Online Originals: Petition to introduce new rules to commercial fishing industry denied

Online Originals

(WNCT) Earlier this month, a petition aimed at the commercial fishing industry created controversy along the North Carolina coast.

N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission voted on the petition earlier this week.

The petition was denied.

First, a motion to approve the petition failed with a vote of 6-3.

A second motion to deny the petition passed 5-4.

There was some slight confusion for a new member of the commission who mistakenly voted opposite on each motion.

In an interview with Louis Daniel, an environmental consultant for the NC Wildlife Federation, he says they are disappointed with the outcome.

“It seems like we’re at a point of paralysis by process,” said Daniel.

The federation will continue forward with an amendment, but Louis fears the timeline will be lengthy.

“Clearly that’s what the commission voted to do and so we will be working very closely with the commission in the development of the amendment,” said Daniel. “I have hope that once the science is fully vetted through that process that we will get the changes that we were trying to get through the petition, it will just take a little longer.”

On the other side of the disagreement, many commercial fishermen on the coast see the denial as a positive thing.

“We’re pleased with the fact that the petition was denied,” said Glenn Skinner is the executive director of the NC Fisheries Association. “We’re looking forward to addressing these issues through the fishery management plan process which has already started.”

The petition sought to limit shrimpers workweek from five days to three, designate areas as shrimp trawl management areas and reduce the size of nets allowed for commercial shrimping.

The petition was filed by N.C. Wildlife Federation.

The organization wants to see a reduction in the amount of by-catch that comes with shrimping.

N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission is a nine-member board.

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A petition by the North Carolina Wildlife Federation (NCWF) could have a major impact on the commercial fishing industry.

The petition seeks to:

  • Limit shrimpers workweek from five days (Monday-Friday) to three (Monday, Wednesday, Friday)
  • To designate areas as shrimp trawl management areas
  • Reduce the size of nets allowed and restrict gear in these newly designated areas

The federation says the reason for the petition is to reduce the amount of by-catch. By-catch is the anything in the net that’s not your intended species. It’s common for shrimpers to catch juvenile fish in their nets while shrimping.

Commercial fishermen believe the petition is not only intended to reduce by-catch but to negatively impact their businesses. This is because North Carolina leads the nation in by-catch reduction research.

“We currently have rules in place to get our shrimpers to use by-catch reduction devices that reduce the amount of finfish bycatch by around twice what is federally required,” said Glenn Skinner the executive director of the North Carolina Fisheries Association. “We’re the only state that has that in place.”

Kenny Rustick is a commercial fisherman in the Morehead City area. He is confident that a three-day workweek is not sustainable.

“We’re all small businesses in North Carolina,” said Rustick. “Just like the local hardware store, the family-owned grocery store, the convenience store. I don’t believe there’s any small business in North Carolina or America that can operate three days a week and make a viable living.”

He believes the NCWF is trying to force the commercial fisherman out of business.

“We think they’re after us,” said Rustick. “They’re not after the by-catch, they’re after us. At least that’s what it looks like. We’ve adhered to all the rules and regulations that the state has put in place.”

Skinner adds that many folks have been leaving the fishing industry due to the pressure and fear of constant petitions. This is the third petition since 2013 and the second by the NCWF. The first two were deemed dead due to state budgeting and other complications.

“I mean, who’s going to invest in industry and start a new business when you have these petitions hanging over your hear constantly for six years,” said Skinner.

Louis Daniel is an environmental consultant for the federation and says the petition does not seek to hurt fisherman personally but to protect the juvenile fish being accidentally caught, giving the stocks a chance to grow. He says the petition will also allow the shrimp population to be replenished by reducing the number of days fisherman are allowed to catch, therefore helping them in the long run.

The North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission will vote on the petition later this month.

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