Advisors Reject Shrimp Trawl Petition in Advance of Upcoming Marine Fisheries Commission Deliberations

Citizen advisors to the NC Marine Fisheries Commission met in New Bern January 17 to discuss a petition to restrict trawling filed by the North Carolina Wildlife Federation. The petition requests numerous restrictions, which would prove devastating to the industry.

Based on public testimony and DMF’s evaluation of the petition, all five advisory committees voted to recommend denial of the petition. However, the Marine Fisheries Commission will vote on the petition at their February meeting, and are not required to follow the guidance of advisory committees.

Two Marine Fisheries Commission members at the New Bern meeting who elected to vote as chair of advisory committees supported the petition: Mark Gorges and Mike Wicker.

Mike Street, former habitat biologist for the DMF, pointed out that the data presented in the petition was flawed or non-existent.

Pam Morris, long-time chair of the Southern Advisory Committee, stated that the petition failed to take into account the unique nature of North Carolina’s shrimp fishery, made up of three species with different behaviors.   

Advisor Brent Fulcher reminded the petitioners that new restrictions were recently put into place as part of the shrimp fisheries management plan, and a bycatch reduction study was underway.

Staffer Trish Murphy presented the Division of Marine Fisheries’ review of the petition. She pointed out that about 45% of the estuarine waters is currently closed to trawling.  The proposed changes would affect other fisheries, including crab trawling, clam kicking, and ocean finfish trawling. Her presentation made it clear that the petition ran contrary to data-driven management practices.

Public comment had to be cut off with more than sixty people still waiting to speak. Those who spoke were overwhelmingly opposed to the petition, including fishermen, county government officials, and seafood consumers.  Trawlers stood sentry in the waters off New Bern, adding to an impressive display of industry solidarity.

-Barbara Garrity-Blake