N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission will submit a report to the
legislature that proposes to fund the N.C. Division of Marine
Fisheries’ Observer Program through commercial fishing license fee
The commission endorsed the plan, which was brought
forward by the commercial fishing industry and has the support of the
Division of Marine Fisheries and the N.C. Department of Environment and
Natural Resources, at its meeting last week.
“I’m happy that the
industry came forward with a proposal that not only provides the
funding needed for the Observer Program, but allows the industry to
work together to solve other commercial fishing funding issues that may
arise in the future,” said Louis Daniel, division director.
Schill, interim executive director of the N.C. Fisheries Association,
presented a proposal to establish a Commercial Fishing Resource Fund to
receive revenues from a 100-percent increase in fees for several
commercial fishing licenses. The Commercial Fishing Resources Fund
would provide money for the Observer Program and other projects to
develop sustainable commercial fishing, as approved by the commission
and a proposed board of directors made up of representatives of several
commercial fishing organizations.
The Observer Program collects
information about commercial and recreational catches by observing
fishing, either onboard fishermen’s vessels or from a division vessel
operated in the vicinity of fishing activity. Observer coverage is
required by the state’s sea turtle incidental take permit for the
inshore gill net fisheries. Without this coverage, the fishery must
In 2013, the N.C. legislature appropriated $1.1 million
for the Observer Program for fiscal year 2013-2014, and approved a
25-percent increase in commercial fishing license fees beginning in
fiscal year 2014-2015 to fund the program in the future. The
legislature instructed the division to seek public input and develop a
plan for additional funding for the program.
100-percent increase is based on the current license fees, not the
upcoming 25-percent increase in fee. For instance, a resident Standard
Commercial Fishing License now costs $200 per year, but the cost will
increase to $250 in 2014-2015. The proposed 100-percent increase would
bring the cost of a Standard Commercial Fishing License to $400 per
The commission also adopted a supplement to the
Spotted Seatrout Fishery Management Plan that will keep the 14-inch
minimum size limit, four-fish recreational bag limit, 75-fish
commercial trip limit and weekend commercial closure in waters managed
jointly by the Division of Marine Fisheries and Wildlife Resources
Commission (except in Albemarle and Currituck sounds). These
regulations were in place prior to the Feb. 5 season closure that was
implemented due to cold-stun events. The regulations will go back into
place when the season reopens June 15.
In other business, the commission:
preferred management options for draft amendments to the state’s
Shrimp, River Herring and Bay Scallop fishery management plans and
voted to send the draft amendments to the N.C. Department of
Environment and Natural Resources and the state legislature for review.
The commission’s final approval of the draft plans is scheduled for
November 2014. The commission’s preferred management options include:
the draft shrimp plan, convene a stakeholder group to initiate a
three-year study to test bycatch reduction devices to reduce bycatch to
the extent practicable, with a 40-percent target reduction. The
commission did not include language from an earlier proposal that
indicated there would be consequences to not meeting a 40-percent
bycatch reduction, and made it clear the 40-percent target reduction is
a goal, not a mandate.
For the draft river herring plan,
eliminate the discretionary harvest season and implement a rule in
joint and coastal waters to prohibit the possession of river herring
greater than six inches while fishing or boating, as well as remove
alewife and blueback herring from the mutilated finfish rule.
the draft bay scallop plan, manage waters south of Bogue Sound as a
separate unit from Bogue Sound (currently waters south of Bogue Sound
open based on sampling in Bogue Sound) and manage the southern waters
based on the Division of Marine Fisheries’ judgment from field
sampling; allow dredges to operate at a lower opening trigger than
current management allows; allow harvest of bay scallops on aquaculture
operations during closed public seasons and at greater daily quantities
(this is currently allowed for clams and oysters on leases); and
increase recreational harvest to seven days per week, but at a lower
daily harvest limit.
Modified the dates of the commercial
American shad season in the Albemarle Sound Management Area. The season
had been scheduled to be shortened to March 18 – April 14 this year to
meet harvest reduction requirements of the N.C. Sustainable Fishery
Plan for American Shad. Several fishermen who spoke during the public
comment period asked for the season to open earlier in the March
instead. The commission modified the season dates to March 3-24, which
will still meet the harvest reduction requirement.