BEAUFORT — In an effort to protect more than 200 square miles of coastal fishing waters, county officials have waded into the ongoing discussion surrounding the reclassification of boundaries separating coastal and inland fishing waters.

At their Dec. 16 meeting at the administrative building in Beaufort, county commissioners passed a resolution condemning the reclassification of lines separating inland from coastal waters.

“The proposed reclassification of jurisdictional waters would be a loss of approximately 144,984 square acres or 226.5 square miles of coastal and commercial fishing waters, thus, creating even more confusion and regulations to the already over-regulated North Carolina commercial fishing industry,” reads a portion of the resolution.

The state Wildlife Resources Commission defines coastal fishing waters as the Atlantic Ocean, coastal sounds and estuarine waters up until the dividing line separating coastal water from inland waters. The agency defines inland waters as waters connecting tributaries, coastal sounds or the ocean extending inland or upstream from the dividing line.

County commissioners passed the resolution as part of their consent agenda, a list of routine items that typically don’t require discussion.

At the beginning of the year, the WRC created a joint commission with the Marine Fisheries Commission in order to establish new rules separating inland waters from coastal waters.

Following a joint May meeting, the commissions disagreed on the criteria for establishing a boundary. During its August regular session, the WRC made a decision despite a lack of consensus with the MFC.

“The WRC business meeting was held with little direct notice to the MFC or to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality,” reads a portion of the county’s resolution. “At this meeting, the WRC decided to move forward with the proposed boundaries based on the arbitrary 2.6 ppt salinity value.”

In an August press release, the WRC said the choice was anything but arbitrary.

“Agency staff employed an objective, science-based approach using salinity values, measured levels of salt in the water, to determine the transition between coastal and inland fishing waters,” reads the August press release. “Salinity data were used to map long-term averages during low and high salinity seasons.

“Previous research, conducted on the Neuse River in North Carolina, has shown that freshwater fish were most abundant at a salinity of 2.6 parts per thousand or less. Based on this, a threshold of 2.6 ppt was used to define the transition zones, within which specific boundaries were drawn,” the commission said.

Jess Hawkins of Carteret County’s Marine Fisheries Advisory Board, said salinity values are a poor metric.

“As a scientist and as a fisherman…I oppose those efforts,” Mr. Hawkins said. “I called the county Wednesday (Dec. 18) in thanking them for addressing this issue and thanking them for their resolution opposing it.”

Mr. Hawkins added that he felt the new classification expanded the WRC’s jurisdiction.

“They are using salinity levels,” Mr. Hawkins said. “The standard is, if they are less than (the 2.6 ppt salinity value) it would be considered inland waters, i.e. under the jurisdiction of wildlife commission and no longer be under the jurisdiction of the Marine Fisheries Commission.”

Mr. Hawkins said the change could affect the work of environmental advocacy groups.

“In turn, the Coastal Resources Commission, which is the commission set up by our General Assembly to help protect fisheries, habitats and critical habitats…they believe a large amount (of coastal waters) will be transferred out of their jurisdiction because their jurisdiction falls to coastal waters in coastal counties. They would lose jurisdiction.”

He believes there are a number of other metrics that could be used to establish the jurisdictional boundaries.

“You could use variation, you don’t have to use absolute salinity,” Mr. Hawkins said. “You can use species composition; you can use species diversity. You can use the prevalence of certain fisheries that are dependent on the different types of fish that use coastal habitats or use a combination of all those.”

Siding with Carteret County’s resolution, Mr. Hawkins hopes other coastal communities will speak out against the proposed measure while there is still time.

“The MFC would be required by law to perform a comprehensive financial analysis to modify jurisdictional boundaries, which would include a review of all existing rules and a detailed mapping effort expected to take over a year to complete,” reads a portion of the county’s resolution.

Contact Dean-Paul Stephens at 252-726-7081, ext. 232; email Dean@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @DeanPEStephens.

(12) comments

Core Sounder

Nothing more than an attempt of anti-commercial fishing group to put more commercial fishermen out of work. Apparently they were not successful at their latest attempt to destroy our shrimp fishery so they are now trying to sneak in a way to hurt these commercials another way.

David Collins

Reads like a turf war between state alphabet agencies. North Carolina’s own version of the swamp and it stinks. Where does one look to find someone with common sense?

Osprey

Prime example of too much government.

RJ Buckster

The commercial fishing industry has been present for 100’s of years and now government wants to implement new laws that would in essence put them out of business. To eliminate the livelihood of many people trying to feed their families and others. It is a shame that by a sign of a pen, government can wipe out local commercial fishermen. Please find a way to allow local commercial fisherman to continue to make a living. How about grandfathering the existing local commercial fishing industry and apply the new proposed laws to any new fishing companies. How can anyone stop a family who has been in the fishing business for many years - it’s shameful.

SEABASS

RJ Buckster You are right i agree with you, But i have a problem with the D.M.F. Closing the seasons on the Recreational Fishermen the most! And no i am not even a fishermen at all!! I am a Business owner here and 98 % of my customers are Recreational Fishermen, They support this county more than anyone, And what the D.M.F. is hurting way more than a few hounded families, Thousands are being hurt so the commercial Fishermen can fish only!! This is WRONG!! Yes you need to live but so do I ! And all the other Business owners here who depend on the Recreational Fishermen to feed there Families !! My family is just important to me as yours is to you! And the great D.M.F is hurting the local business and families by allowing only Commercial Fishermen to fish ! I am beginning to think they are getting paid good ( By a Group) to do these things. And maybe just maybe the Fed's is seeing this and thinking this too!! I know the D.M.F. Is sworn to protect the commercial fishermen but come on enough is enough!!

David Collins

Do not see where anyone is stoping anyone from fishing . They are restricting possession . Sport fishermen , recreational by definition , love to fish . It is fun and expensive . Sporting goods businesses say you can’t put a price on fun but they do . There are two types of commercial fishermen . Those that actually run a legitimate business and then there are those that have the license, most of the time , but deal in cash only in order to supplement their benefits checks . They know who they are . Back in the day we referred to them as moon cursers . Yeah , the same ones depicted in history books .

With all this in mind , the political gyrations surrounding the fisheries always is about money . More money taken from you and me . The main problem , to me , is that the decision makers are political appointees that often wouldn’t know a sea bass from a flounder. Appointees that are closet frog kissers and want to end any harvesting , killing , of anything that flies , swims , or trundles about the earth . Am I mistaken here ?

SEABASS

David Collins No you are not mistaken, A let me say again i have no problem with commercial fishermen fishing i want them too. But i want to feed my family also. And the D.M.F. killed the fall fishing this year. But they have hurt it every year. By cutting the Recreational Fishermen to only one fish in some cases and then closing the fishing on some fish all together. I hate to say this but if the stock is so bad only one group can fish then both groups need to be limited! This way all can still fish!! And again i do not fish at all but i depend on the Recreational Fishermen the most for my business. Just like most here do! I know several Restaurant owners Like me who are hurting also. see we live for the tourist aka (Recreational Fishermen) And for years we ALSO have taken a beating with all this closing and cutting of limits!! They are not just hurting the Recreational Fishermen and tourist they are driving a lot of the locals out of business also!!

PINEYPOINTER

Just curious.What locals are being driven out of business.Are you a local?

David Collins

Very , very , few local, Carteret , Onslow and beyond , restaurants serve seafood that is fresh from their local waters . The term Local has morphed to mean somewhere on the surface of this planet . The best of what we have to offer is sold to the highest bidder and that ain’t here . Not saying that the stuff we get is not good but doubt this fishing kerfuffle has much or any impact on the restaurant business . Been my experience that with any change from Raleigh Land , both sides howl foul and doomsday predictions abound . This latest fuss is , in my opinion , quite flawed and needs desperately to be rethought or at least come clean with the real reason behind it all . Doubt if anyone is listening .

SEABASS

PineyPointer or what ever you want to be, Just open your eyes and look around at just the local restaurants that has closed in the last few years!! Here is a news flash not only do the Commercial Fishermen live off of money so does others around here in Carteret County !!

David Collins

Restaurants come and go all the time . Especially after Florence . The owners age out , loose interest , customers changing tastes or have cash flow problems . Haven’t heard of any supply problems but it is possible in some markets . Just expect more weird stuff to come down from Raleigh. We do have a Governor that will hold up stuff in order to push Medicaid Expansion and loves liberal causes of all types . Hence the crazy ruling on fresh and salt water boundaries . Like there is an invisible fence that stops salt water in it’s tracks . Only in Raleigh Land .

SEABASS

David Collins You are right restaurants come and go all the time, So do Commercial Fishermen they sell out or get old and quit. And my point is why is a commercial fishermen life style more important than anyone else's? Why oh Why do they think they are untouchable, and everything should be handed to them and only them? We both are after the same things in life Money and a better living for our family's. So why is it always so much drama or dramatized by them? And if all the Rec fishermen stopped buying the commercial fishermen s products. What would happen then? After all who buys all the bait shrimp and all the other baits like Blood worms, Squid, cigar minnows, and all the bait sold everywhere? See the rec fishermen is supporting the commercial fishermen and still being sexually assaulted ( you know the one word that goes there) by the Com fishermen! And if you look at the break down the rec fishermen bring in way more income into our county than the Commercial Fishermen do. so face it we need the Rec Fishermen way more than we do the commercial fishermen in this state!

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