Releases – March 21, 2019
The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission voted March 13 to overrule the director of the Division of Marine Fisheries and prohibit gill nets upstream of the ferry lines in two river systems.
The commission passed a motion directing Division of Marine Fisheries Director Steve Murphey to implement the year-round closure by proclamation upstream of the Bayview/Aurora Ferry in the Pamlico River system and upstream of the Minnesott Beach/Cherry Branch Ferry in the Neuse River system.
The proclamation took effect Monday, March 18, and the closure is expected to continue for about two years until Amendment 2 to the N.C. Estuarine Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan is adopted. Amendment 2 could continue the provision or recommend other management actions.
Murphey had declined to voluntarily implement a similar motion passed at the commission’s February meeting that requested he restrict the use of gill nets that interact with striped bass upstream of the ferry lines in the rivers and require attendance of gill nets that interact with striped bass upstream of the tie-down lines in the Central Southern Management Area.
The February motion was made following the adoption of Supplement A to Amendment 1 to the N.C. Estuarine Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan, which provided for a year-round season closure for striped bass in internal waters in the Central Southern Management Area. The Central Southern Management Area runs from just south of Oregon Inlet to the South Carolina state line.
In a March 4 letter to the commission, Murphey wrote that he carefully considered the issue but concluded that scientific data does not support the management measure. Gill nets are not the primary or even the most significant source of discard mortality in the Central Southern Management Area striped bass fishery.
“This letter and Supplement A acknowledge discards in both the recreational and commercial industry, but it also points out that gill net restrictions already in place have resulted in significant reductions in striped bass discards and that recreational discards are increasing in recent years,” Murphey said.
Wednesday’s meeting was an emergency meeting called under North Carolina General Statute section 113-221.1(d), which authorizes the commission to review the desirability of directing the fisheries director to issue a proclamation. Once the commission votes under this provision to direct issuance of a proclamation, the fisheries director has no discretion to choose another management option and is bound by law to follow the commission decision. In these cases, under existing law, the decision of the commission to direct the director to issue a proclamation is final and can only be overruled by the courts.
“I have talked to the secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality, and the secretary has talked to the Governor’s Office, and the secretary does not agree with the approach for this proceeding,” Murphey said.
The Division of Marine Fisheries has implemented the year-round striped bass season closure for commercial fishermen in coastal fishing waters, managed by the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission and in joint fishing waters, managed cooperatively between the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. However, the Division of Marine Fisheries has delayed implementation of the no-possession measure for the recreational fishery in joint fishing waters because it is currently inconsistent with Wildlife Resources Commission management measures for those waters.
At Wednesday’s meeting the Marine Fisheries Commission also passed a motion asking the Wildlife Resources Commission to adopt a year-round closed season for striped bass for recreational harvest in joint fishing waters.
Research has shown that striped bass in the Central Southern Management Area are not a self-sustaining population and that fishermen are mainly catching hatchery-raised fish; however, data suggest there have been two recent naturally-spawned year classes. The no-possession management measure will offer additional protection for those non-hatchery fish and protect larger females which could increase natural spawning stock biomass.
NC Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Michael S. Regan issued the following statement on the emergency meeting called by the Marine Fisheries Commission this week:
I am disappointed by the Marine Fisheries Commission calling an emergency meeting with only 48 hours’ notice for a non-emergency. The Commission used bad judgment in directing the Division of Marine Fisheries Director to take actions that contradict science and the recommendations of the division’s scientists. I certainly hope this is not a precedent we will see again from this Commission.
The statute empowering the Marine Fisheries Commission to direct issuance of gill net bans in certain areas does not authorize the Secretary or the Department discretion to overturn such a directive.
The Division of Marine Fisheries will close 2,877 acres of shellfish waters to shellfish harvest today due to high fecal coliform bacteria pollution.
The closures will take effect at sunset and are based on annual reports that consider the last 30 water samples (about 5 years of data) taken in each growing area. If the bacteria levels are found to exceed the national standards for safe shellfish harvest, the waters must close to shellfishing.
Staff with the division’s Shellfish Sanitation and Recreational Water Quality Section believe the high rainfall in 2014, 2015, and 2018 contributed to these changes.
Most of the larger closure areas are being classified as conditionally approved closed, which means they may still be able to open during dry periods. In addition, the division will continue to monitor the waters in case any meet the criteria to be reclassified as open.
The following waters are changing from conditionally approved open to conditionally approved closed: (1) 255 acres in Lockwoods Folly River upstream of a line from Spring Creek to Horse Island; (2) 613 acres in Great Creek and Ditch Cove, tributaries of Jarrett Bay near Davis; (3) 53 acres of the Intracoastal Waterway around Peden Point and IWW Marker 141 in Masonboro Sound; and (4) 33 acres in Newport River, just beyond the current closure line.
The following waters are changing from conditionally approved open to restricted: (1) 20 acres around the mouth of Dicks Creek off of Queens Creek.
The following waters are changing from approved to restricted: (1) 1,140 acres in South River upstream of a line across the river beginning just south of Big Creek and the Division of Marine Fisheries facility; (2) 6 acres in a small bay off of Bogue Sound near the end of Bogue Sound Drive in Emerald Isle; (3) 80 acres in the Intracoastal Waterway between the Hobucken Bridge and the junction with Upper Spring Creek; (4) 230 acres upstream of the mouth of Lower Spring Creek Off Goose Creek; (5) 45 acres upstream of the mouth of Satterthwaite Creek off Pungo River; (6) 27 acres of Oyster Creek near Lowland; and (7) 80 acres in Croatan Sound expanding the existing closure at the south end of Wanchese around the “Cut Through”.
The following waters are changing from approved to prohibited: (1) 33 acres along the shore southeast of the Cedar Island Ferry Terminal in Pamlico Sound; (2) 7 acres around the mouth of the Cedar Island Community Boat Harbor extending to Beacon 8 in Cedar Island Bay; (3) 205 acres in Eastham Creek off of Goose Creek up to Marker 3 near the mouth; (4) 34 acres around the mouth of Jordan Creek off the Pungo River; (5) 3 acres in Point Peter Canal, an agricultural canal off of Croatan Sound near Stumpy Point; and (6) 13 acres in Baumtown Road Canals, a series of marsh canals north of Baumtown Road in Wanchese.
For more specifics on the closures, including GIS coordinates, see Proclamation PA-PC-2019 at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/proclamations-polluted-areas.
For more information, contact Shannon Jenkins, chief of the Division of Marine Fisheries’ Shellfish Sanitation and Recreational Water Quality Section, at (252) 808-8148 or email@example.com.
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is reminding anglers that they cannot harvest or possess blueback herring and alewife, collectively known as “river herring,” greater than 6 inches in length while boating on or fishing in inland fishing waters of coastal rivers and their tributaries.
The regulation, which went into effect Aug. 1, 2013, applies to all river herring, regardless of origin, in inland fishing waters of the Roanoke, Tar, Neuse, Cape Fear, Waccamaw, and Pee Dee rivers and their tributaries up to the first impoundment of the main course of the river, the Lumber River, including Drowning Creek, and all other inland fishing waters east of I-95.
Visit the interactive fishing map at www.ncpaws.org/wrcmapbook/FishingAreas.aspx to view designations for specific coastal waters. Learn more about blueback and alewife herring by downloading the Herring and Shad in North Carolina, or find more information about fishing in public, inland waters by visiting www.ncwildlife.org/fishing.
The Standard Commercial Fishing License Eligibility Board to the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries will meet by teleconference at 10:30 a.m., April 11.
The public may listen to the meeting at the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s Wilmington Regional Office, 127 N Cardinal Drive, Wilmington and at the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ Headquarters, 3441 Arendell Street, Morehead City.
The board will consider applications that have been deemed complete and that were submitted by March 13.
The board meets two to three times a year to consider license applications. For directions on applying for a commercial fishing license, go to http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/commercial-fishing-license-information and click on the Eligibility Pool Application link.
For more information, contact division License Eligibility Clerk Ann Bordeaux-Nixon at (910) 796-7261 or Ann.Bordeaux-Nixon@ncdenr.gov.