Marine Fisheries moves toward gill net
ban in large areas of coastal waters
By SUSAN WEST
Fishermen would see large sections of coastal waters closed to larger
mesh gill nets from May 15 through Dec. 15 under a proposal developed
by the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries.
proposed restrictions were presented in a Jan. 11 letter from Louis
Daniel, state Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) chief, to Roy
Crabtree, southeast regional administrator of National Marine Fisheries
letter states that the rules would allow gill net fisheries to operate
in a manner that would avoid the incidental capture of threatened or
endangered sea turtles in fishing nets, while the state and NMFS
develop a permanent statewide strategy permitted under the Endangered
proposed regulations would close a large section of estuarine waters
from Oregon Inlet to the South Carolina border to set gill nets with a
stretch mesh size greater than 3.5 inches from May 15 to Dec. 15.
would be allowed to use small mesh nets, like those used for spot and
croaker, but would have to stay with, or attend, their nets from May
gear ban would not apply to the Pamlico Sound Gill Net Restricted Area,
an area running behind the Outer Banks that has been managed since 2000
under an Endangered Species Act Section 10 Permit with special gear
restrictions and monitoring requirements.
ban would not apply to runaround or strike gill nets that are used to
catch species such as Spanish mackerel and striped mullet.
used in the ocean also would not be affected.
proposal will be presented to the state Marine Fisheries Commission
(MFC) for approval at their March 24-25 meeting in Kitty
adopted by the commission, the rules could go into effect shortly after
the measures were based on scientific data from a range of state and
the proposal is unlikely to satisfy the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue
and Rehabilitation Center, a Topsail Island turtle hospital that is
expected to file a lawsuit charging the state with inadequately
protecting turtles and violating the Endangered Species Act.
is expected to seek a ban on gill nets in all state waters, according
to several sources.
October, the center filed a notice of intent to sue the state DMF and
MFC over the authorization of gill nets in state waters.
notice was filed on behalf of the Beasley Center by Duke Environmental
Law and Policy Center as a pro bono student project.
notice was addressed to federal and state officials, and also mailed to
many well-known advocacy groups, including Audubon North Carolina,
Defenders of Wildlife, EarthJustice, Southern Environmental Law Center,
and the North Carolina Wildlife Federation.
letter was also sent to Joe Albea and Dean Phillips of the Coastal
Fisheries Reform Group, an ad hoc group of recreational fishermen that
burst on the state fisheries management scene last spring with calls
for bans on speckled trout gill nets and gamefish status designation
for speckled trout and red drum.
Fisheries Reform Group Web site states that the group endorses the
removal of all gill nets from state waters.