The Shrimping Petition and the Local Response - Shooting The Breeze


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The Shrimping Petition and the Local Response

Saturday 25 February 2017 at 1:16 pm.


On Thursday, February 16, the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission voted to pursue a petition that would limit how, where and when shrimpers could operate. If adopted, the ensuing rules will limit shrimp trawling in most North Carolina waters, per a press release from the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries (NCDMF).

The shrimping petition is an issue that’s been incredibly contentious for fishermen from all across coastal North Carolina since first coming to the surface in November, and this latest development has the potential to have severe state-wide impacts according to the many opponents of the regulations.

Here’s a break-down of what the petition entails, what comes next, and the strong concerns that local and state-wide fishermen have about the new regulations, as well as the process that led to the February 16 approval in the first place.

What’s in the Petition?

The petition asked the commission to designate all coastal fishing waters not otherwise designated as nursery areas (including the Atlantic Ocean out to three miles from shore) as special secondary nursery areas, establish clear criteria for the opening of shrimp season, and define the type of gear and how and when gear may be used in special secondary nursery areas during shrimp season.

Specific requests of the petition include:

  • Limiting shrimp trawling to three days a week in the estuaries and four days a week in the ocean.
  • Limiting trawling to the daytime only.
  • Reducing the maximum trawl head rope length to 90 feet in estuarine waters and 110 feet in ocean.
  • Limiting tow times to 45 minutes.
  • Opening shrimp season once the shrimp count in Pamlico Sound reaches 60 shrimp per pound, heads on.
  • Implementing an 8-inch size limit for spot and a 10-inch size limit for Atlantic croaker.
  • Requiring all fishermen to use two N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries-certified bycatch reduction devices when trawling in state waters.

What’s Next in the Process?

The petition was originally submitted in November 2016 by the N.C. Wildlife Federation and this approval means that an extensive rulemaking process will commence in order to adopt the proposed regulations.
Per the NCDMF, the North Carolina Administrative Procedure Act requires the development of a fiscal note before a notice of text for the proposed rules can be published in the North Carolina Register. For proposed rules that have an economic impact in excess of $1 million, a regulatory impact analysis must be prepared.

The development of a regulatory impact analysis could take more than a year, and must be approved by the Office of State Budget and Management and the commission before the notice of text can be published. Once the notice of text is published, the commission must hold a comment period, and likely a public hearing, before the commission can consider final adoption of the rules. Some of the proposed rules might require the modification of existing fishery management plans before they can be adopted.

If the commission adopts the rules, they then go before the state Rules Review Commission for approval before becoming effective. However, if the state receives 10 letters of objection, the issue will automatically move to the legislature.

In other words, there is still a ways to go before these new regulations go into effect.

What’s the Problem with the Petition?

The shrimping petition is causing alarm for coastal residents all across the state, and not just because of the strict restrictions themselves – (though that’s certainly an overwhelming part.)

Jeff Oden has been a Hatteras commercial fishermen for more than 40 years, and has deep ties to the island that literally spans the centuries. His great, great grandfather was shipwrecked on the island twice, (and decided to stick around and marry a native the second time around), while his grandfather ran a fish house on Hatteras Island.

While Jeff is a longlining commercial fishermen, the new shrimping restrictions do have an indirect effect on his business, and especially the Hatteras Island community in general.

“It’s going to affect the communities, and sadly and more importantly, it’s going to affect future participation in the process.”

Simply put, this was not a popular petition from the get go and many people feel their voices were not heard.

An estimated 1,000 people attended a meeting in January to speak out against the bill at the New Bern Convention Center. The crowd included fishermen, shrimpers, and owners of seafood-based businesses who addressed a panel of advisory committee members who would later report their recommendations to the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission.

The meeting lasted for 7.5 hours, and there were so many people who spoke against the petition, that the chairman of the panel had to end the hearing while there was still an estimated 60 people waiting to speak.

The five individual advisory committees — Finfish, Shellfish/Crustacean, Habitat and Water Quality, Northern Regional, and Southern Regional — all voted by a high majority to deny the petition per a New Bern Sun Journal article that covered the heavily debated meeting.

Citing reasons that ranged from flawed science to a “serious lack of knowledge of the actual conduct of North Carolina’s shrimp trawl fishery and its management by the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission and Division of Marine Fisheries,” (per the Habitat and Water Quality advisory Committee), the committees presented their recommendations to deny the petition before the February 16 commission vote.

And the commission voted to move ahead with the petition anyways.

“The Fisheries Reform Act from years ago was supposed to deal with this process so we would have an even hand,” said Oden. “But we had a super majority [by the commission] for this vote.”

The NC Marine Fisheries voted 5 to 3 with one abstention to approve the rulemaking petition and set the future restrictions in motion.

“The commenters and advisory panels [were against this],” said Dewey Hemilright, a member of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and an Outer Banks commercial fishermen for roughly 30 years. “And you would like to think [that the council] would listen to public comments. But when you’re driven in a direction with a perceived action, your mind is made up. This is an agenda driven petition, plain and simple.”

Both Oden and Hemilright are concerned that the dismissal of both the advisory committees’ recommendations and the vocal public opposition will result in less participation from the public in the rulemaking process in the future.

“84% of the advisory panel came out against this petition and ironically it was still accepted, completely overriding the advisory panel,” added Oden. “Who wants to be a part of the advisory panel if the commission is going to ignore this input? Who wants to be a part of this process?”

“I would be very surprised to see any people stepping up to the plate hereafter. I hope I’m wrong because we definitely need to be there swinging regardless.”

And a lack of public participation could easily be a devastating blow for commercial fishermen, who are already playing whack-a-mole with numerous fishing restrictions and threats to their fishing grounds year after year.

At a public meeting regarding a proposed expansion of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary in early 2016, (yet another potential hurdle for commercial fishermen), Oden outlined how the industry had changed in 40 years.

When he first started fishing, all he needed was a boat and a fishing license. Today, there’s a long list of steps that need to be taken to do his job.

He is required to schedule an observer five days in advance, install two cameras, call in three hours before returning to port, fill out a log book of multiple forms “each time I spin my reel,” retrieve the video cartridges from the two cameras and mail them in at his own expense, and finally, fill out two more log books on discards, and the economics of the trip. And this list scratches the surface and does not even take into account size, timing, and area restrictions.

“We keep trying to fight the good fight, because we’re just stubborn,” said Oden. “There’s a whole lot of losing in what we do, and it seems like on a good day, we just don’t lose very much.”

And while Oden isn’t directly affected by the proposed restrictions as a longliner, he notes that the restrictions could easily hurt the island economy – (and the island landscape that attracts visitors in the first place) – from the ground up.

“This is going to affect Hatteras village every day, as well as every other place along the coastline,” said Oden. “People are thrilled to get local product, and while Hatteras will be [directly] affected less than, say, Wanchese, our access to shrimp will be hurt. People come here for the fresh seafood, not the crap shrimp coming from China, Indonesia, and who knows where.”

Oden knows all about the allure of fresh seafood to coastal NC visitors first hand. His family owned the Seagull Motel for decades, and they spoke with countless vacationers who visited Hatteras Village.

“There’s one thing people valued when they came down, and that’s fresh seafood,” he said. “They came to the motel for the beach, or to go fishing offshore for the day, and inevitably people would end up in the office with one question – ‘Where can I get fresh local seafood?’ So this is going to be far more reaching than just the economic harm to the [fishing] individuals who are being put out of business.”

“This will also have a trickle-down effect up and down the coast,” he added, “with the fish houses, the restaurants, and the consumers who want to eat local seafood…When you start losing fish houses, that’s it. Believe me, it’s going to be a long time before we sort out all the fallout from this one measure.”

Oden hopes the new administration will be more accommodating and responsive to the voices of the commercial fishermen, but for now, the process remains deeply troublesome.

“That, to me, is one of the hardest things to watch – a planned itinerary and agenda [that can] destroy the industry if this measure comes to pass,” he said.

And despite reeling from recent setbacks, Oden and other fishermen across the state intend to remain active and keep pushing, regardless of the outcome.

“I don’t know why we do it, but again, we just keep hoping,” he adds. “In my case, I’ve been sticking with it because I enjoy what I’ve done for the last 40 years, and I’m trying to give something back.”

thirteen comments


Sound like somebody has the NC fisheries commission in their pockets . You read this and you can see them putting the squeeze on the local fishermen and fish houses …as they surrender(hopefully not) who’s waiting in the wings to jump in and take over ??? Been done in the land world , banking world , you name it … now these money grubbers are taking aim at the fresh fish world . Enough already , leave these folks alone !!!!!!

diver531 - 26-02-’17 10:27
Sandy Semans Ross

Good wrap up, Joy. Two other points are that shrimping will be closed from May 15 to August 15 unless a proclamation issued. And the increased size limit for spot and croaker also will be applied to the recreational fishermen. The limits aren’t based on any data showing that they are warranted.

Sandy Semans Ross - 26-02-’17 17:22

Derb Carter? Enough said!

Ricky - 27-02-’17 07:06
Dave H

This is simply what is to be expected of any bureaucracy! They continually attempt to expand their power,influence and control over those they regulate, and not coincidentally their budgets increase. These folks have little regard for those making an honest living, or (obviously) those whose opinions differ from theirs. Oh, and good luck with the new administration- they’re a bunch who believe in big government, and forcing minority views onto the majority.

Dave H - 27-02-’17 07:07
Ditch Gray

This petition was just that a petition and not a law, it meet stiff opposition and I have doubts it will get passed as written. Also, the statement about letting the new existing laws be tried first makes sense to me. IMO, something needs to be done about protecting the inshore waters but I don’t get to vote. If I did, I’d stop all trawling in the sounds until a method that doesn’t produce so much dead bycatch can be invented. Bycatch has been reduced but is still too high. Limiting offshore trawling to more than 3 miles seems extreme but maybe necessary? I love shrimp and the price keeps going up anyway but it would be worth it if the fish population was going up instead of down. Every year we watch trawlers working offshore with thousands of birds picking up the baby fish that are thrown overboard. In the worst cases, for every pound of shrimp caught, up to six pounds of other species are discarded and this incidental catch of unwanted or unsellable species wasted.
I’ve long thought that if shrimp trawlers were taken out of the sounds the commercial fisherman would catch more fish and therefore $$$ in the ocean waters after those croakers, specks,sea mullet, spots,drum and grey trout were allowed to grow up to a marketable size.
Only giving it a try for a couple years would tell.
What I do know is that when I started fishing the Banks 50 years ago, we caught lots of big croakers and grey trout, and now I hardly ever see ONE much less a keeper.

Ditch Gray - 27-02-’17 15:25

I see nothing mentioned of the tons of dead juvenile fin fish that are discarded as bycatch.That is the reason for this petition. Spot,croker,grey trout. Are being destroyed for the profit of a few comercial fish mongers.This article is one sided for sure. Author should give a complete report. Not one sided and biased.

Paul - 27-02-’17 19:15

Ditch – yours are thoughtful comments. One thing to keep in mind is when the Bureau(cracy) keeps backing all of the boats, and the men and women who fish upon them, into smaller and smaller quarters, with smaller and smaller take, something has to give.
There are plenty of fish in the ocean and sounds. It seems, everyday, there is less ocean and sound in which to fish. Not due to sound science or data, but rather due to politics and politicians.
Lets let folks make a living, and feed themselves, residents and visitors alike.
This petition is another regulatory grab, not a law, intended to let regulators and lawyers interfere with the will of the people.

dave - 27-02-’17 21:22

sounds just like how they closed the beaches, a few folks, led by Carter, overrode the vast majority of comments.

pumokinboy - 28-02-’17 11:40

Here’s the larger picture and the sad truth. Global fisheries are being rapidly depleted because of overharvesting to feed an overpopulated world. It is estimated that 2/3 of the world’s fleets need to be mothballed in order to avoid absolute depletion in rapid order. Of course the mothballing of the fleets would contribute to human starvation. And not mothballing the fleets will also result in human starvation because of rapid depletion. It’s a Catch 22. The only answer is a decreased human population or a new food source and harvesting methodology. Please don’t tell me it’s faulty science. Commercial fishermen in NC are in a really tough spot, and my heart goes out to them. And then there are the Chinese and Japanese that will just deplete every body of water wherever their fishing, not matter what? Think Canvasback ducks and market gunning in the early 1900s. The entire Canvasback flyways are still eradicated nationwide, although outlawed 100 years ago. That’s where we are heading right now when it comes to our fisheries. Got Protein?

pussycat - 28-02-’17 12:45
Jeff Oden

First off Frank (are you ashamed of your last name) this was not Irene’s story. Sadly it came to my attention yesterday that she is in the hospital and not doing well. So I hope we can at least both agree on wishing her a speedy recovery. Secondly if you read the votes by the respective advisory panels below, and check their allegiance, maybe you will understand that i feel your pain about both sides of the story not being represented. In Joy’s defense, this story is as much about the previous governor’s stacking the deck and guaranteeing the demise of our commercial fishing communities, as it was about the future or lack thereof of the shrimpers and commercial fishing in general. A CCA dominated commission guarantees that …..since their only reason for participating in the process is to demonize most of the hard working individuals that bring wholesome sustenance to us all. And as for the comment of allowing monetary concerns of a minuscule few to dominate a public resource…the last time i bothered checking the CCA had fewer than 3000 members in this state. That may have doubled since i last checked, but none the less I can promise that that number pales in comparison to the number of individuals that enjoyed a plate of N.C. catch of local shrimp. As for the issue of by catch, yes the shrimp industry has by catch concerns which they are working to mitigate via FED’s etc as much as possible. And they are making considerable progress. But when this commission focuses only on commercial by catch concerns and ignores their own complicity with everything from post release mortality to undersides species as well as interactions with protected species with J hooks, then it relinquishes any semblance of credibility. The simple truth is if you are going to live in a glass house then you’d best not cast a stone…. As for your concerns on the disparity of flounder regs’ …..get involved and even though i know nothing about whats going on with flounder…..having been involved in fisheries for over 25 years it sounds like you are dealing with a conservation equivalency issue. AGAIN, GET INVOLVED I would go on but i just got word that Irene Nolan (bless her heart) has passed and gone to join C.A. in the ever after. MAY SHE REST IN PEACE……!

New Bern, NC; January 17, 2017

Northern: 11 total members with 10 at the meeting; voted 9 to 1 to deny
Southern: 10 total members with 7 at the meeting; voted 6 to 0 with one abstention to deny;
Finfish: 11 total members with 9 at the meeting; voted 7 to 1 to deny with the Chairman, a commercial, not voting
Habitat & Water Quality: 11 total members with 9 at the meeting; voted 7 to 1 to deny with the Chairman, a commercial, not voting
Shellfish/Crustacean: 11 total members with 9 at the meeting; voted 8 to 1 to deny

It should also be noted that of the 2 that did not vote, they were both affiliated with commercial interests, and the only scientist that voted FOR the petition was Mike Wicker who serves on the Commission!


Northern Committee had 2 recreational members; 1 biologist and 1 NC State University researcher, so4 of the 10 are NOT affiliated with commercial

Southern Committee had 4 recreational members and 1 UNC Wilmington researcher, so5 of the 7 are NOT affiliated with commercial

Finfish Committee had 2 recreational members; 2 biologists and 1 NC State University researcher, so5 of the 9 are NOT affiliated with commercial

Habitat & Water Quality Committee had 2 environmentalists, 2 university researchers from ECU & UNC, 1 scientist from the National Marine Fisheries Service and 1 biologist, so6 of the 11 are NOT affiliated with commercial

Shellfish/Crustacean Committee has 2 recreational member, 1 environmentalist, 1 biologist, and the Chief Researcher and Director of the Center for Marine Science at UNC Wilmington; so5 or the 11 are NOT affiliated with commercial

BOTTOM LINE: Of the 44 advisory committee members at the meeting, 25 were NOT affiliated with commercial.

Another interesting note: Of the 7 researchers present, 6 voted to deny the petition with only 1 voting to accept, and that was Mike Wicker who sits on the Marine Fisheries Commission!

Jeff Oden - 03-03-’17 20:48
John Griffin

It’s pretty clear that Paul knows little of the process of shrimping and hasn’t a clue about by-catch. The “reason” for the petition was to bypass the process set by law and avoid the need to present any science supported evidence. Hard to assign merit to a position soundly rejected by all 5 advisory boards.

John Griffin - 03-03-’17 22:36
Denny in Dayton

Well if you guessed Derb Carter you win the prize! From an article in “The Carolina Sportsman”

“Jerry Schill of the N.C. Fisheries Association, stated his objections in a press release, questioning the timing β€” the Federation released notice of its plans on the same day that Gov. Pat McCrory appointed a recreational fisherman to a vacant seat on the Commission, giving recreationals a 6-3 super majority on the policy making board.

“Coincidentally, a Petition for Rulemaking was filed on Nov. 2 before the Marine Fisheries Commission by the Southern Environmental Law Center, acting on behalf of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, that would severely restrict shrimping in North Carolina,” Schill said. β€œOr was it a coincidence? Will fishermen get a fair hearing on the issue now before a stacked Commission?”

It would appear the answer to his question is NO. There’s your new Governor, squarely in the corner of the activists.

Denny in Dayton - 04-03-’17 09:43
Denny in Dayton

Well if you guessed Derb Carter you win the prize! And there is something very funny going on here.

From the Carolina Sportsman: “Jerry Schill of the N.C. Fisheries Association, stated his objections in a press release, questioning the timing β€” the Federation released notice of its plans on the same day that Gov. Pat McCrory appointed a recreational fisherman to a vacant seat on the Commission, giving recreationals a 6-3 super majority on the policy making board.

“Coincidentally, a Petition for Rulemaking was filed on Nov. 2 before the Marine Fisheries Commission by the Southern Environmental Law Center, acting on behalf of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, that would severely restrict shrimping in North Carolina,” Schill said. β€œOr was it a coincidence? Will fishermen get a fair hearing on the issue now before a stacked Commission?”

The answer to his question would appear to be “NO”.

I like to “follow the money” and and checked “Charity Navigator” to see who was funding this group. It showed that this groups operates under many forms most filing 990-n forms for groups with less than 50k in revenue. But the Raleigh address has a full filing and shows that the majority of it’s 1.5m in revenue is from grants. But it fails disclose the donors.

I went to the most likely suspect, “The Foundation for the Carolinas”. This foundation gives out hundreds of grants, mostly small to civic and religious groups, some strangely in places like San Diego, even near me in Cincinnati, creating a maze of donations. But the big ones are almost always environmental/progressive groups.

I scrolled down the schedule 1 and there was the first, group #386 “The Southern Environmental Law Center” received $40,315,500 in 2014 (last on file) and further down #659 “North Carolina Wildlife Federation” $878,000. So as I’ve said in the past the Foundation for the Carolinas is a cocktail glass clinking groups that destroys small communities and has had the Outer Banks in it’s sights for years.

The pattern is similar, The new Shrimp Fishery Management Plan hasn’t even gone into effect yet. The first part of it becomes effective on Jan. 1, 2017. So why are they jumping the gun the way they always do? Because they are really against the public having input in this and other processes.

(I looked up Derb’s total compensation has jumped to over $209K fleecing people is profitable!)

Denny in Dayton - 04-03-’17 11:56

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