NC shrimpers say net of new rules for trawlers will destroy industry

Posted February 16

— The state Marine Fisheries Commission voted Thursday to begin drafting rules that would limit trawling for shrimp in North Carolina's inland coastal waters, a move that many on the coast say could destroy the shrimping industry.

The decision came after months of wrangling between commercial and recreational fishermen, with the latter group arguing that trawlers are scooping up millions of young fish before they're old enough to spawn, effectively killing off fish stocks in the region.

The North Carolina Wildlife Federation petitioned the state – the only one on the East Coast that allows shrimp trawling in its sounds and estuaries – to reduce the size of trawler nets, limit how long nets could be pulled in the water, permit shrimping only three days per week and eliminate night-time shrimping.

"North Carolina has some of the most lenient shrimp trawling rules on the East and the Gulf Coast," said David Knight, a policy consultant for the Wildlife Federation.

Thousands of people signed petitions against the proposal, and commercial fishermen packed Marine Fisheries Commission meetings in recent months to make their stance known. Hundreds left in disgust Thursday after the commission overrode the recommendations of its advisory committees and accepted the Wildlife Federation's petition.

"What just happened today is appalling," said Brent Fulcher, who owns Beaufort Inlet Seafood in Beaufort. "The state process is broken."

Sharon Peele Kennedy, who comes from a commercial fishing family on Cape Hatteras, said shrimpers shouldn't be blamed for the decline of fish stocks.

"Development on our estuaries is to me the 100 percent factor more than commercial fishermen," Kennedy said.

Sammy Corbett, chairman of the Marine Fisheries Commission, said he thinks the Wildlife Federation went too far in its petition.

"I think you were right-minded, right-headed. I just think the petition is the wrong way to get there," Corbett said.

Other commissioners said they needed to take action to balance the needs of sport anglers.

"If we don’t do something positive very quickly for the resource and the habitat that we’re supposed to supervise and control, we’re going to just be supervising a hospice operation," Chuck Laughridge said.

"This petition isn't perfect, but in four years of being on the commission, we've accomplished very few things in the name of conservation," Mark Gorges said.

The commission will spend at least a year determining how to put the regulations in place, and officials said some of the rules the Wildlife Federation requested may never take effect.

Still, Fulcher said any limits on trawling will decimate North Carolina's shrimping industry.

"Your small boats are going to be out of business," he said. "They can't work offshore 3 miles. They can't work three days a week. They can't survive at that."


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  • New Holland Feb 17, 2017
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    wait til Trump weighs in on this new "regulation"

  • Charlie Watkins Feb 17, 2017
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    Inshore trawling should be banned completely.

    Give the fish a chance to live and grown

  • Dan Ratka Feb 16, 2017
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    I have to bite this off. I know where to go to catch nice flounder. What I should have said is, " When was the last time joe average could take his kid to the beach and catch a doormat flounder." It used to happen frequently in North Carolina.

  • Dan Ratka Feb 16, 2017
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    I hate to say this but, if you want good inland salt water sport fishing, slide across the border to South Carolina where they don't allow nets behind the barrier Islands. The North Carolina Good old boy network of money in my pocket to look the other way has got to end. Commercial fishing in the nursery where the fish grow before they go out to the ocean has got to be controlled. By-catch is a big part of what we have to look at. Nets pull allot more than the target fish. If it's not legal it goes overboard. Yes, The Water-man need to make a living. If We "manage" our resource, Our grandchildren will be able to catch doormat flounder. When was the last time you boated one of those?

  • Ed Livesay Feb 16, 2017
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    What William Wall said.... Ditto!!!!

  • William Wall Feb 16, 2017
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    As a lover of Shrimp and a 30 plus year Saltwater Fisherman, all I can say is "About Time". If smaller steps would have been allowed to take place many years ago it is likely such drastic measures would not be needed now. I can remember in my younger years fishing on the NC Coast an not having a problem catching a meal of Flounder, Spots, Specs and Grays. Now these species are so depleted that even if they were abundant(they are NOT), the current limits do not allow you keep enough for a decent meal. Likewise I can remember over the last many years fishing the sounds and inshore areas and being nearly ran over by the small and large Shrimp Boats. Their attitude was this is my water and you can get the he## out. A little more corporation when they had Basnight in their pocket may have lessen the current drastic actions. This industry has no one to blame but themselves.

  • Anna Temple Feb 16, 2017
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    It is probably also high time we get rid of hunting regulations. Take what you want when you want it however you would like to take it. We deserve everything we want and we deserve it NOW.

  • Anna Temple Feb 16, 2017
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    OK OK guys, just fish em till they are all gone and be done with it. Same as everything else, just use it up and there, that is the end. That is exactly how you make NC great again, use all its resources up and call it Good.