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.