Releases – Winter 2016 – 2017
In the coming months, the state marine fisheries agency will remove all remaining buoys from the state’s artificial reefs in the Atlantic Ocean.
The buoys, which are used to identify the location of an artificial reef, are not required for safe navigation in the ocean. They are being removed because the state no longer has equipment capable of servicing them, and contracting for this service would be cost prohibitive.
The Division of Marine Fisheries began this effort in late 2014 when it removed 11 buoys from artificial reefs. An additional 25 buoys were slated for removal once GPS coordinates were verified for navigational charts. These verifications have been made, and state and federal permitting agencies have given authorization to proceed.
Since 2014, some of the 25 buoys that initially remained came loose during storms and were subsequently removed. The division will begin removing the remaining 18 buoys at the end of November.
The division will continue to maintain all 42 ocean artificial reefs, periodically adding material and monitoring the status.
GPS coordinates, site maps, and other information about the artificial reefs can be found on the Artificial Reef Program’s website at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/artificial-reefs-program, or in the recently published paper-bound Artificial Reef Guide.
For more information, contact Jason Peters with the division’s Artificial Reef Program at (252) 808-8063 or Jason.Peters@ncdenr.gov.
In a significant step forward for the outdoor recreation industry and the sportfishing community, yesterday, President Obama signed into law the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act of 2016. The bill, known as the Outdoor REC Act, passed the House of Representatives and the Senate in November.
This new piece of legislation requires the Department of Commerce, in collaboration with the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture, to assess and analyze the contributions of the outdoor recreation industry, including recreational fishing, to the United States economy. The legislation will help to ensure that sportfishing industry jobs and recreational fishing’s economic impact are accounted for as part of the gross domestic product (GDP).
“At a time when jobs and economic opportunity are high on everyone’s list, the Outdoor REC bill’s passage gives the outdoor recreation industry its own metric by which to quantify its impact on the nation’s economic activity,” said American Sportfishing Association (ASA) President and CEO Mike Nussman. “We have advocated for years that recreational fishing and boating were significant economic drivers. It’s gratifying that the House and the Senate, in a bi-partisan effort, passed this bill which the President has now signed it into law.”
Nussman continued, “It’s important to note that in many rural areas, where jobs are at a premium, it’s fishing, boating and other outdoor activities that provide steady employment for many people.”
The passage of the Outdoor REC Act was needed to make sure that the outdoor economy—and it’s estimated six million jobs and $646 billion in economic activity—receives official government recognition for years to come.
“ASA applauds Congress and the President for enacting this legislation, bringing the outdoor recreation industry’s importance to jobs and the economy into the national spotlight,” said ASA Government Affairs Vice President Scott Gudes. “We appreciate that outdoor recreation is now formally being recognized by the federal government for its impact on jobs, business and the economy.”
Gudes further said, “The Outdoor REC Act will also ensure that the outdoor industry’s economic statistics will be measured in the same comprehensive way as other business sectors, such as the automotive and apparel industries. This is important because industry economic impact estimates also include data that show the non-direct impact that the activity has on the economy. For example, it would also include sportfishing’s contributions to travel and tourism, not just the purchase of tackle.”
ASA is an active part of a team representing a wide-range of outdoor industries that will work with the Department of Commerce to shape how outdoor recreation is defined and ensure our reach and impact are recognized.
In his post-campaign remarks, President-elect Trump has voiced his support for maintaining fishing and hunting on our nation’s public lands.
The North Carolina Wildlife Federation (NCWF) filed a petition for rulemaking with the Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) asking that regulatory body to pass restrictions on shrimp trawling to decrease the bycatch of juvenile fish, including spot, croaker, and gray trout.
The petition takes a research-based, data-driven approach to identify habitat areas essential to the growth and viability of economically beneficial fish species, to allow shrimping in these areas only with the methods and gear and during the times to ensure maximum protection against bycatch of juvenile finfish while ensuring the most effective management strategies to protect these habitat areas from destructive practices.
The petition proposes the following: (1) designate all of North Carolina’s currently unclassified inshore and ocean waters as special secondary nursery areas; (2) establish clear criteria for the opening of shrimp season in special secondary nursery areas; and (3) limit the types of gear and when and how gear may be used to harvest shrimp in special secondary nursery areas during shrimp season.
What’s the Problem?
Commercially and recreationally valuable fish, including Atlantic croaker, spot, and weakfish, are in trouble on our coast. The amount of juvenile fish caught and wasted in the shrimp trawl fishery is unsustainably high in North Carolina’s sounds and important habitat areas.
It is estimated that for every pound of shrimp caught in North Carolina waters, four pounds of bycatch—mostly juvenile fish—are caught in shrimp trawls and discarded as waste.
The impact of shrimp trawl bycatch is felt east coast-wide. Commercially and recreationally valuable fish stocks, including Atlantic croaker, spot, and weakfish, are declining or depleted along the east coast. Mortality from bycatch in shrimp trawls in North Carolina exceeds the total commercial and recreational harvest of spot, croaker, and weakfish for the entire southeastern Atlantic coast. North Carolina is the only state on the east coast to allow shrimp trawling in its sounds, fish nurseries, and estuaries.
North Carolina’s sounds and estuaries are highly productive areas that provide essential habitat to later juvenile fish before these fish have an opportunity to spawn and contribute to the adult population. Shrimp trawling effort is highest in North Carolina sounds, which destroys fragile habitat areas and devastates large quantities of juvenile fish.
The Petition proposals when enacted will: (1) protect North Carolina fisheries resources for all people of the State; (2) balance the needs of the commercial shrimping industry with the need to protect juvenile finfish and important habitat areas, which will benefit all fishermen; (3) improve the commercial and recreational fishing industries by putting North Carolina’s fish stocks on the road to recovery; (4) improve the viability and sustainability of our fisheries resources by protecting North Carolina’s sounds and estuaries; (5) ensure that more fish survive as juveniles and grow, thrive, and spawn at least once to contribute to the adult population; (6) bring North Carolina in line with all other east coast and gulf states in limiting trawling in sensitive and essential habitat areas; (7) restore fairness and balance to a fisheries management system that has benefitted a select user group to the exclusion of others; and (8) reduce bycatch of juvenile fish, protect valuable habitats in important nursery areas, and preserve the economically and culturally important commercial and recreational fishing industries.
This action brings the problem of shrimp trawling bycatch of juvenile finfish into focus and presents meaningful management measures to address the problem. The NCWF is proud to represent the interests of the public trust resource and all those people who enjoy and depend upon this resource.
The chairman of the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission said he intends to allow public comment on a petition for rulemaking calling for habitat protections that, if adopted, would impact shrimp trawl fishing in most North Carolina waters.
The petition was submitted Nov. 2 by the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, and the commission has 120 days from that date to grant or deny the request.
Chairman Sammy Corbett outlined the petition review procedure at the commission’s business meeting last week.
First, the petition must be deemed complete. Under state law, a person may petition any agency or commission to adopt or change a rule by submitting a written rulemaking petition that contains the proposed text of the requested rule change and a statement of the effect of the requested rule change. Commission rules require additional information.
If the petition is deemed complete, Corbett said he intends to take public comment through the commission’s advisory committees, possibly at a joint advisory committee meeting similar to one held in 2013 on a similar petition.
The commission will then discuss and vote on the petition at its February meeting.