MOREHEAD CITY — With two meetings ahead on a petition that could bring an end to shrimp trawling in North Carolina’s inshore waters, opposition is organizing.
About 90 people from the fishing industry, including commercial fishermen and seafood dealers, attended a meeting Wednesday in Morehead City to prepare for meetings scheduled in response to the petition for rulemaking submitted June 20 by Tim Hergenrader.
“There were people there from Dare County and Brunswick County and everywhere between,” said Jerry Schill, former president of the N.C. Fisheries Association, who attended the meeting.
Brent Fulcher of B & J Seafood Co. of New Bern and Carteret County, organized the meeting to bring the industry together to gather information and determine how best to present their case opposing the petition.
“We want to have a coordinated message,” Schill said of the effort.
The petition asks that the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission adopt a rule that makes North Carolina’s internal coastal waters permanent secondary nursery areas, unless they are currently designated as primary nursery areas or special secondary nursery areas. The proposed rule would halt shrimp trawling in the state’s inshore waters.
The four advisory committees of the Marine Fisheries Commission are scheduled to meet jointly at 12:30 p.m. July 30 at the New Bern Riverfront Convention Center to discuss the petition and to hear public comment.
The advisory committees will review the information and comment on whether the MFC should reclassify the waters as requested in the petition.
Under state law, the commission has 120 days from the date a petition for rulemaking is filed to either grant or deny the request.
The commission is scheduled to vote on the petition at its regular meeting to be held Aug. 28 to 30 in Raleigh.
If the request is granted, it would begin a formal rule-making process.
Schill said the challenge for opponents is to educate the commission as well as the public about the potential impacts of banning shrimp trawling in inshore waters.
“It’s a big issue for the fishermen. It’s also a big issue for the people who like seafood,” he said.
The amount varies from year to year, but Schill said a great majority of shrimp harvested in North Carolina is from inshore waters, particularly Pamlico Sound.
He said a lot of the shrimp trawls are smaller and don’t go out in ocean waters — and high fuel prices are a hardship for those who do.
And, the inshore waters are where the shrimp are to be caught.
But there is also support for the proposal.
Stephen Ammons, executive director of the Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina, said the group hasn’t taken a formal stand on the petition but agrees that changes need to be looked at for trawling.
“We haven’t taken a position, but we do think it needs to be adjusted and looked at,” he said.
Ammons said Tim Hergenrader is a CCA member and recreational angler but filed the petition individually and not on behalf of the CCA.
He said the CCANC board of directors will be meeting next week and will discuss the issue at that time and what comment may be made by the CCA at the July 30 meeting. If they take a formal position, it will be after the meeting of the advisory committees.