NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) – Hundreds gathered at the New Bern Convention Center for a public hearing on a petition filed by the N.C. Wildlife Federation designed to add regulations on the shrimping industry.
Before the shrimpers made their way inside, dozens started in the waterways, with trawlers coming from miles away to attend, all in a show of solidarity against the regulations.
Trawlers came from Pamlico, Brunswick and Carteret counties, just to name a few.
Shrimping has been in Jane Whitley’s family for over 40 years.
Her trawler is even named after her.
“It’s endless what this industry does for the economy,” said Whitley.
Her family trawls in the Pamlico Sound during the summer and fall.
However, the N.C. Wildlife Federation’s proposed regulations would close the sound off to trawling.
“There’s always two sides to every story,” said Whitley. “But the main thing here is we have a thriving industry who supports North Carolina. So we most definitely do not want to see the sound closed.”
The federation filed a petition in November to add regulations on shrimpers.
It includes limiting tow times to 45 minutes, trawling to three days per week and head rope length to 90 feet, making nets smaller.
“We are not trying to ban shrimp trawling in North Carolina,” said David Knight with the N.C. Wildlife Federation. “We are trying to protect what we believe are juvenile nursery areas in North Carolina…To do that, you have to restrict some of the trawling going on in these waters.”
Other proposed regulations require 60-count shrimp in the Pamlico Sound before trawling could begin and designate the sound as nursery waters.
Hundreds gathered at the New Bern Convention Center as five advisory groups questioned the federation about the necessity of the regulations.
“To them, this is not just the future of shrimping in North Carolina that’s at stake here but the future of commercial fishing as we know it,” said Jerry Schill with the N.C Fisheries Association.
The N.C. Wildlife Federation points out three species of fish are already depleted in North Carolina waters due to excessive bycatch.
Blue collar fishing families said enough is enough and more regulations are needed.
“The fishermen has already made many changes to support the other side,” said Whitley. “Now I think the other side needs to support the working man.”
The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries will make a final decision on that petition at their February meeting.