Marine Fisheries Commission Chooses Draft Management Measures for Blue Crab
MOREHEAD CITY – The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission took steps toward the future management of the blue crab fishery, but elected not to try to define a commercial fisherman.
These two decisions were among several issues discussed at the commission’s meeting last week.
The commission selected preferred management actions for Amendment 2 to the N.C. Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan. The draft plan now goes to the secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and to the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations for review and comment.
A 2011 Division of Marine Fisheries Blue Crab Stock Assessment determined that the stock is not overfished, but it is unknown if overfishing is occurring.
As approved for review, the draft amendment proposes adoption of adaptive stock management measures. Under these measures, stricter regulations would be implemented in the blue crab fishery if certain biological triggers are met for three consecutive years. These adaptive management measures use several biological surveys and sampling programs to determine the relative abundance of adult crabs in the population and various production indictors for the stock each year.
Other preferred management alternatives in the draft amendment include:
· Opening eight non-pot areas (long haul areas) in the Pungo River to the use of pots, but keeps the Long Point non-pot area in Pamlico River closed to the use of pots;
· Using the type of bait instead of pot mesh size to define escape ring requirements in a crab pot;
· Adopting the no trawl line along the Outer Banks in Pamlico Sound as the new boundary line where closure of escape rings to take small mature females is allowed;
· Clarifying existing crab dredging rules so they are easier for the public to understand and to match harvest and enforcement practices;
· Correcting an error in the peeler trawl exception rule;
· Incorporating the Pamlico Sound crab trawling proclamation into rule and retaining proclamation authority to restrict crab trawl mesh size;
· Codifying an existing proclamation that closes the lower Broad Creek area (Neuse River) to crab pots June 1 through Nov. 30;
· Establishing proclamation authority for requiring terrapin excluder devices in crab pots that will not be used until criteria for the excluder devices is developed and approved by the commission.
The commission also voted not to make any changes in regards to recommendations from a Committee to Define a Commercial Fisherman.
The committee had recommended changing the eligibility requirements for renewing a Standard Commercial Fishing License by requiring license holders with no commercial landings to document 12 days of commercial fishing activity within a future three year period.
The committee also recommended developing an apprenticeship program as a qualification for obtaining a Standard Commercial Fishing License through the state’s eligibility pool and eliminating the $25 commercial shellfish license.
In other business, the commission:
· Agreed to start the rulemaking process to require high-volume finfish dealers to file trip tickets electronically. The requirement would apply to fish dealers that average landing 50,000 pounds or more of finfish over three years. Electronic reporting allows the division to process landing data faster and make timelier management decisions.
· Received a presentation on the division’s five-year review of the Shrimp Fishery Management Plan. The division has decided that no changes in management strategies are needed, therefore it will proceed with a revision of the plan. A revision is an abbreviated fisheries management plan process that involves updating the information in the plan, but does not involve setting up an advisory committee. The division anticipates bringing the revised plan to the commission for approval at its August meeting.
· Gave final approval to a Spotted Seatrout Fishery Management Plan. The plan includes short-term and long-term measures to address overfishing in the spotted seatrout fishery. The short-term measures have already been implemented by proclamation. The long-term measures will go into place in February 2014 unless additional data becomes available before then that indicates reductions are not necessary. The long-term measures will reduce the daily recreational bag limit to three fish per person, implement a Dec. 15 through Jan. 31 recreational closure, reduce the commercial trip limit to 25 fish and eliminate commercial closures.