January 18, 2017

UPDATE:  All five advisory panels vote against shrimp petition


At a meeting in New Bern yesterday, all five of the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission advisory panels voted to recommend that the MFC deny a petition from the N.C. Wildlife Foundation to strengthen shrimp trawl regulations.

However, the fight to preserve shrimp trawling in North Carolina sounds and ocean waters is not over yet.

The petition from the environmental group would so restrict trawlers in the sounds and the ocean out three miles that commercial fishermen would lose massive amounts of income and consumers would have only limited access to North Carolina wild-caught shrimp.

According to a news update from North Carolina Fisheries Association commercial fishing boats filled the docks outside the New Bern Convention Center and about 1,000 watermen and their families showed up to protest the restrictive proposals for rulemaking.

Commissioner Steve House represented Dare County at the meeting and planned to speak.

First, representatives of the N.C. Wildlife Foundation and their attorneys from the Southern Environmental Law Center spoke for about 45 minutes and answered questions, according to the NCFA release.

Public comment began about 3:30 and didn't end until about 7 p.m. when it was cut off because of time limitations, said the NCFA release.

Speakers were limited to three minutes, but there is a process where one can request additional time. Certain criteria are required to do so. According to NCFA, it was the only group that asked, so executive director Jerry Schill,  Jess Hawkins and Connell Purvis were given 15 minutes to provide their reasoning for opposition. Hawkins and Connell  are both former employees of the division and are both biologists, with Connell serving as the Director of Marine Fisheries in the late '70s and early '80s.

The last action was for the five advisory panels to discuss and vote on whether to advise the MFC to approve or deny the petition for rulemaking.

The votes were:

  • Northern: 9 to 1 to deny the petition
  • Shellfish/Crustacean : 8 to 1 to deny the petition
  • Finfish: 7 to 1 to deny the petition
  • Southern: 6 to 0 with 1 abstention to deny the petition
  • Habitat/Water Quality: 7 to 1 with 1 abstention to deny the petition

The Commission will vote on the petition next month at its quarterly business meeting on Feb. 15-16 at the Hilton Riverside in Wilmington.

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