Love Local Shrimp? Read This.
Hyde County Commissioners, along with local stakeholders and seafood advocates have issued strong opposition to proposed rules that would result in major changes to the state's commercial trawling industry. They say the restrictions could ultimately end to our state's access some of our most valued seafood species. Namely shrimp.
North Carolina Wildlife Federation (NCWF) submitted a petition for rule change to the NC Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) on Nov. 2 that requests to designate all coastal fishing waters, as well as waters three miles into the ocean as primary nursery areas. According to a release from the Division of Marine Fisheries, the petition was discussed at the MFC's November meeting. On January 17, five joint advisory committees will meet and hear public comment on the issue in New Bern. Then, the MFC will review comments and take action at their February meeting.
Other rule changes outlined in the 99-page NCWF petition are: limiting shrimp trawling to three days a week; limiting trawling to daytime only; limiting the total head rope (the span of the nets) to 90 feet; establishing 45-minute tow times; define type of gear and how it can be used in special secondary nursery areas;and opening the season based on a 60 shrimp per pound.
Hyde County Commissioners Tuesday passed a resolution opposing the rules. Groups such as NC Catch and NC FIsheries Association have taken stands against the petition and an individual effort has started a counter-petition.
Statements on the commissioners resolution notes that in Hyde alone, hundreds of local businesses and families depend on catches from trawlers. Catches, namely shrimp, represent paychecks for the captain, crew and seafood industry, as well as locally-grown, organic protein to market to visitors. Multiply those economic boosters by the 20 coastal NC counties that boast commercial fishing history, and the economic effects will cut deep.
"This petition would obviously cripple the state's shrimp fishery, which is the second most valuable in our state and supports a number of other valuable industries such as gear design and manufacture, boat building and repair, refrigeration and repair, mechanical engineering, marine propulsion dealers, fuel distribution, seafood processing and a vibrant restaurant industry," said Lauren Salter, of Williston. Salter serves on the board of directors for NC Catch, a statewide group that works with several localized fishing partnerships to educate consumers about the importance of buying local seafood.
"This goes beyond shrimping," explained Salter, who is also the daughter of a down-east commercial fisherman. "If special interest groups continue to successfully limit access to our seafood by skillfully sidestepping the established fisheries management process, no seafood will be safe." Acknowledging the likelihood of foreign take-over of the industry, she noted the NCWF petition would surely result in the end of the trawling industry. Already, some 90 percent of shrimp consumed in the country is imported. "North Carolina's fishing industry cannot be expected to operate under regulations based on pseudoscience and political agenda. [The fishery] will eventually succumb to death by a thousand cuts."
"I'm just one of many in eastern North Carolina that have invested their life in a business that has strived to be a steward to the citizens of North Carolina by providing fresh, local, all natural products," said Zack Davis, a shrimper from Marshallburg. For Davis and countless others in the state, a lifelong trade would be lost.
“I’d have to find another job,” said Swan Quarter captain Bruce Hodges.
Public comment will be accepted during a joint advisory committee meeting at 12:30, January 17 at the New Bern Convention Center. The meeting will be similar to one that was held in 2013, where trawlers steamed up the Neuse river in opposition.
Members of the public also may comment on the petition in writing to (until Jan 20) to: NCWFPetition@ncdenr.gov or to:
Marine Fisheries Commission Office
N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries
PO Box 769
Morehead City, N.C. 28557
NEXT ARTICLE: NC Wildlife Federation uses damaging propaganda to support their petition for rule-making; NC Catch presents facts to dispute outlandish claims