Legislative Update

By David Sneed CCA NC Executive Director

As all eyes have been focused this week on an agreement between Republicans in the House and Senate, and Governor Cooper, to repeal HB2, please be assured that legislative actions affecting North Carolina’s coastal fisheries have also been heating up:

Senate Bill 131 – Regulatory Reform Act of 2016 – 2017, sponsored by Senators Wells, Cook and Sanderson, includes Section 3.15 which seeks to exempt sediment from cape shoals systems under Sediment Criteria Rule to allow sand from cape shoals, including Frying Pan Shoals, Cape Lookout Shoals and Diamond Shoals at Cape Hatteras, to be used in beach renourishment projects. This legislation ignores the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) policies for the Protection and Restoration of Essential Fish Habitats From Beach Dredging and Filling, Beach Renourishment and Large-Scale Coastal Engineering which identified these specific cape shoals as Essential Fish Habitat-Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (EFH-HAPCs). Of particular concern is the effect of large-scale dredging in these EFH-HAPCs on many important fish species including summer flounder, bluefish, many snapper and grouper species, black sea bass, shrimp, and coastal migratory pelagics.

Senate Resolution 370 – A Senate Resolution Opposing the Privatization of South Atlantic Federal Fishery Resources Through Catch Share Management and Efforts Through Exempted Fishing Permits or Other Means to Conduct Pilot Catch Share Programs or Studies, sponsored by Senators Rabon, Cook and Horner. CCA has long opposed the use of Catch Shares in fisheries management plans.

Senate Bill 432 – Delay Marine Fisheries Rule Making, sponsored by Senators Sanderson, Cook and Tillman, seeks to delay action of the MFC on the NCWF Bycatch Reduction and Nursery Habitat Protection Petition for Rulemaking. The bill specifically states that the MFC shall not propose or adopt any rules in response to the petition until (1) the collaborative shrimp gear study has been completed and (2) the stakeholder group conducting the study has reported its findings and recommendations to the Commission.

Senate Bill 434Amend Environmental Laws 2, sponsored by Senators Sanderson, Cook, and Wells, includes Section 3 which would allow the MFC to adopt rules to establish Shellfish Aquaculture Enterprise Areas to facilitate shellfish aquaculture opportunities through advanced siting and preapprovals from relevant federal and state agencies.

It also includes Section 5 which directs the DMF to review its Fisheries Management Plan for river herring and report back to the Legislature regarding the continuing validity and scientific basis for the continued status of the species as “overfished”. This comes on the heels of a recent federal court ruling that voided the National Marine Fisheries Service’s listing decision of the blueback herring and ordered new analysis from the NMFS in reconsidering its finding that the herring was not at risk for extinction. You can find the full story here: http://earthjustice.org/news/press/2017/fishermen-angle-victory-to-protect-link-in-ocean-s-food-chain

Senate Bill 410, sponsored by Senators Cook, Sanderson and Tillman, and the companion House Bill 524, sponsored by Representatives Boswell and Shepard, entitled Marine Aquaculture Development Act. This act appears to be focused primarily on ocean ranching and other deep water fish farming operations in state coastal and ocean waters, and in federal waters out to the limits of the EEZ.

House Bill 545 – Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee Reforms, sponsored by Representatives Boswell, Millis, Pittman and Harrison. This act seeks to enhance the role of the public advisory committees by requiring the MFC to provide by resolution a statement of basis for rejection if it rejects findings or recommendations submitted by the advisory committees. This is obviously in response to the recent Petition for Rulemaking on Bycatch Reduction and Nursery Habitat Protection granted by the MFC during their February meeting.

NC Sound Economy Coalition
If you have not already done so, please consider joining the NC Sound Economy Coalition by visiting their website at: www.ncsoundeconomy.com . This new coalition supports solutions for our entire fishing economy. If we set policies that grow the resource, all citizens will benefit. Our coastal fisheries can be a great source for local seafood and a great place for recreational anglers.

In a message from NC Sound Economy President Allen Gant, Mr. Gant stated, “As a lifelong fisherman in North Carolina, I’m committed to restoring our position as one of the best places in the country to fish. NC Sound Economy will urge legislators to fix the out-of-date fisheries management law that is harming all sectors of the fishing economy. The law should prioritize resource growth and long-term conservation.”

Look for more from this Coalition in the coming weeks.

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