CRAVEN COUNTY, NEW BERN - A petition that would effectively ban shrimp trawling inshore in North Carolina has been unanimously recommended for denial by four separate committees of the Marine Fisheries Commission.
The Fin Fish, Habitat and Water Quality, Sea Turtle, and Shellfish/crustacean advisory committees all denied the petition, which would label all inshore waters as secondary nurseries. Shrimp trawlers can't fish areas that are designated as nurseries.
The meeting, which happened at the New Bern Convention Center at 12:30 p.m., Tuesday, attracted hundreds of commercial fishermen. At least 20 ships were anchored in the Neuse River just off shore from Union Point Park.
Tim Hergenrader was the man who first submitted the petition to the Marine Fisheries Commission.
"It is not, I repeat, not, about denying people access to locally caught fresh shrimp," Hergenrader said. "It is certainly not about costing people their jobs. It is simply about nursery area designations."
The director for the Division of Marine Fisheries, Dr. Lewis Daniel, presented the organization's official stance.
"Our concerns about the petition is that it fails to provide that sufficient scientific sampling and analysis to justify making the subject area as a secondary nursery area," Dr. Daniel said. "Especially give the significant impact to fishing activities that would occur."
The State Marine Fisheries Commission is considering a controversial fishing ban that would stop shrimp trawling in North Carolina inner coastal waterways.
The commission will discuss the petition at a meeting on Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. at the New Bern Riverfront Convention Center.
Timothy Hergenrader filed the petition asking that all inshore waters be designated permanent secondary nursery areas and off limits to commercial fisherman. The proposal includes areas of the Pamlico Sound, Bogue Sound and parts of the Neuse River.
Hergendrader stated that trawling bycatch is contributing to the demise of certain fish in the water. "Bycatch" is anything a fisherman catches that he didn't mean to catch such as small fish.
Many commercial fishermen are lining up against the petition.
Buddy Salter has been shrimp trawling the North Carolina waters for more than 40 years. But he is concerned a proposal to halt trawling in our area could affect many fishermen.
"If we're responsible for the by catching we take in earnestly and try to get rid of those little fish we're catching we could have both recreational and commercial," Salter said.
According to Hergenrader's proposal, South Carolina banned nearly all inshore shrimp trawling in 1986 and saw increases in the shrimp catch after the second year of the ban. Salter is worried the ban would take away hundreds of jobs immediately.
"I feel the main problem we're going to run into is that the consumer in North Carolina will not have access to fresh North Carolina seafood," he said.
The petition explains that restricting shrimp trawling to the ocean where shrimp are larger would be more profitable for fishermen in the long run. The commission is scheduled to vote on the petition at their regular meeting on August 28th- 30th in Raleigh.