A proposal that would create a Commercial Fishing Resources Fund has made it into the budget proposal now being considered by legislators in Raleigh.
The plan, brought forward by the North Carolina Fisheries Association (NCFA), calls for a fund that would help the state meet requirements for the protection of sea turtles while also providing funds for projects to enhance the state’s commercial fishing industry.
NCFA president Jerry Schill said the plan as they presented it was included in the Senate version of the budget bill and now awaits consideration by the House of Representatives this week.
Schill was in Raleigh last week as the bill was reviewed on Senate side and will be back next week to continue meeting with legislators.
“There seems to be more questions about it on the House side so I’m not real sure how it will fare. I’m fairly confident it will make it in the budget,” he said.
If it goes in the House version, the question will be in what form.
“The Senate side has word for word what we proposed,” he said.
The revenue for the proposed Commercial Fishing Resources Fund would come from a 100-percent increase in fees for several commercial fishing licenses and helps to address the issue of funding for the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries observer program.
Observers gather information and watch for interaction with sea turtles in the gill net fishery. Observer coverage is required by the state’s sea turtle incidental take permit for the inshore gill net fisheries.
Schill said the proposal helps the state meet requirements and also creates a special revenue fund that would be used for projects to help sustain the commercial fishing industry.
The proposal received the support of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries and the N.C. Department of Environmental and Natural Resources and was endorsed by the Marine Fisheries Commission.
The budget proposal also includes other provisions that would affect the Division of Marine Fisheries.
Drew Elliot, communications director for the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said all cabinet agency was asked to bring forth way to reduce the budget since revenues fell short of projections for the current budget cycle.
Part of the proposed reductions could include closing the DMF Nags Head office and reducing some of that office’s operations. Three of the five positions in the office would be eliminated, one of which is vacant and two that are filled. The remaining two positions would become home-based.
It also involves closing Albemarle Sound, Currituck Sound, Alligator River, the upper Pungo River, the upper Neuse River and part of Pamlico River to shellfish harvesting, as these waters will no longer be tested or surveyed for shoreline pollution sources.
“Environmental conditions in these waters, such as salinity levels, are not conducive to growing oysters and clams. Little or no shellfish harvest occurs in these areas currently,” Elliot said.