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.