By SUSAN WEST
fisheries officials have announced that the commercial gear permit for
the ocean striped bass fishery won’t go into effect this year,
giving officials time to explore limited entry and other management
options for the fishery.
Approved by the General Assembly in 2006, the permit requirement had
been scheduled to go into effect in the fall. Fishermen would
have been required to lock into using one gear type, either gill nets,
beach seines, or trawls, to catch striped bass for the next three years.
But the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC), acting on the
request of the state Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF), agreed to
delay the requirement at a meeting in Greenville last month.
“With the permit, we were going down a road that really
wasn’t going to improve management of the fishery,” said
David Taylor, head of the DMF fishery management plan section.
Taylor said that while the permit would have limited fishermen to one
type of gear, there’d be no limit on the total number of permits.
“So, anyone with a commercial fishing license could get a permit,” he said.
From 2002 through 2006, 1,077 individuals participated in the state’s commercial ocean striped bass fishery.
The fishery operates under a state quota of 480,480 pounds, authorized
by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, a regional compact
that regulates migrating species.
The fishery has been saddled with catch limits as low as 10 fish per
day, with fishing seasons that can last just a few days, with
derby-style fishing in rough weather, and with gear-sector quota
Although limited entry systems have received a cold reception from most
North Carolina commercial fishermen, close to 60 percent of those with
striped bass landings think the fishery might be better under limited
entry, according to a DMF survey.
Limited entry restricts participation in a fishery to fishermen who
meet certain criteria, such as minimum landings, landings in specific
years, or fishing income requirements.
In 2005, the state considered a draft proposal that would have
restricted the fishery to fishermen who had landed at least 1,000
pounds of striped bass in any two of three fishing seasons from 2002
through 2004, or who landed fish in all three years.
Taylor said a DMF committee would look at limited entry and other management options and make recommendations to the MFC.
Any proposal to limit entry would likely require legislative approval,
as the MFC can only limit participation in fisheries that fall under
federal fishery management plans that include a harvest quota for the
“For the upcoming fishing year though, fishermen won’t see
many changes in management, but we will be working on a new beach seine
definition,” Taylor said.
Under the permit rule, beach seines are defined as “a swipe net
constructed of multi-filament or multi-fiber webbing.” Many
fishermen who use beach seines objected to that definition because they
had replaced nylon or multi-filament nets with the lighter and
Taylor said the new definition would likely specify net and twine size, and include a description of how the net is fished.
He said DMF expects to issue a new definition later this spring, so
that fishermen can plan purchases for the winter fishery.