There was one common point as local residents on opposing sides of a shrimp trawling issue reacted to news that additional restrictions for North Carolina shrimpers will likely be on the way.
“It’s going to be a long road,” said Allen Jernigan of Sneads Ferry, a full-time waterman who runs fishing charters and also does some commercial fishing.
The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission voted 5-3, with one member abstaining, on Thursday to approve a petition for rule-making from the N.C. Wildlife Federation, setting in motion a lengthy process of reviewing the rules proposed in the petition before a final decision is made.
Jernigan said the petition isn’t perfect, but he does not believe it is going to close down inshore trawling and there will still be shrimping in the state. The biggest impact will be on trawling in the ocean and Pamlico Sound.
While he acknowledges there will be some impacts he also supports the need to protect the resource and the juvenile species such as croaker and spot, which the proposal is designed to do.
The proposal, among other things, would limit shrimping to three days on the Intracoastal Waterway and other estuaries and four days on the ocean up to 3 miles out.
“I hate to see anybody lose work time, but the resource belongs to everybody in the state and not just one industry,” Jernigan said.
For commercial fishermen and those who work in the seafood industry, the long road ahead is one they are prepared to follow.
“They are going to have a fight on their handssaid Tim Millis of B.F. Millis Seafood in Sneads Ferry. “People are not going to stand back. (The petition) is going too far.”
Millis said fishermen already do a lot to reduce the bycatch of juvenile fish that is part of the concern. Additional restrictions as proposed would have broad impact, he said, not only by drastically impacting shrimp fishermen but also the seafood houses and the consumers who want fresh local seafood.
Millis sees more limits likely ahead for fishermen but hopes it won’t have such a large impact on the shrimpers.
“I think they’ll do something. I don’t know if they’ll compromise but they have gone too far,” Millis said.
The petition, filed by the Wildlife Federation with support from the Southern Environmental Law Center, asks the commission to designate all coastal fishing waters not otherwise designated as nursery areas to be named special secondary nursery areas, including the ocean out to three miles. It also calls for establishing clear criteria for the opening of shrimp season and defining the type of gear and how and when gear may be used in special secondary nursery areas during shrimp season.
June to November is prime time for shrimping in Pamlico Sound. If approved, the petition would limit opening of the season until after Aug. 16 and also limit the number of fishing days when waters are open.
Nancy Edens of Sneads Ferry, a North Carolina representative with the Southern Shrimp Alliance, attended the MFC meeting Thursday and was disappointed by the vote of the commission.
“I thought maybe they’d come through for the fishermen, but I’m not totally surprised,” said Edens, citing the makeup the commission.
Edens said the commission went against the recommendation of all its advisory board, which voted against approving the petition.
“You have advisory boards for a reason,” Edens said. “If you don’t need their advice, why are people going to sit on a board for a year and go to meetings.”
Edens said it is her understanding that the process could take a year-plus, but they don’t plan to stand back and not be heard.
“Stay informed and involved,” Edens said. “Let your voice be heard.”