waters are closed to trawling. Using sound science, these vital habitat areas are protected by rules set forth in state legislation. (broken down below)
- Since 1978 over 124,000 acres of estuarine nursery areas have been closed to trawling to protect juvenile fish and crustaceans.
- There are approximately 77,000 acres of Primary Nurseries, 47,000 acres of Secondary Nursery areas, 37,000 of special Secondary Nursery areas, and over 78,000 acres of military danger zones and restricted areas are also closed to trawling for safety reasons.
- Special Secondary Nursery areas can only be opened to trawling by proclamation from August 16 through May 15.
- In the mid-90s the sea grass beds along the Outer Banks were closed to trawling to protect this critical habitat. North Carolina closed extensive areas of submerged aquatic vegetation located on the eastern shore of the Pamlico Sound from Oregon Inlet to the mouth of Core Sound to shrimp trawling in 1994.
- In 2006 almost 92,000 additional acres were closed to shrimp trawling as part of the North Carolina Shrimp FMP.
North Carolina historically leads research to refine practices and develop devices to reduce bycatch, reaching a 70% total reduction in total juvenile finfish bycatch, and becoming the first state to require finfish excluders in shrimp trawls. Current efforts continue to seek further improvement.
North Carolina is recognized by states and the federal government as having one of the best fisheries data collection programs in the country and Scientists studying bycatch in North Carolina have cautioned that finfish/shrimp ratios tend to overestimate bycatch.
No correlation was observed in abundance indices of juvenile Atlantic croaker, weakfish, and spot and shrimp trawl effort for the last 21 years in analyses performed for the NC 2015 Shrimp FMP, and none are listed as experiencing overfishing.
- The shrimp trawl fishery has been ongoing in the estuarine waters of North Carolina since 1917. Since that time landings, and abundance levels of spot, croaker and weakfish in North Carolina, have fluctuated widely, yet experienced peaks in the late 1970’s to mid 1980’s.
- Based on extensive and current scientific data, fishermen are not overfishing Atlantic croaker and croaker are likely not overfished.
- Based on a 2016 weakfish stock assessment, extensive scientific data and comprehensive analyses determined that fishermen are not overfishing weakfish. The lack of recovery in weakfish populations is primarily from natural causes, such as predation and diseases, which has prevented the stock from recovering.
- Additionally, recent population assessments on weakfish show a strong correlation with decreasing juvenile numbers and rising striped bass and spiny dogfish abundance. Juveniles that are caught are returned to the ecosystem where many serve as forage, where they are consumed by many highly-prized sportfish that the recreational industry benefits from, as well as commercially important species.
- North Carolina under the jurisdiction of the ASMFC, manages and conserves many migratory species. None of the plans, amendments, or addendums to do so have recommended a closure on inside shrimp trawling in North Carolina to ensure sustainability of these fisheries resources.
- The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC), a federal agency, has developed a FMP for shrimp in the south Atlantic, with numerous amendments. None of its plans, amendments, or addendums have recommended a closure on estuarine and near-shore shrimp trawling in North Carolina to ensure sustainability of the fisheries resources within their jurisdiction.
- Implementing an 8-inch size limit for spot and a 10-inch size limit for American croaker for recreational fishermen would be arbitrary considering neither species is experiencing overfishing.
To recommend such significant management measures by rulemaking on one of North Carolina’s most important fisheries without a thorough and objective review of pertinent science/information and existing management policies is disingenuous and irresponsible, and may very well lead to some serious unintended consequences.
The discussion of this issue is based on a petition. The State of North Carolina is required to respond to that petition. The fact that they are responding to the petition is not related to the validity of the petition–it simply a recognition of the fact that the people who filed the petition were able to get the required number of signatures. The ideas this petition presents need to be voted down in order to protect the commercial fishermen of North Carolina.