Friday, August 31, 2012


The Coastal Fisheries Reform Group (CFRG) is urging people to attend one of two upcoming public hearings on a proposed merger of the Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) and the Marine Resources Commission (MRC).

The first of the meetings will be held Sept 5 starting at 6:00 p.m. at the Craven County Cooperative Extension Office at 300 Industrial Dr. in New Bern. The second meeting will also start at 6:00 p.m. It will be held at the Dare County Administration Bldg, 954 Marshall C. Collins Dr. in Manteo.

The proposed merger of the two agencies was part of a legislative bill signed into law this summer. It directs the two agencies along with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to study whether these agencies should be reorganized to provide for more efficient, productive and enjoyable uses of the state’s fisheries resources.

Please scroll down to the Monday, August 20, post to learn of the CFRG’s position on the merger proposal. The CFRG believes this merger proposal, modified to include the CFRG’s concerns, is a very important step in the process of improving the management of the state’s marine resources.
Those unable to attend the meetings can still provide their input on the proposed merger. Go to: and enter your comments.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Coastal Fisheries Reform Group Seeks Immediate Ban on Otter Trawling in NC Waters
Raleigh, NC | Wake County

August 23, 2012

Brownstone Hotel, 1707 Hillsborough Street Raleigh, NC 27605

(919) 828-0811

TIME: 8:30 AM
When the Marine Fisheries Commission meets in Raleigh this week, the Coastal Fisheries Reform Group plans to ask them to implement an immediate prohibition of otter trawling in North Carolina waters.

Extensive studies by scientists at the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries have shown that the use of otter trawls by commercial shrimp operations in North Carolina results in the death of hundreds of millions of fish every year. #1. 

Otter trawls skim the seafloor as they are dragged along and indiscriminately
crush or drown all species that become trapped. Shockingly, most of the harvest with this gear is not
shrimp, but is actually non-targeted “bycatch” that is discarded after being killed and sorted on the deck of the boat.

Three economically important species, weakfish, spot, and croaker, are hit especially hard by
this practice with a combined total of over 200 million finger-sized fish killed every year. These fish are removed from their nursery area before they mature and never have the opportunity to reach breeding age.

The Marine Fisheries Commission now knows of this extensive damage caused by otter trawls and has the power to immediately force shrimpers to use different fishing gear that will greatly decrease the bycatch as they harvest shrimp. The removal of otter trawls from North Carolina waters is a crucial step in allowing our severely overfished marine resources to recover and the Marine Fisheries Commission is being asked to allow this recovery to begin.

CONTACT: Joe Albea | 252.916.0380

#1 1INTERSTATE FISHERIES MANAGEMENT PROGRAM IMPLEMENTATION FOR NORTH CAROLINA By Kevin Brown. Completion Report for NOAA Award No. NA05NMF4741003. Study II DOCUMENTATION AND REDUCTION OF BYCATCH IN NORTH CAROLINA FISHERIES. JOB 2: Characterization of the inshore commercial shrimp trawl fishery in Pamlico Sound and its tributaries, North Carolina June 2010.

Estimates of Cumulative North Carolina Shrimp Trawl Bycatch for Three Important Species

Number of Fish
Year                 Weakfish              Croaker                      Spot
2007             57,223,380           242,245,642            105,863,253
2008             56,545,008           239,373,867            104,608,265
2009             32,446,248           137,355,783              60,025,559
2010             35,732,010           151,265,509              66,104,219
2011             30,842,160           130,565,144              57,057,996
Totals          212,788,806          900,805,945            393,659,292
The following ratios, which were used to make the table presented above, were determined using North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries bycatch data:
      Weakfish - 6.0 weakfish were caught per pound of shrimp harvested
      Croaker - 25.4 croakers were caught per pound of shrimp harvested
      Spot - 11.1 spots were caught per pound of shrimp harvested
Reported North Carolina shrimp harvests for the last five years:
     2007 = 9,537,230 lbs   
     2008 = 9,424,168 lbs
     2009 = 5,407,708 lbs
     2010 = 5,955,335 lbs
     2011 = 5,140,360 lbs
The following was presented by the CFRG to the Marine Fisheries Commission at their meeting in Raleigh August 23 2012.

The following was presented by the CFRG to the Marine Fisheries Commission at their meeting Aug 23, 2012 in Raleigh

Blue Print for Renewal of Marine Resources in North Carolina

For decades North Carolina has relied upon the natural bounty of her coastal rivers, sounds, and estuaries to supply an abundance of commercial and sport fishing opportunities unsurpassed anywhere. Within the memory of middle-aged fishermen is the recollection of plentiful and diverse fish stocks coastwide with no restriction on harvest and no detectable impact on abundance. There seemed to be an inexhaustible supply to support unlimited fishing pressure.

Times have changed. Increasing fishing pressure, the absence of meaningful limits to keep harvest within the confines of productivity, sophisticated fishing techniques, many tons of non-targeted "bycatch", habitat destruction by commercial fishing gear and wetland developments, pollution, and short-sighted management decisions made by policy boards weighted in favor of commercial interests are some of the major factors that have thrown our marine fisheries into turmoil and danger.
Many species of fish previously abundant beyond belief are now depleted and no longer play a role in our fisheries. The river herring, the gray trout, the menhaden, the striped bass, the speckled trout, the red drum, the southern flounder, and even the ubiquitous spot and croaker are all in trouble, overfished, depleted, and struggling in the face of poor management slanted toward immediate returns regardless of long term impacts.
It is now time to draw a line in the sand and say, "No more!". Once our citizens and elected representatives understand how valuable but abused our natural resources are, they too will refrain "No more!".
Our marine resources can and must be managed properly, based upon sound science and current data. No less than total commitment to renewal of these resources is acceptable. The task is formidable but it can be done. Our marine fisheries are resilient and can recover if given the protection and management they deserve and need. The number of people who will be positively affected by such a renewal is astounding with over 1 million North Carolina licensed coastal sport fishermen and women.
We have made some progress recently with the elimination of the menhaden reduction fishery in NC waters, the creation of a rule requiring a super majority of the Marine Fisheries Commission to override a staff recommendation to end overfishing or restore stocks, and a study on the organization of fisheries management programs in North Carolina with a view toward efficiency and effectiveness. In addition, the Governor has upgraded appointments to the Marine Fisheries Commission for greater balance and less special interests by its members. We hope this trend will continue this year with three more good appointments.
Coastal Recreational Fishing

Coastal recreational fishing is a strong and valuable activity to North Carolina and her citizens. Not only is sport fishing a cherished tradition, it generates about $2 billion dollars in revenue every year through direct expenditures of sport fishermen in conjunction with their fishing activities that support many thousands of small businesses and jobs in North Carolina. Coastal recreational fishing is an important driver of North Carolina’s economy that requires no capital investment at all. This is justification enough for expanded emphasis on proper management of this important resource. Renewal of our marine fisheries today will pay tremendous dividends in the near future.

Coastal recreational fishermen have contributed to the decline in fish stocks through past overfishing. Recreational fishermen must be active toward the protection of fish stocks and willing to accept measures required for stock recovery. Recreational fishing rules must be based upon the best available science and enforcement of these rules must be fair, consistent, and vigorous.
Every species of fish must have a management plan that includes harvest quotas and daily bag and size limits based upon current fish stock assessments. The impact of fishing for fun and release must be evaluated and controlled to ensure that mortality is not a problem. For some species, it may be necessary to close the fishing season for periods of time to protect brood stock, foster spawning success, or allow recovery from cold stuns and other negative events.
Allowable gear for recreational fishermen must be carefully prescribed by rule to ensure minimal mortality from hooking for both undersized, targeted fish and non-targeted fish. Such gear as minnow seines, bait traps, cast nets, gigs, and other devices used in conjunction with recreational fishing must be carefully defined and allowed only under circumstances that are compatible with the welfare of the fishery.
Gill nets, strike nets, and trawls have no place in recreational fishing and should be prohibited. The entire concept of "recreational commercial gear" is contradictory and the license that authorizes this activity should be repealed.
Recreational license fees must be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure collection of sufficient funds to support a viable and successful fishery management program. Presently, several fees, including those for both the short term resident and non-resident fishing licenses are too low to generate any funds for management purposes. The use of recreational license fees to support law enforcement as well as fisheries research, habitat enhancement, and fisherman access projects should be allowed. Periodic review of the decision making process controlling the use of recreational license fees should be made.
Equitable representation of recreational fishing interests on decision making boards must be set forth in the fishery management law. The current review of fishery management

programs in North Carolina mandated by the 2012 North Carolina General Assembly and being conducted by the Wildlife Resources Commission, the Division of Marine Fisheries, and the Department of Agriculture should be followed closely to ensure that recommendations coming from this study do not jeopardize in any way the delivery of a sound coastal fishery management program.

Commercial Fishing

While recreational fishing has had its impact on marine fisheries, the damage from commercial exploitation of our fisheries has been far greater. The commercial mindset to maximize harvest and profit by all means, to oppose all regulations, to insist on license fees that are too low to pay for management programs, and to employ sophisticated fishing techniques and gear resulting in overharvest have all led to severe adverse impacts on our marine fisheries.

This adverse impact is not entirely the fault of the commercial fisherman, who is merely trying to make a meager living from the rivers, sounds, estuaries, and ocean. It is the fault of the economically driven industry that profits from the hard and dangerous work of the commercial fisherman. This industry accepts no position other than its own, insisting that our marine fisheries belong to those who exploit them for short term profit without regard for the future.
For years, the commercial fishing industry has had its way with policy making boards, securing lax rules governing seasons and harvest. The recreational fisherman sat quietly by as this blatant mismanagement dragged our marine fisheries into a state of depletion. Even today, in the face of overwhelming evidence of depletion, the commercial fishing industry opposes every conservation proposal advanced by scientists and concerned fishermen. We must develop balanced management that conserves our marine fisheries and enhances our marine habitats. The following steps will begin that process.
Restrictions necessary to bring commercial fishing into balance with the harvest capacity of the resource can be divided into three categories:

1. Gear restrictions.
Very few meaningful restrictive rules on the amount or type of gear are currently in place in North Carolina waters to address habitat destruction and bycatch of non-targeted fish and aquatic life. At a minimum the use of the following gear should be changed as described:
a. Otter trawls.
These destructive devices are dragged in the shallow waters of North Carolina sounds and estuaries, which serve as nursery areas for a variety of juvenile finfish and other aquatic life, to catch mainly shrimp and crabs. In the process of harvesting targeted species, this gear kills many times more non-targeted fish (by weight). Hundreds of millions of fingerling sized fish are wiped out, and most of the dead are species currently listed as Page 4 of 4
overfished or depleted. In addition, otter trawls cause tremendous destruction to the bottom as the trawls are dragged along behind the boat. Obliteration of bottom structure and silt from dredging create formidable obstacles to restoration of productive oyster beds and submerged aquatic vegetation. The use of otter trawls in North Carolina waters should be stopped immediately.

b. Strike nets.
These nets are deployed around schools of fish usually in restricted, in-shore areas where they have gathered for refuge. After the strike net is deployed, the fish are driven into the net by commotion from the netter. Strike nets are particularly damaging when set in inshore areas in late fall and winter when large brood fish move into these waters to spend the cold months. Activity of fish is limited when the water is cold, so the fish are especially vulnerable to strike nets at this crucial time of their life cycle. Because of this, the use of strike nets should no longer be permitted in primary or secondary nursery areas between November 1 and April 1.
2. Bycatch reduction.
Rules must be put into effect to restrict commercial fishing operations so that bycatch mortality is eliminated or reduced to levels that do not affect the abundance or life cycle of the non-targeted fish or other aquatic life. It is no longer acceptable to kill 5 to 10 pounds of non-targeted marine life to catch a pound of shrimp. Federal mandates to eliminate interactions between commercial fishing gear and endangered species such as the Atlantic sturgeon and sea turtles will require changes to reduce interactions or the fishing activity will be closed. Bycatch should be reduced through prohibition or modification of gear, or through seasonal and area restrictions or closures.
3. Total allowable catch (TAC).
TACs are scientifically determined quotas that are set to limit the harvest of a species to levels that are compatible with sustainability. All commercial species should have a TAC established and enforced. TACs should be set in an equitable manner consistent with historical participation or some fair system of lottery. TACs should be set by season or by area when required to allow critical protection during some vulnerable stage of a species life cycle. TACs should also include size limits when appropriate and may be imposed for daily or longer intervals to regulate the rate of harvest.
The sea food industry must adapt and change its approach to harvest. The primary goal of management and regulation must be the sustainability of our marine resources.

Monday, August 20, 2012

NC Fisheries Agencis Accepting Public Comments on Reorganization

Section 2. of Chapter 190 of the 2012 NC Session Laws (SB 821) requires the Director of the Wildlife Resources Commission, the Director of the Division of Marine Fisheries, and the Commissioner of Agriculture to study the organization and function of the fisheries management programs in NC and to report their findings and recommendations for improvement to the NC General Assembly in October of 2012.

 As a first step in this process, the agencies have set up several public meetings to receive public comment on the subject of reorganization of the fisheries agencies in NC. The times and places with maps are given below:

Public Meetings to receive public comments on reorganization of the fisheries agencies in NC 6 p.m., Aug. 22 and 9 a.m., Aug. 23 N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Meeting Brownstone Hilton DoubleTree Hotel 1707 Hillsborough St., Raleigh (Map) 5 p.m., Aug. 29 N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Committee Meetings 1751 Varsity Drive N.C. State University Centennial Campus, Raleigh (Map) 6 p.m., Sept. 5 Craven County Cooperative Extension Office 300 Industrial Drive, New Bern (Map) 6 p.m., Sept 6 Dare County Administration Building Commissioners Meeting Room 954 Marshall C. Collins Drive, Manteo (Map) All comments offered on this issue will be presented for joint consideration by all three agencies.

Attend one of these meetings if you can and send the notice to all your fishing friends so they can attend too. Also, a website has been set up to receive public comments:

Visit this site and send your comments directly to the three agencies for consideration. CFRG can identify no role for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to play in the management or administration of fisheries resources. Their charge is to manage farm commodities and assist farmers, of which they do a very good job. No efficiency or economy could be gained by involving NCDA&CS in any of the fishery programs, except aquaculture, which they already handle.

In fact, delegating reporting harvest statistics and monitoring fishery catches through NCDA&CS would add an element of uncertainty and additional bureaucracy to the current process, which is working quite well. There are elements of redundancy and overlap of responsibilities between WRC and DMF that, if eliminated, would improve delivery of services, law enforcement, and management of fisheries resources and would save significant overlapping funding requirements through consolidation of those functions.

The present evaluation should focus on items that would improve efficiency and cut redundancy and include recommendations for change to eliminate overlapping activities. Finally, the WRC has a total of 19 members and the Marine Fisheries Commission has 9 members. As close as the missions of these two agencies are, it seems plausible that policy making and regulatory duties of the two Commissions could be consolidated and reduced in a way that would preserve the unique focus on marine and inland fisheries and save a lot of unnecessary administrative costs in the process. If you agree, pass these ideas for savings and efficiency along to the agencies for their consideration in their deliberations. Thank you, NC Coastal Reform Group

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Actions of the General Assembly in the Short Session, 2012 related to marine fisheries

The Marine Fisheries Study Committee was established after the 2011 General Assembly failed to act on the game fish bill HB 353.  That bill would have made striped bass, speckled trout, and red drum game fish that could not be taken except by hook and line and could not be sold.  Below is the charge given to the Marine Fisheries Study Committee.  The Committee met four times between January and April without significant progress and very little discussion on any of the pressing issues given to it for study. 

Marine Fisheries Study Committee – Study issues related to marine fisheries.  Specifically, the Committee may study the following:

1.      The potential impact to both the State’s fisheries resources and the State’s economy related to the designation of Red Drum, Spotted Sea Trout, and Striped Bass as coastal game fish.

2.      Changes to the appointment process and qualification for membership on the NC Marine Fisheries Commission.

3.      Creation of a hook and line commercial fishery.

4.      Elimination of the trawl boat fishery in NC.

5.      Entering into cooperative agreements with other jurisdictions with regard to the conservation of marine and estuarine resources; and regulating placement of nets and other sport or commercial gear in coastal fishing waters with regard to navigational and recreational safety as well as from a conservation standpoint.

6.      Entering into agreements regarding the delegation of law enforcement powers from the National Marine Fisheries Service over matters within the jurisdiction of the Service.

7.      Potential modification of the Fisheries Reform Act of 1997.

8.      Whether Marine Fisheries should be a division of the Coastal Resources Commission o the Wildlife Resources Commission.\

9.      Other findings that promote the allocation of the State’s resources to the optimum use.

Chairs: McCormick (Brown)

Members: Ingle, Samuelson, McComas, Spear, Holloway, McElraft, Murray (Preston, White, Goolsby, Rabon, Tucker, East, Jackson.)

Their final report resulted in introduction and final passage of SB 821 in the Short Session of 2012.  SB 821 is summarized below.  The most positive provision to come out of this bill is elimination of the menhaden fisheries in NC waters and a super majority requirement for passage of any rule by the Marine Fisheries Commission related to overfishing or recovery of overfished stocks over the recommendation of the staff of the Division of Marine Fisheries.

  • Senate Bill 821.  An act to consolidate several issues raised in the Marine Fisheries Study Committee.  The several issues are addressed below:
    • Directs the agency heads of Agriculture, Marine Fisheries, and Wildlife to study the organizational structure and function of the various fisheries management programs of NC and to report their findings and recommendations for change to the General Assembly in October, 2012.
    • Directs the agency heads of Transportation, Wildlife, and Marine Fisheries to study all available sources of funds to create a new fund to be used for boat navigation projects including channel dredging.  Specifically mentioned are fishing license fees, gasoline taxes, and boat registration fees.
    • Prohibits fishing for menhaden using a mother ship and purse seine runner boats in NC waters after January 1, 2013.
    • Requires a supermajority vote of the Marine Fisheries Commission to override a staff recommendation related to eliminating overfishing or restoration of overfished stocks.
    • Consolidated several of the marine fisheries advisory committees for efficiency.
Another bill coming out of the Marine Fisheries Study Committee that never got heard was SB 850, which would have recreated the Joint Legislative Commission on Fish and Wildlife.  This is a very bad idea and we were able to kill the bill by pointing out some of the problems to sponsors. 

·         Senate Bill 850.  An act to create an oversight committee of 16 legislators to oversee fish and wildlife management programs.  This was a very bad idea, which never got any legs due to conversations with Senate leaders.  Once the problems were explained to sponsors, they decided not to move this bill.  Fish and wildlife management programs do not need legislative oversight, in fact, a system like that would have serious negative effects.  Another good move for sportsmen. 

CFRG is gearing up for another full-fledged effort to make meaningful changes to the management of our marine fisheries.  Announcement will be forthcoming shortly.  The Marine Fisheries Commission meets in Raleigh on August 22-24, 2012.  We will be there representing the interests of sound management and resource protection.  Stay tuned!