June 27, 2013
New Bern artist wants to ban shrimp trawling in the sounds
By CATHERINE KOZAK
rulemaking petition submitted recently to the North Carolina Marine
Fisheries Commission is asking that inside waters be closed to shrimp
trawling, a proposal that watermen say would devastate their business
and deprive consumers of the state’s second most popular seafood.
nets are already prohibited by state law in secondary nursery areas,
but petitioner Tim Hergenrader, a New Bern artist, is seeking to have
the internal coastal waters designated permanent secondary nursery
If the rule is approved, it would effectively prohibit
trawling in the sound waters and, as a result, make shrimp off limits
much of the year.
In a June 26 letter to the commission,
Dare County Board of Commissioners Chairman Warren Judge said that the
closing the sounds to trawling would severely harm Dare County's
commercial fishing industry.
“Our Working Watermen depend on
access to inshore waters, where the majority of North Carolina's shrimp
are harvested,” he wrote. “Banning access to these waters would
increase fuel and other costs, which would have an adverse effect on
seafood prices and product availability at the wholesale and consumer
The commission has 120 days from June 20, the date the
petition was submitted, to either grant or deny the petition. If
the petition is granted, it would start the public rulemaking
Patricia Smith, a commission spokeswoman, said
that a meeting scheduled for Friday to consider the petition was
cancelled in order to give the Commission’s advisory committees more
time to review the petition. The matter will likely be on the agenda of
the Marine Fishery Commission’s August meeting, she said.
is the second largest fishery in the state, behind blue crabs, she
said. And she affirmed that the majority of shrimp are caught in the
“It does have the potential to be a very emotional issue,” Smith said.
have been several (a handful of) petitions for rulemaking submitted to
the Marine Fisheries Commission in the past several years,” Smith
added. “At least one was granted in 2012 to create new seed oyster
management areas in the New River. In other cases, the petition may
have been denied, but the issue was then taken up through the fishery
management plan process and later passed."
sells his art as “T Rader,” does not appear to have a current listed
phone number. On an art website called Carolina Creations, Hergenrader
was described as a native Nebraskan who moved to New Bern to
concentrate on his art. He retired in 2004 from his job as
spokesman for the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency.
commentary piece written by Hergenrader, headlined “’Game Fish’ Right
Thing to Do” was published on May 12 by Compass News 360 Degrees in
The gamefish bill, which was pushed by the
non-profit recreational fishing group, Coastal Conservation
Association, would have closed red drum, spotted sea trout, and
estuarine striped bass to commercial harvest. The bill died in a
legislative committee earlier this month.
Hergenrader said in
the commentary that the CCA–which he referred to as the Coastal
Conservation Commission – did not want to force watermen out of
business or ban nets. The reason the group supported this bill,
he wrote, is that the fish are worth more to the state as gamefish than
Commercial fish farms, rather than wild-caught finfish and shellfish, are the future of the fishing industry, he continued.
states with gamefish bills and net bans in place, he wrote, “are
reaping the financial whirlwind known as recreational fishing and
laughing all the way to the bank at North Carolina for clinging to the
old way” of selling fish for a fraction of its value to the
“This bill is all about
improving the economic well being of eastern North Carolina,”
Hergenrader wrote about gamefish, “and providing much needed revenues
to the taxpayers of the entire state.”
Similarly, in his
petition for closing inland waters to trawling –which makes no mention
of the CCA -- Hergenrader purports that the change would represent a
minor economic impact to fishermen. Profits could even improve, he
“The inshore shrimp would not be lost for harvest,
since shrimp trawlers will harvest these shrimp in the ocean after they
mature and continue their life cycle by migrating from inshore waters
to the ocean,” the petition said.
“At that point, it is
possible that shrimpers would have a larger harvest due to the fact
that the shrimp would be larger in size.”
But Karen Willis
Amspacher, from Harkers Island, said that shrimping provides the bulk
of income for the state’s commercial fishermen and is the sole source
of income for some.
“The shrimping industry would be non-existing,” she said.
Coastal Fisheries Reform Group, which works closely with the CCA, has
criticized shrimp trawlers for catching large amounts of untargeted
fish and has recently made proposals to the Marine Fisheries Commission
to reduce bycatch in shrimp trawling operations.
commentary piece in Compass News responding to Hergenrader, Sherrill
Styron, owner of Garland Fulcher Seafood in Oriental, said that with or
without shrimp nets, few juvenile fish reach maturity.
overall picture of juvenile mortality, shrimp boats are of minimal
impact compared to natural predation from other species like rockfish
and red drum and environmental factors affecting water,” wrote Styron,
who has been a member of various fisheries advisory committees in the
“Shrimp trawl juvenile mortality does not even come close to what nature does year after year.”
of the proposed rule also say that North Carolina’s coast is not like
South Carolina’s – a comparison that the petition made in projecting a
healthy harvest of shrimp after banning trawling in secondary inland
waters. The ocean along the southern coast is shallower and more
hospitable to shellfish nursery areas and juvenile populations than in
North Carolina, where most of the shrimp are caught before they
reach the ocean.
“People don’t understand with shrimp,” said
Kenny Rustick, a life-long shrimper from Marshallberg. “When they (the
shrimp) go off the coast into the ocean –they’re gone.”
is, he said, only about 45 percent of the inland waters are open to
trawling, and a lot of that area is unsuitable for trawling.
the shrimp grow and start moving toward the coast, there are fewer of
them, and more competition for them. And bigger shrimp typically
do not get more valuable by the pound, he said.
Rustick said that there is a limited window when the shrimp can be harvested.
But the market demand is good, he said, and the species is not over-fished or stressed.
you sit there and wait for a shrimp to grow,” they won’t be available,
he said. “Shrimp are only here for a certain amount of weeks.”
now, Rustick said, only about 12 percent of shrimp sold to consumers is
wild-caught - despite the growing demand for local, fresh seafood.
shrimpers in North Carolina, he said, do not have large enough boats to
safely shrimp in the ocean. Usually the speed and/or direction of the
wind would present hazardous conditions.
“The small boats wouldn’t get enough working time to even think about making a living out in the ocean,” he said.
said that 80 percent of his income is made in shrimping. Since
commercial fishermen in North Carolina by necessity are opportunistic
and adaptable, shrimping is likely supporting them all to some
No one man’s petition, or one lobbying group, he
said, should have the power to take that income from an already
“It stops the growth of us,” he said. “It’s 24-7 that we’ve got to worry about them, much less the cost of fuel.
“Each one of us,” he added, “is an independent and small business.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Click here to read Tim Hergenrader’s petition to the Marine Fisheries Commission to ban trawling in inside waters.
Click here to read Tim Hergenrader's commentary on the gamefish bill and trawling