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