JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – It’s a busy time for the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission as they are meeting in Jacksonville over the next two days.

One item getting lots of attention is incidental take permits for gillnet fishermen along the coast. When fishing with gillnets, bycatch of other species is common, but anglers and conservationists have concerns about what it’s doing to our endangered marine life.

These permits have been in effect for 10 years, but are getting ready to expire. With new methods of fishing, many don’t find it necessary anymore.

“You really don’t need to pursue renewal of the ITP (incidental take permits),” said Executive Director for the Coastal Conservation Association NC, David Sneed. “Because we have other less harmful gear like pound nets, gig fishermen that can harvest all the southern flounder that the resource can bear.”

For commercial purposes, many states have moved past this method.

“North Carolina is the only state that still allows, you know, coastal waterway gill netting, pound netting and strike netting, and that itself with a bycatch is including the sea turtles and sturgeons,” said Benjamin Rivers, department head of bait and tackle at Dudley’s Marina in Cedar Point.

The state does have an observer program, where they go out with fishermen using gillnets to see if it impacts our endangered species.

“The fisherman that it’s designed to protect are the ones that are refusing to take observers on their boat,” said Sneed. “They’re not returning phone calls to set up trips.”

The commission will be giving an overview of their data in this meeting, showing it does not negatively impact sea life, but local anglers disagree.

“The fishery as a whole, is nothing compared to what it used to be, you know, 40 years ago,” said Rivers.

Along with the amount of fish in our waterways decreasing, the amount of netting left behind is also worrisome.

“The best method is just to get rid of them. I mean, all together,” said Rivers. “Fisheries, in general, have been heavily affected by the amount of microplastics and by the amount of litter and trash that is in both our Atlantic and Pacific Ocean.”

Wednesday night’s meeting was dedicated to public comment, and Thursday morning they’ll begin working through their agenda. However, no commission action is scheduled for now in regard to these permits.

To find more information about the incidental take permits, click here.