Friday, August 29, 2014

North Carolina Wildlife Federation Supports Shrimp Trawl By Catch Reduction

August 21, 2014

Paul Rose, Chairman

Marine Fisheries Commission

3441 Arendell Street 

Morehead City, NC 28557

Chairman Rose:

The North Carolina Wildlife Federation (NCWF) appreciates this opportunity to comment directly to the Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) on marine resource issues considered important to the welfare and sound management of marine fisheries and to the citizens of North Carolina who depend upon MFC to protect and manage these fisheries according to the best available science and in the public interest.

We support and commend MFC and Director Daniel for your strong work toward authorization and implementation of Joint Enforcement Authority (JEA) for Marine Patrol Officers under cooperative agreement with National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). JEA will provide authority and resources to our Marine Patrol to enable more comprehensive and stronger law enforcement for protection of marine fisheries. We acknowledge the good work of our Marine Patrol Officers. These Officers deserve our strong assistance and protection as they perform their dangerous and vital services for our fishermen and our fisheries.

NCWF supports and commends DMF for recent restrictions placed on use of large mesh gill nets requiring permits and limiting sets to nighttime hours in response to warning from NMFS that minimum observer coverage under the Incidental Take Permit to protect endangered species was not being met. Unless minimum coverage of interactions through observers under terms of the ITP can be met, the large mesh gill net fishery must close.

NCWF identifies bycatch from non-selective commercial gear in our inshore waters as the number one threat to sustainable fisheries. We have released a video condemning this practice in otter trawls used in the shrimp industry and we are working on other public awareness programs. Elimination or significant reduction of bycatch in all our fishing activities is a necessary and worthwhile objective.

MFC can make great strides in eliminating and reducing bycatch in a short time by these actions:
1. Stop the red drum bycatch fishery now. The season is closed now due to greatly exceeding annual catch quotas in short order last year. Do not reopen this ill conceived, so-called “bycatch” season. Recent events have shown that this fishery is unmanageable; and, in fact, is a directed fishery under the pretense of unavoidable bycatch of drum. Add the red drum to the list of non-commercial fish, which now includes only the tarpon (15A NCAC 03M .0509).
2. Reopen the issue of otter trawls in the shrimp industry in inshore waters and implement some meaningful restrictions on the size of trawls, the timing of seasons, the location of approved and off limits trawling areas, and the duration of trawling pulls. Establish a timetable and goal for bycatch reduction and devise measures to detect improvements.
3. Require pound net license holders to attend and monitor their nets, release all non-target animals caught, and report interactions with sea turtles. Pound nets are not covered by the sea turtle ITP and every interaction is a violation of the ESA.

NCWF requests that MFC consider a serious approach to reduce bycatch in all fishing gear. NCWF is willing to assist and support these actions as a highly interested stakeholder and as a willing NGO partner. We feel these actions are critical and positive steps required to restore sustainable fisheries in NC.

Cc: Louis Daniel, Phd.

Director, Division of Marine Fisheries

Sincerely yours,

Tim Gestwicki, CEO

North Carolina Wildlife Federation

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Lawsuit Filed to Protect Sea Turtles From Shrimp Trawlers

Teri Shore, Turtle Island Restoration Network, cell 707 934 7081 (sea turtle photos available) 
Jaclyn Lopez, Center for Biological Diversity, (727) 
Marydele Donnelly, Sea Turtle Conservancy, (410)
Amanda Keledjian, Oceana, (202)

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Sea Turtles From Drowning in Shrimp Fishing Nets 

Fishing Gear Is Primary Threat to Sea Turtle Survival
Conservation groups notified the National Marine Fisheries Service today of their intent to sue over the agency’s failure to prevent the capture and drowning of over 53,000 threatened and endangered sea turtles each year  in shrimp trawl nets operating in the Gulf of Mexico and U.S. Southeast Atlantic Ocean.  
“Sea turtles are critically endangered, and no shrimp trawler should be allowed to operate if it can’t prevent the drowning of turtles,” said Teri Shore, program director of Turtle Island Restoration Network.
This new legal action comes just two years after the conservation groups settled another lawsuit, one that sought to address more than 3,500 sea turtles that washed up dead or injured on Gulf and East Coast beaches in 2011. Read more about sea turtles and the shrimp fishery here.
The Fisheries Service linked many of those sea turtle deaths and injuries to capture in shrimp fishing nets. Conservation groups settled the litigation with the Fisheries Service, which promised to propose new shrimp fishing regulations to help protect sea turtles. Instead of implementing more protective fishing gear regulations, the Fisheries Service withdrew the proposed rules completely.
Since then, the federal agency has failed to complete a revised analysis of the impacts of shrimp trawling on sea turtles, even after acknowledging previous analyses were inadequate and did not account for poor compliance with existing regulations.
“We had high hopes that we were moving toward a solution for sea turtles, but once again the Fisheries Service has failed to actually implement the protective measures,” said Jaclyn Lopez, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The agency has gotten into a disturbing habit of initiating protections and then stalling them. Every day protections are delayed is another day that these sea turtles face the very real risk of drowning in shrimp nets.”

“Turtle excluder devices,” known as TEDs, prevent turtles from drowning in nets, but limited use and lax enforcement have led to thousands of sea turtle deaths. Making matters worse, shallow-water shrimp vessels using skimmer trawls are permitted to simply self-enforce time limits on their tows in water instead of using TEDs. Enforcement records have shown that only 35 percent actually comply with these regulations. There is also mounting evidence from federal fishery observers suggesting that even when these restrictions are followed, skimmers drown turtles. Shrimp trawling is one of the most significant threats facing sea turtles in U.S. coastal waters.

“These fisheries should not be permitted to operate without any protective measures in place,” said Amanda Keledjian, marine scientist at Oceana.
“Shrimp trawls kill more sea turtles than all other sources of mortality in U.S. waters combined,” said Marydele Donnelly, director of international policy at the Sea Turtle Conservancy. “Nations that export shrimp to the United States are required to protect sea turtles from drowning in their nets, but the U.S. fleet cannot meet these standards right now.”

The Endangered Species Act requires the Fisheries Service to ensure that its actions do not jeopardize the continued existence of endangered species. Today’s notice aims to ensure the agency’s compliance with this law in carrying out its mandate to protect sea turtles and seeks to establish protective measures for them.

Conservation groups filing today’s notice include the Center for Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration Network, Sea Turtle Conservancy and Oceana.


Turtle Island Restoration Network mobilizes people to restore oceans, preserve rivers and streams, and protect the marine wildlife – from sea turtles to sharks – that call these blue-green waters home. Turtle Island is 25-year-old environmental non-profit with offices in California, Texas and Costa Rica. Our more than 65,000 members and online activists work to protect marine biodiversity in our oceans, and inland rivers and streams.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 675,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Sea Turtle Conservancy works to ensure the survival of sea turtles within the Caribbean, Atlantic and Pacific through research, education, training, advocacy and protection of the natural habitats upon which they depend.

Oceana is the largest international conservation group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. More than 600,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America and Europe. For more information, visit

Wednesday, February 5, 2014



A decade or so ago Beaufort Industries, the old Menhaden Plant, was fined for returning basically "heavy water" into the creek behind the plant. They were actually fined more than once and all they were doing was putting out water with bits and pieces of menhaden in it. They were fined for violating the Federal Clean Water Act.

Every year, shrimp trawlers operating in North Carolina inshore waters dump their by catch overboard, yet they don’t get fined. So how much does a big trawler dump in a year on average in our estuarine waters?

According to trip tickets collected by the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF), in 2012 there were 4,855,378 pounds of shrimp harvested in our estuarine waters. That doesn't include ocean landed shrimp.

While catching these nearly five million pounds of shrimp, the DMF estimates are that 21,489,201 pounds of finfish were also caught.  This is known in the trade as by catch and most of it was returned to the waters dead.

The DMF also reports that only 74 boats harvested 70 percent of this total. The other 370 boats involved in the industry landed the other 30 percent.

According to the DMF, by catch is the same whether using one 50 feet net on four boats or four 50 feet nets on one boat, thus these 74 boats logically account for 70 percent of the by catch.

Thus, 70 percent of the 21,489,201 total pounds of by catch caught and released by these 74 boats totals approximately 15,042,440 pounds. Over 15 million pounds of dead fish dumped by the 74 boats, mostly into Pamlico Sound in 2012. Incredibly, this has been occurring for years and will probably be repeated this year.

If you divide the total bycatch number for this group by 74 you see that each boat dumps 203,276 pounds of solid waste into the water each year. Dead flesh!

That is 101 tons for each boat. Around 202 pickup loads for each boat.

That is equivalent to 40,200 chickens (5 lb. average) 1,827 hogs (110 pounds average) 8,040 turkeys (20 pounds average)

How many other small businesses or farming operations can you name that are allowed to dump this much solid waste into our estuarine system each year? We can't.

Tell you neighbors this story and ask them if they know of any other industry that can.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

CFRG Takes Position on Fisheries Issues

The following posts have been submitted by the CFRG to the appropriate people involved in the issues.  The first deals with Spotted Sea Trout and attempts to change horses in the middle of the stream without new information on the stock status reports.

The second deals with shrimp.  The DMF/MFC have opted to search for new By Catch Reduction Devices (BRD) for two years as their solution to the 24 million pounds of fish being killed annually in North Carolina inshore waters by shrimp trawlers harvesting a mere 5 million pounds of shrimp (average) per year.

January 14, 2014

Chip Collier 127 Cardinal Drive Wilmington, N.C. 28405
Reference: Proposed Supplement SST FMP: Maintain short-term management measures to address stock assessment uncertainties

Mr. Collier:

The Coastal Fisheries Reform Group (CFRG) represents recreational coastal fishermen and supports science-based management of our marine fisheries. Within that purview we submit the following recommendation to continue present short-term management measures to govern speckled sea trout fishing activities until the ongoing stock assessment is complete. We think it would be premature to implement the planned restrictions scheduled to take effect in February, 2014. The stock assessment can be reviewed and long-term changes that may be necessary or desirable can be implemented later in 2014 or in 2015. We believe continuation of the short-term measures until the stock assessment can be analyzed is favorable to implementing the more restrictive measures now and then possibly changing them in just a few months.

To be specific, we support continuing the following regulatory regime for SST until the stock assessment is reviewed and other possible changes based upon the findings are proposed:

Maintain 14 inch minimum size limit, 75 fish daily creel limit, and weekend closure in joint waters (except Albemarle and Currituck Sounds) for commercial fishing and maintain 14 inch minimum size limit and 4 fish daily creel limit for recreational fishing.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this proposal.

January 16, 2014

Louis Daniel, Director Division of Marine Fisheries   3441 Arendell Street  Morehead City, NC 28557

Dr. Daniel:

Reference: Proposed amendment Shrimp FMP to Reduce Bycatch

The Coastal Fisheries Reform Group (CFRG) is a coalition of recreational coastal fishermen, who support sound management of our marine fisheries based upon the best available science. We represent many thousands of fishermen from across the state who fish in our coastal waters. We have had over 127,000 hits on our blog site ( where we have discussed coastal fisheries issues since 2009. In the role as a voice for the average salt water fisherman, we submit the following comments on the proposed Shrimp FMP amendment to reduce finfish bycatch that the Marine Fisheries Commission will consider at their February 2014 meeting.

We strongly believe that the draft amendment to the shrimp plan, which includes only proposals for industry testing of bycatch reduction devices, updating testing protocols for the state bycatch reduction device certification program, and requiring additional bycatch reduction devices in all shrimp trawl nets, falls woefully short of an acceptable proposal to amend the Shrimp FMP to reduce bycatch.

The Shrimp FMP Advisory Committee met several times over the course almost a year and many additional, significant measures were discussed and considered. The proposals emerging from the study are almost meaningless and will do little if anything to reduce finfish bycatch in shrimp trawling operations. The recommended amendment contains no options for gear restrictions, no time closures, no areas closures, and no target reduction in bycatch. The Shrimp FMP should be amended to include goals, timetables, and management measures to accomplish significant by-catch reduction and an aggressive data collection and analysis program to monitor the success of management actions taken over the next five year period.

We quote here from the draft amendment (page 65 Section 6.3 Shrimp Trawl Bycatch):

“As perhaps the prime example of the new policy positions, the re-authorized Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA) contains a National Standard (#9) requiring bycatch minimization (USDOC 1996). National Standard 9 states: “Conservation and management measures shall, to the extent practicable, (A) minimize bycatch and (B) to the extent bycatch cannot be avoided, minimize the mortality of such bycatch." Additionally, in 1991 the MFC adopted a policy directing the DMF to establish the goal of reducing bycatch losses to the absolute minimum and to consciously incorporate that goal into all of its, management considerations (Murrary et al. 1991).”

The CFRG urges the MFC to amend the Shrimp FMP to include the following provisions:

1. Limit all trawl nets in inshore coastal waters (especially Pamlico Sound) to a maximum headrope size of 110 feet and only allow two nets per boat. This would remove the large nets and their excessive bycatch but would allow the small trawlers that have shrimped in our sounds for generations to continue working uninterrupted. These smaller shrimp boats are mostly local boats, with local crews that sell their catch at local fish houses in North Carolina. Such a rule change would greatly benefit the vast majority of North Carolina shrimpers while truly helping our coastal economies and our marine resources by significantly reducing bycatch.

2. Limit tow times to 60 minutes. This would allow for some bycatch to be released alive and also increase the chance of sparing any endangered turtles which are entrapped in the net.

3. Delay shrimp season until the shrimp size has reached the level of having 36 to 41 (or lower) shrimp per pound. This would postpone the harvest of shrimp and allow juvenile finfish to grow larger and have more of a chance of escaping shrimp trawls. These fish would also have more time to move out of their nursery areas where the trawlers are now working. In addition, this change would cause the shrimp to be larger when they are harvested and market value would be greater, thereby benefiting shrimp fishermen.

4. Establish exclusion zones around both sides of our inlets where trawlers with headropes exceeding 110 feet would not be allowed. This would allow juvenile finfish that are transitioning to a life in the open ocean to escape our sounds without being killed by a shrimp trawler. These fish become concentrated when they are near the inlets and are especially vulnerable to trawlers until they can disperse into the ocean.

Now is the time to get serious about the finfish decimation caused by the current activities of shrimp trawlers in the inshore waters of NC. Destruction of fisheries resources of this magnitude cannot be tolerated any longer. If the proposed amendment to the Shrimp FMP is adopted as presented, the schedule for meaningful action will be delayed for years while we look for the magic solution that is right before us now. Establish some realistic goals, implement some meaningful management measures, set a timetable for implementation, evaluate improvements in terms of bycatch reduction, and make subsequent changes as dictated by results.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Republican Caucus Secretly Kills Game Fish Again

Caucus Tells Recreational Fishermen They Have No Say in How Salt Water Fish Are Managed

In 2009, then Senator Mark Basnight and his confidant Representative Tim Spear, both Democrats aligned with commercial fishing interests, killed game fish without a vote.

Governor Bev Perdue killed it in 2011 when Republicans traded game fish to override her veto of the budget with two dissident Coastal Democrats, one of them being Tim Spear.

Here we are in 2013 and the Republican Caucus, operating in secret and without warning, killed HB 983, the Fisheries Economic Development Act, commonly called the game fish bill, a week ago under the guise of it being a local issue.

The Republican Caucus in the House essentially has told the more than 500,000 recreational salt water fishermen in the state, that they have no vote, no say in how the salt water fishery is managed. A few coastal Representatives, again with ties to the commercial fishing sector, have decided for all of the state’s recreational fishermen that the commercial fishing industry will manage the fish.

We all know how well that has worked out for our fish in the past. Reminds us of the line in the song, “Hello to the new boss, same as the old boss.”   


Not a Local Issue

Anyone with a grain of sense realizes that this issue has the potential to benefit the entire State. Over 500,000 licensed recreational salt water anglers live across the state from Manteo to Murphy.

Maybe we should let coastal residents pay for hurricane damage to coastal roads, pay for beach nourishment and channel dredging, ferry boats, and so on. No, we recognize that all citizens must help one another in these public matters.

If these issues are not local issues, then game fish is not a local issue.

Fish are Valuable as Recreational Fish

 Only three commercial fishermen caught, sold, and reported selling over $10,000 worth of estuarine striped bass, speckled sea trout, and red drum in any combination. These three fish constitute less than one percent of the total annual commercial catch and account for only about $3 million annually and 28 jobs according to the 2012 figures from the Division of Marine Fisheries.

The recreational value of the three fish is $131 million for the same period and supports 1.267 jobs. This appears to be a no brainer. Anyone who cannot see the imbalance here is a no brainer. Over 30 species of finfish in inshore waters are open to commercial fishing; not one fish is managed as a game fish.

If game fish had been enacted into law, the commercial sector still would be harvesting over 99 percent of the fish they are harvesting now. Even without the three game fish!

The management of fisheries for commercial harvest creates a persistent drag on the population that over time always depletes the population and requires emergency and drastic action to save the fishery. We were too late in the case of the gray trout, the sturgeon, the river herring and we are just beginning to see recovery in the red drum, striped bass, and flounder. Extraordinary measures by recreational fishermen have led the way toward recovery with commercial fishermen complaining about government interference all the way.

A fool and His Votes Are Soon Parted

Leading Republicans told us to elect them and they would run our state like a business and allocate our valuable resources of all kinds for the highest and best use of all citizens. We were told “You get Republicans elected and we will pass game fish.“ Really.

We elected Republicans to Office as Governor, Speaker of the House, and President Pro Temp of the Senate. Killing game fish in this way is not consistent with your promises and will not sit kindly with the majority of over 500,000 licensed recreational fishermen as they cast their votes in the next election. Do you want to lose all you have gained over a few fish? It could happen!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


The Coastal Fisheries Reform Group (CFRG) supports the Camo Coalition in its efforts to eliminate or at least mitigate the budget cuts proposed in the NC Legislature.  Anyone wanting to help can click on the link below and send a message.]

You can also contact you NC House and Senate member, which can be found on the NC Legislature web site.  You can also visit for more information. 
Senate Budget Slashes Wildlife Appropriation
The Senate has released its 2013 – 2014 budget proposal and it has passed through the Senate Appropriations Committee.  The cuts to the Wildlife Resources Commission budget are staggering and, if enacted, will cut long-standing and important programs of the agency significantly.  In previous years the General Assembly has appropriated about $18 million to the Commission to provide services and infrastructure to manage and protect the fish and wildlife resources of the state.  This year, the proposal is to appropriate only $9 million to the agency for these activities.  This is a cut of about 49%.  Hunters and fishermen in NC will certainly miss the fish and wildlife programs and services supported by these cut funds.

The Senate will vote on the budget tomorrow, Wednesday, May 22, 2013. The budget has to be voted on in two separate days, so this cut may be addressed and funds restored on Thursday, May 23, 2013 also.  You still have time to provide important input to your Senator to correct this misguided cut.

The fish and wildlife management programs and infrastructure of the Wildlife Resources
Commissions contribute significantly to the state and local economies.  The programs of the agency impact the state in all areas and have been created over the years with receipts collected from hunting and fishing license sales and other receipts from agency programs. Appropriations to the WRC are typically used to support the programs of the agency that benefit all the citizens of the state.

The Senate budget cut is accompanied with the implied suggestion that the Commission use the Wildlife Endowment Fund (WEF) to make up the difference.  The WEF was created to provide a supplemental source of funding to improve fish and wildlife programs and not to replace traditional sources of financial support from the General Assembly.  The WEF has been utilized over the years to keep our fish and wildlife programs efficient and current with such projects as fish hatchery improvement, improvements to law enforcement, and game lands purchases.  We need to keep this valuable asset to continue improving our fish and wildlife programs and not be required to expend these trust funds for routine operations.

Click TAKE ACTION to send a message to your Senator today and ask him or her to restore the modest appropriation to the WRC budget to avoid significant reduction in services so important to the hunters and fishermen of NC.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

GAME FISH INTRODUCED IN NC HOUSE long last the North Carolina legislature will vote on a game fish bill.  HB 983 was introduced in the House on Wednesday, April 17, and when it passes will be sent to the Senate for action there.

There is a twist this year.  Because of the importance of the legislation to the state's economy, the bill is entitled 2013 Fisheries Economic Development ActNOTE:  You can visit the NC House of Representatives web site and type in the bill number and read its full contents.

The North Carolina Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) has been sponsoring the legislation for the past three years.  The push for a game fish bill was begun four years ago by the Coastal Fisheries Reform Group (CFRG), but that bill was blocked at the committee level by opponents.  The following year, the CCA took over as the primary sponsor of the bill, but the effort failed to see the bill introduced once again.  Last year, the bill was not introduced because of a threatened veto by then Governor Bev Perdue.

This year, however, the bill will receive a vote.  If passed, no longer will the commercial sale of wild caught red drum, spotted sea trout and estuarine striped bass be permitted in North Carolina.  Ocean stripers can still be harvested from the beach out to three miles commercially, but that catch is controlled by a quota system.  In federal waters from three miles and beyond, stripers cannot be harvested.

Only red drum or specs imported or farm raised can be sold in the state.  Restaurants can sell stripers legally taken from the beach out to three miles.  Stripers from inshore cannot be sold in the North Carolina once this bill is passed.

The bill is much more inclusive than just game fish status.  It contains provisions for increasing fishing license fees that will bring in much needed revenue to the Division of Marine Resources.  It also contains provisions to financially assist commercial fishermen who can prove they have been adversely affected by the bill.

In addition, the bill provides revenue for dredging of some of North Carolina's inlets, valuable avenues for passage to not only commercial vessels, but recreational fishing boats.  Many of these inlets are in dire need of dredging since the federal monies previously used for this purpose have dried up.  HB 983 does not involve increasing boat registration fees.

In all other states that have either instituted game fish and/or an outright net ban, economic activity has increased.  Why?  Because as the fish populations, namely red drum and specs to our south, have increased, recreational fishing pressure has increased.  Fishermen spend lots and lots of money in pursuit of their favorite recreation.  We all know about that.

This has been proven in Texas, Louisiana, Florida and South Carolina.  Within the past month, the State of Georgia also designated the red drum a game fish.  North Carolina joins Mississippi as the only states from NC to Texas without game fish status for drum and specs.

You can visit the CCA's web site at and learn of the economic benefits of the legislation.  These economic statistics have largely been compiled from the records of the NC Division of Marine Fisheries.

The CFRG urges all North Carolina residents to contact their NC House Representative and Senator.  Ask them to vote for the bill.  These members can be obtained by visiting At that site click on either House or Senate, then on member lists.

Please be courteous and respectful to these elected officials.

With your assistance, we can finally see some improvements in our fishery.  And we can help improve our state's economy.

Thanks and good fishing.