August 22, 2013
Marine Fisheries panel will consider trawling ban next week
By CATHERINE KOZAK
light of overwhelming opposition to a petition to close shrimp trawling
in sound waters, watermen and their supporters are cautiously
optimistic that the proposal will be voted down at an upcoming state
fisheries panel meeting.
“Things are fairly positive, based on
some of the conversations I’ve had,” said Jerry Schill, a spokesman for
the ad-hoc group, Shrimp Defense. “But we’re not taking anything for
granted. We want to make sure that the industry has a presence there.”
North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission will meet next Wednesday and
Thursday, Aug. 28-29, in Raleigh. The vote to grant or deny a petition
to reclassify most of the state’s internal coastal waters as permanent
secondary nursery areas is scheduled for 11:15 a.m. on Aug. 29.
advisory panels to the commission voted in July to recommend that the
petition be denied. If the petition for rulemaking would be granted, it
would effectively ban shrimp and crab trawling in North Carolina
It was not a proposal that the commercial fishing community took lightly.
New Bern artist Tim Hergenrader submitted the petition in June,
supporters of the commercial industry came together from all corners of
the coast and organized an impressive showing at the July advisory
committee meeting in New Bern. More than 700 fishermen, seafood
dealers, business owners, public officials, coastal community leaders,
and fish consumers descended on the convention center where the meeting
was held, and about 24 shrimp trawlers – from Wanchese, Harkers Island,
and other coastal areas -- were anchored in the Neuse River near Union
“It was an amazing sight,” said Schill, who
was president of the North Carolina Fisheries Association, a non-profit
commercial fishing trade group, for 18 years before retiring in 2005.
“That was very powerful. People gathered across the street to see
Schill, who in the last three years has been helping
fishermen part-time, said that the experience in New Bern was one of
the most pleasurable and rewarding experiences in his years
The turnout reflected the reality that
whatever affects shrimpers will have a ripple effect on everyone who
makes their living through fishing, whether it’s catching it, selling
it, or cooking it, said Alison Willis, an owner of Mr. Big Seafood on
“There were obviously so, so many supporters
of the fishing industry and the shrimpers themselves,” she said. “It
brought all fishermen together. There was industry unity to come
together and defeat this threat. I think that was really important and
really good to see.”
Willis said it was heartening for the
fishermen who attended to realize that many people who are not directly
associated with the industry are nonetheless very supportive of the
fishing community, including inland residents who appreciate the value
of local fresh seafood.
“That’s been a huge thing for
fishermen, because they feel like there’s other voices other than their
own,” she said. “Fishermen want to be left alone. They want to be
fishing. They don’t want to be doing paperwork and fighting battles.”
the July 30 meeting, Hergenrader -- who has publicly supported a
controversial gamefish bill promoted by the Coastal Conservation
Association, a lobby group for recreational fishing -- defended the
petition, saying it was about designating the nursery, not about ending
shrimping, since ocean trawling would not be affected.
But most shrimp in North Carolina are caught in the sounds by smaller vessels.
of Marine Fisheries director Louis Daniel said that the action
Hergenrader’s petition proposes lacks scientific analysis, would damage
the credibility of previously designated nursery areas, and would
impact other fisheries not named in the petition.
The agency, the
regulatory enforcer for the commission, recommended that any
consideration of additional nursery designation should follow
“deliberative, scientific sampling and analysis.”
one spoke in favor of the petition at the meeting, said Karen
Amspacher, from Harkers Island. Out of 3 ½ hours of public
comment, nine minutes – three speakers – expressed support for the
The audience abided by warnings not to applaud or shout or otherwise interrupt speakers, she said.
said that it was clear that not only was the petition legally
questionable, but that the commission saw how seriously the fishing
industry took it as a threat to their livelihoods.
“It was an amazing cross-section of the community,” she said “It was an excellent rally.”
a longtime observer of the regulatory process in fisheries management,
Schill said that the commission does not necessarily always go along
with recommendations from its advisory panels, and it has no obligation
to do so. But he said that if had to guess, there’s another
agenda afoot with Hegenrader’s request.
“I suspect that the
petitioner really had no intention of being approved,” he said. “He’s
trying to effect change in shrimp management.”