Releases – May 24, 2012
Effective May 10, a ban on recreational and commercial fishing for deep water snapper-grouper in depths greater than 240 feet in the South Atlantic is no longer in effect. Since going into effect on January 31, 2011, this closure had a significant economic impact on businesses throughout the South Atlantic region.
Over the past two years, the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), and several of its individual members impacted by the ban, made it known to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) that the deep water recreational fishing ban was having a severe economic impact and strongly urged federal managers to lift the ban.
The 240 foot closure was put in place to reduce bycatch of speckled hind and warsaw grouper, two species subject to overfishing. After taking into consideration the high economic cost of the ban to the sportfishing industry, and a new analysis of fisheries data, the South Atlantic Council determined that the ban was not necessary to achieve the goal of ending overfishing for speckled hind and warsaw grouper.
“The deep water snapper-grouper ban demonstrated the severe impacts that can result from faulty science and inadequate consideration of socioeconomics,” said Mike Leonard, ASA’s Ocean Resource Policy director. “Thankfully, the South Atlantic Council and NOAA Fisheries acknowledged the severity of this ban and are now contemplating other, less restrictive measures to address overfishing issues without closing off a massive area of the ocean to fishing.”
The South Atlantic Council is currently exploring different management measures to effectively address overfishing of speckled hind and warsaw grouper at a lesser cost to the sportfishing community. The amendment, which is under development, considers additional measures to reduce bycatch of these two species, including the expansion of existing, and the establishment of new, closed areas.
“It is unfortunate that the South Atlantic Council originally felt it had to take such drastic measures that resulted in lost jobs and undue economic hardship,” said Ken Haddad, ASA’s Marine Fisheries advisor. “Anglers and the industry are willing to make sacrifices for the betterment of fisheries resources, but these decisions must be based on solid science with an aim towards reducing negative economic impacts. We look forward to working with the South Atlantic Council and NOAA Fisheries to explore other options to rebuild fisheries while still allowing reasonable access to the fisheries we depend on.”
In a historic 5 – 4 vote to remove industrial net fishing from NC waters, the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) voted Friday to eliminate the practice of purse seining from a “mother ship” effectively limiting the practice by the reduction fishery in harvesting menhaden for fish meal and oil in North Carolina waters.
Commissioners Anna Beckwith, Rob Bizzell, Chris Elkins, Joe Shute, and Darrell Taylor voted for the measure. Commissioners Mikey Daniels, Bradley Styron, Allyn Powell, and Joe Smith voted against the measure.
Harvesting menhaden by other means will still be allowed. Purse seine fishing uses large nets that encircle an entire school of menhaden that is then pulled together (pursed) at the bottom to prevent them from swimming out of the net. The fish are then literally vacuumed into the hold of the “mother” ship by the hundreds of thousands while potentially killing fish such as red drum and striped bass as bycatch.
North Carolina no longer has a reduction plant, as the last plant closed in Beaufort in 2005. The boats currently operating in NC waters are from Omega Protein Corporation, operating out of Reedville, VA.
CCA has long wanted conservation regulation of the menhaden reduction fleet. When the Beaufort plant closed, CCA asked that industrial menhaden fishing be stopped in state waters. In 2009, the boats operating out of Virginia caught as bycatch a large school of red drum, NC’s state fish, and these fish washed up dead on Core Banks. CCA asked again that menhaden reduction fishing be stopped, but the MFC balked.
NC Division of Marine Fisheries Executive Director Dr. Louis Daniel then put in place additional harvest restrictions. “We are glad to see the NC MFC take action to help North Carolina fish and fishermen,” said CCA NC Fisheries Chairman Bill Mandulak. “Menhaden are currently at the lowest level of abundance ever recorded. North Carolina fishermen are seeing fewer and fewer menhaden. This measure will certainly help North Carolina’s fish stocks and eliminate the wasteful bycatch problems associated with this practice.”
Menhaden are one of the primary prey species for marine fish species. They are filter feeders that serve a critical role in marine ecosystems; they convert the sun’s energy into protein that is consumed by fish from trout to tuna.
“The MFC should be recognized for taking positive action to help all North Carolina fish stocks. We applaud their vote for conservation today,” said CCA NC President, Greg Hurt.
New restrictions on large mesh gill nets will go into effect in Carteret County waters to further protect threatened and endangered sea turtles and prevent overfishing of Bogue Sound. The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission voted last week to continue a closure in the southern part of Core Sound, Back Sound, The Straits, and North River to the use of set large mesh gill nets during the summer and fall.
These waters closed May 13 to set nets with 4- to 6 ½-inch stretched mesh, but they had originally been slated to reopen June 4. The commission also voted to reduce the yardage limit on large mesh gill nets set from 2,000 yards to 1,000 yards in waters between North River and the N.C. 58 Bridge to Emerald Isle.
The commission took this action to reduce interactions with sea turtles as the state continues to pursue a statewide Incidental Take Permit for large mesh gill nets under Section 10 of the federal Endangered Species Act. These permits allow for takes of endangered species that occur incidentally to an otherwise lawful activity under limitations specified in each permit. The commission and the division hope that active management of this identified hotspot for interactions will be viewed favorably by NMFS.
The southern part of Core Sound, Back Sound, the Straits, and North River account for 53 percent of the sea turtle interactions the state had documented since implementing a large mesh gill net observer program in 2010. The observer program was instituted as part of an agreement to settle a lawsuit filed against the state by the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. Daniel recently issued a proclamation to implement the new management measures.
For specific information on the closure lines and the gill net yardage restrictions, see Proclamation M-23-12 on the division’s website at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/proclamations. The commission agreed by consensus to write a letter to the NMFS, copying the N.C. Congressional delegation, expressing frustration with the ITP process, the lack of a stock assessment for sea turtles; and problems with nesting data used to determine sea turtle population status.
For more information, contact Protected Resources Section Chief Chris Batsavage at (252) 808-8009 or Chris.Batsavage@ncdenr.gov.
With Memorial Day weekend right around the corner, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is reminding beach-bound anglers to purchase their saltwater fishing licenses before leaving home.
Anglers can purchase licenses online, www.ncwildlife.org, or they can visit a local wildlife service agent, most of which are located in bait-and-tackle shops, hunting and sporting goods stores, and larger chain stores. They also can call the Wildlife Resources Commission at (888) 248-6834 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Anglers with smartphones, tablets, or other portable devices can now purchase licenses using the Commission’s new mobile site, which is designed specifically for small screens and touch technology. Users simply access the Commission’s full website, which then re-directs them automatically to the mobile site where they can purchase licenses, view size and creel limits of saltwater fishes, find a nearby wildlife service agent, and view interactive maps of boating access areas along the coast.
Anglers who are at the beach and without a mobile device can purchase licenses by visiting a wildlife service agent or by visiting one of six Division of Marine Fisheries offices located along the coast. Visit DMF’s website, http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf, for locations.
A Coastal Recreational Fishing License (CRFL) is required for anyone 16 years and older to fish recreationally in the state’s coastal fishing waters, which include sounds, coastal rivers, and their tributaries out to three miles into the ocean. Recreational anglers who catch fish from three miles to 200 miles offshore also need this license to transport fish back to shore.
Prices for the CRFL vary depending on residency, age, duration, and type of license purchased. For residents, the annual cost for a CRFL is $15; for a 10-day license, $5. For non-residents, the annual cost for a CRFL is $30; a 10-day license is $10.
For more information on the CRFL, including a comprehensive list of all available licenses, or to download a document of frequently asked questions, visit http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf.
Seats are still available for a symposium that will showcase projects funded in the first five years of the Coastal Recreational Fishing License Grant Program. The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries and N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will host the event May 31 at the New Bern Riverfront Convention Center, 203 South Front St., New Bern.
The symposium is free and open to the public. However, pre-registration is required. Sign up by visiting the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ website at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf//crfl-symposium-registration-form. The registration deadline has been extended to May 25.
The symposium will feature presentations from grant recipients for numerous projects, including: (1) an N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries program to collect recreational fishing data;•(2) an N.C. State University study of the movement and mortality of spotted seatrout;•(3) a University of North Carolina at Wilmington project that tested the use of text messaging to submit catch and effort fishing reports from a wireless phone; and•(4) the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s construction of several boating access sites.
There will also be exhibits of some of the educational projects funded by the grant program. A full agenda is available on the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ website at http://portal.ncdenr.org.
The grant program was established in 2007 to fund for projects that aim to manage, protect, restore, develop, cultivate, and enhance the marine resources of the state. The program receives revenues from the sale of Coastal Recreational Fishing Licenses. In the five years since its inception, the grant program has awarded approximately $21 million to 68 projects.
For more information, contact grant program coordinator Tiffany Frazier at (252) 808-8004 or Tiffany.Frazier@ncdenr.gov.