Some area waters have reopened for flounder gill nets under rules of a new permit that regulates the incidental take of endangered and threatened sea turtles in the gill net fishery.
The opening will include waters south of Oregon Inlet, according to the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries.
Division Director Louis Daniel reopened parts of Pamlico Sound, upper Core Sound and estuaries south of the N.C. 58 bridge.
These waters have been closed since July because of observed interactions with sea turtles and are being reopened under provisions of a newly received sea turtle incidental take permit.
Division of Marine Fisheries and the National Marine Fisheries Service entered an agreement that implements a statewide incidental take permit for sea turtles in the estuarine large and small-mesh gill net fisheries.
The permit authorizes the limited take of sea turtles in the gill net fisheries as part of an otherwise lawful activity.
It provides protections for the threatened loggerhead and green turtles, and endangered Kemp’s Ridley, hawksbill and leatherback sea turtles while allowing the gill net fisheries to continue.
The permit carries the same restrictions on soak times and gear requirements, as well as the requirement for observer coverage as was previously implemented through a lawsuit settlement agreement between the state and the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center.
While exempted from regulations in the lawsuit settlement agreement, there are observer coverage requirements and limits on sea turtle takes for the small-mesh gill net fishery in the incidental take permit.
The permit divides the estuarine waters of the state into seven different areas and authorizes an annual, per-species limit of incidental sea turtle takes in each area. These allowed takes are divided into two fishing gears: large-mesh and small-mesh gill nets.
The fishing year runs from Sept. 1 through Aug. 31 and if the number of allowed takes is met before the end of that year, waters in that particular area close until Aug. 31, 2014.
Another new requirement is that all commercial and recreational gill net fishermen must report any incidental capture of a sea turtle to the division at 252-726-7021 or 1-800-682-2632. This includes both large-mesh and small-mesh gill nets.
For specific regulations, see Proclamations M-30-2013 and M-31-2013 at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/proclamations.
For more information, contact Chris Batsavage, the division’s Protected Resources Section chief, at 252-808-8009 or Chris.Batsavage@ncdenr.gov.