The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission selected their preferred management options for the draft Shrimp Fishery Management Plan Amendment 2 during their November business meeting. The goal of the shrimp plan amendment is to further reduce bycatch of non-target species and minimize ecosystem impacts.
The commission selected options to permanently close all trawling in crab sanctuaries; to prohibit trawling in Bogue Sound and its tributaries except for the Intracoastal Waterway; and prohibit trawling in the Carolina Yacht Basin, except for the Intracoastal Waterway. However, it did not go forward with proposed regional area closures that would have prohibited trawling in most estuarine waters except for Pamlico Sound.
The commission also chose management options to:
(1) Eliminate the four quarts (heads on) and two and one-half quarts (heads off) recreational creel limit for cast nets in areas closed to the taking of shrimp.
(2) Change the flexible opening date in all Special Secondary Nursery Areas to a static Sept. 1 each year.
(3) Continue collaboration with the commercial stakeholder groups through the industry workgroup to identify and test gear modifications to further reduce bycatch in the shrimp fishery.
(4) Provide for adaptive management for future action to address issues related to submerged aquatic vegetation identified through Division of Marine Fisheries collaboration with the Coastal Habitat Protection Plan support staff, the Habitat and Water Quality Advisory Committee, and stakeholder groups.
(5) Maintain existing headrope limits for shrimp trawls in internal coastal waters but allow for additional headrope restrictions to be implemented to resolve user conflicts.
(6) Request the division collaborate with the CHPP staff and the Habitat and Water Quality Advisory Committee on issues related to habitat. As the division deems appropriate and feasible, actions to address that impact will be identified by the appropriate committees and brought to the commission for action as part of adaptive fisheries management.
The draft shrimp plan amendment now goes for review by the Secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality and legislative committees before coming back to the commission for final adoption in February.
Also, the commission gave final approval to the Coastal Habitat Protection Plan 2021 Amendment. The CHPP is a long-term strategy to improve coastal fisheries through habitat protection and enhancement efforts. The CHPP amendment has already been approved by the Environmental Management Commission and the Coastal Resources Commission. It provides information on habitat distribution and abundance, ecological functions and importance to fish production, status and trends, and threats to the habitats, and includes recommendations to address those threats.
In other business, the commission voted to:
(1) Send the draft Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan Amendment 3 out for public comment and advisory committee review. The draft flounder plan amendment includes options for commercial and recreational quotas, commercial trip limits, recreational bag limits, regulations on the recreational use of commercial gear to harvest flounder, separating southern flounder from other flounder species in recreational management, evaluating inlet corridors as a management tool, evaluating a recreational slot limit, and phasing out large-mesh gill nets in the southern flounder fishery. Information on the public comment period will be announced at a later date.
(2) Approve the goal and objectives of the draft N.C Fishery Management Plan for Interjurisdictional Fisheries Amendment 2.
(3) Give final approval of amendments and re-adoption of a slate of rules under a mandatory periodic review schedule (G.S. 150B-21.3A), including rules prohibiting the repacking of foreign crab meat in North Carolina.
(4) Move forward with rulemaking implementing additional labeling requirements for repacked foreign crab meat, scheduled to begin next year.
(5) Approved the following nominees for the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council obligatory seat to be forwarded to the Governor: Tim Griner, a commercial fisherman and dealer from Charlotte and the current N.C. obligatory member on the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council; Scott Buff, a commercial fisherman and dealer from Oak Island; Charlie Locke, a commercial fisherman from Wanchese; and Thomas Newman, a commercial fisherman from Williamston.