State News

Closed areas along Outer Banks upset vacationers, fishermen

The closures of some popular fishing spots to vehicular and foot traffic is affecting business and tourism at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, but officials say they're bound by a recent legal settlement.

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HATTERAS, N.C. — Fishermen destined for the Cape Hatteras National Seashore were surprised to find some of their favorite spots off limits to vehicle or foot traffic Monday afternoon.

Less than a week after a settlement was reached between environmental groups and the National Park Service, access to three areas along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore was blocked to protect nesting seabirds.

According to the settlement, when nests are present or breeding areas are in use, the park service will establish a wide buffer zone to keep vehicular and foot traffic out of those areas.

Several nests were identified Monday, and access was blocked on Bodie Island to protect an American oystercatcher breeding spot, on Cape Point to protect a least tern breeding area and on South Ocracoke to protect breeding adult piping plovers.

Two of those three spots are among the most popular with fishermen, who gathered to protest the closures Tuesday.

"We're here. This is what we love, and we're not willing to give it up all that easily," one protester, Rob Alderman, said.

"I was disheartened and it was very upsetting and I felt very defeated because I spent a lot of money and a lot of time preparing for this trip," fisherman Daniel Drumheller said.

Red drum season starts next week, and bait and tackle businesses are seeing the effects of the new restrictions, with vacationers canceling their plans.

"I spent my entire life building my business only to have it trashed," said Bob Easkes, who owns the Red Drum Bait and Tackle Shop. "I've got one employee laid off and another one we're getting ready to lay off (because of the closures)."

Park service officials say they know the closures will hurt business, but add that they are bound by the legal settlement.

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Mike Charbonneau, Reporter

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