Public comment sought on shrimp trawling

ONSLOW COUNTY - Recreational and commercial fisherman don't see eye to eye on the subject of shrimp trawling.  The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries (NCDMF), the organization in charge of drafting a shrimp management plan, had the first of four public comment meetings on Wednesday.

Spokeswoman Patricia Smith says the NCDMF is ready to hear both sides of the issue.  According to Smith, an advocacy group, named the Coastal Fisheries Reform Group, is looking to make big changes to shrimp trawling in North Carolina.

On their website, the Coastal Fisheries Reform Group states "North Carolina remains the only state in the Southeast that has not greatly limited (or banned) shrimp trawling in their inshore waters. As the destruction of our marine fisheries persists and our fish populations continue to decline, other states have built thriving fisheries that support an ever-growing legion of recreational fishermen who spend billions of dollars a year on their hobby."

NewsChannel 12 contacted the group via their website but they did not return our email for comment.

According to Smith, the group says shrimpers are inadvertently killing smaller fish, known as 'bycatch' and it's impacting fish populations in our waters. 

Smith says the NCDMF is continuing to research trawling and looking at ways to reduce 'bycatch.' At this time, they are not recommending a state-wide ban on trawling.

That's great news for Joel Norris, who says a ban on trawling would be devastating.

Norris is a third generation commercial shrimper in Sneads Ferry.  Norris, who supports a young child, says he's been making a living shrimping for more than 16 years. 

Norris says the job is only getting more difficult, "especially with the recreational fisherman, they want us to stop dragging because they say we're killing all the juvenile fish."

Norris says commercial shrimpers are not hurting the fish population.  "We catch the same amount of fish every year," he said.

Smith says the next meeting will be held on September 27th at the Vernon G. James Research and Extension Center in Plymouth.  The meeting starts at 4 in the afternoon.

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