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CCA NC will comment on small-mesh gill nets at MFC meeting

The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission will meet Feb. 19-21 at the New Bern Riverfront Convention Center, 203 South Front St., New Bern. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday with public comment then resume on Thursday at 8:30 a.m. and conclude Friday morning starting at 9:00 a.m.

 

Public comment periods are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Feb. 19 and at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 20. Members of the public may speak to the commission on any fisheries-related topic. The chairman will allow each speaker to comment for three minutes. More time may be allotted, at the chairman’s discretion, depending on the number who sign up to speak. Those making comments will be asked to speak only once, either at the Feb. 19 or the Feb. 20 session, but not during both public comment periods.

 

Those who wish to bring their own handouts to give to the commission during the public comment period should bring at least 12 copies to the meeting. The Marine Fisheries Commission Office will not accept public comment for this meeting through email.

CCA NC Executive Director David Sneed will offer comments supporting a potential rulemaking for Small Mesh Gill Nets including the following:

“The gill net free zones established upstream in the Pamlico and Neuse have saved, for the most part, the two good year classes of stripers that are present in these systems.  From what we are seeing, these fish have remained in the systems and are currently in place ready to move up the rivers this spring to spawn. 

“Mild winters and ideal environmental conditions for successful spawns have resulted in a trifecta boom in three species: speckled trout, red drum and striped bass. The upstream gill net free zones are not responsible for this boom, but these large protected areas resulting from the net restrictions have provided a sanctuary, making the fish more accessible for an economically booming recreational fishery and easier for enforcement to protect.

“The reduced bag limits and increased size limit on speckled trout imposed on recreational anglers have also played a huge role in the rebound in those stocks. Again, combined with the mild winters and ideal environmental conditions, the large, spawning size speckled trout are now allowed a chance to escape harvest and grow another season, resulting in an abundant stock now targeted by both recreational and commercial fishermen.

“The commission needs to recognize the extraordinary gift we have been given by Mother Nature and do everything in its power to protect these abundant stocks for future generations. The public trust interest in these natural resources should be protected for the majority and not allowed to be exploited by the few.

“The reason for the gill net zones was to protect several good year classes of striped bass.  They are still out there.  The need to protect these fish is just as great as it was when the closures were first established.  If anything, the need to maintain the gill net free zones or sanctuaries is greater than before and consideration should be given to expanding this “gill net sanctuary” to the mouths of the Pamlico, Neuse and Bay rivers or simply use the current “tie-down” lines.” 

The commission will also consider rulemaking to make tarpon a “catch and release” only fishery. CCA NC supports the proposed rules changes that would make it illegal to possess or sell tarpon; hook and line only means of catching; and unlawful to gaff, spear or puncture.

Recreational anglers and supporters of coastal conservation are encouraged to attend the meeting to share their experiences and concerns. It is important for the Commission to hear from the community that owns the public trust resources the Commission is given a fiduciary responsibility to manage and protect for current and future generations.

The public may listen to the meeting online. Up to 200 participants may listen to audio and view presentations in real-time on a first-come, first-served basis. Directions for participating in the webcast, including information on system requirements and testing, can be found here. Following the meeting, an audio recording will be posted online.

The meeting agenda and full 1200+ page briefing book materials are posted online here.



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