Fishing trawlers

Fishing trawlers anchor in the Newport River between Crab Point and Mill Creek. The N.C. Wildlife Federation has a petition for rulemaking submitted to the state to tighten regulations on shrimp trawling, which the N.C. Fisheries Association thinks could lead to a full-on shrimp trawling ban. (Dylan Ray photo)

MOREHEAD CITY — A conservation organization’s request that the state adopt stricter rules for shrimping and recreational spot and croaker isn’t sitting well with a local seafood industry advocacy group. 

Jerry Schill, president of the N.C. Fisheries Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the state fishing industry, says the association thinks the petition for rulemaking from the N.C. Wildlife Federation, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the state’s natural resources, will lead to gear bans that could put shrimping in North Carolina in jeopardy.

However, David Knight, NCWF policy consultant, said the petition is meant to protect fish and their habitat and actually assist fishing communities by doing so. 

The Southern Environmental Law Center presented a petition for rulemaking, on behalf of the NCWF, to the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Nov. 17 in Kitty Hawk at the commission’s regular meeting. 

The petition requests several changes to shrimping regulations, special secondary nursery area (SSNA) designation for all coastal fishing waters not already designated nursery areas and additional regulations for recreational spot and croaker fishing. The petition is under review for completeness by the MFC chairman, Sammy Corbett, and the commission’s legal counsel, Phillip Reynolds of the N.C. Department of Justice, after which it will go out for public comment. 

Patricia Smith, N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries public information officer, said Mr. Corbett and Mr. Reynolds are still reviewing the petition as of Tuesday. According to a press release from the DMF, the state agency which enforces the regulations created by the MFC, the commission has 120 days from the date of the petition’s submission, Nov. 2, to take action granting or denying the request for rulemaking. 

The petition requests the MFC create the following regulations: 

Expand the designation of SSNAs (in which trawls are prohibited unless specially opened by the state) to include all inshore and near shore waters under MFC jurisdiction not already designated any sort of nursery area.

Open shrimp season only when the shrimp count in Pamlico Sound reaches 60 shrimp per pound.  

Create a maximum headrope length for trawls of 90 feet for all state waters.  

Limit trawl tow time to 45 minutes in SSNAs. 

Limit shrimp trawling to three days per week and to daylight hours in SSNAs. 

Require trawls to have two N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries-certified bycatch reduction devices when trawling in state waters. 

Create maximum recreational size limits of 8 inches for spot and 10 inches for Atlantic croaker, which currently have no recreational size limits.   

While the petition states the purpose is to protect nursery areas and reduce bycatch, the NCFA thinks there’s an ulterior motive to the proposed regulations. Mr. Schill said the association thinks these requested regulations aren’t to reduce bycatch or protect habitat but to pursue an agenda. 

“That agenda is to ban all shrimp trawling in inside waters and to ban gillnets,” Mr. Schill said. “This petition is a charade. In the 29 years that I’ve been involved in these issues, the reduction of bycatch in the shrimp trawl fishery is by far the issues that we have spend the most time on and by far, the one issues where we’ve had the most success.” 

Mr. Schill said that because the issue is agenda-driven, any concessions made by fishermen “is never enough.” 

“It’s a shame that the N.C. Wildlife Federation and the Southern Environmental Law Center have become such adversaries to the commercial fishing communities along our coast,” he said. “It’s confounding to speculate what’s driving the NCWF and the SELC to be so opposed to the working folks of our state, but perhaps their members and their supporters should ask that question.” 

Mr. Schill said, if the proposed regulations were adopted, it would “virtually eliminate” shrimping in North Carolina and “devastate an already reeling commercial fishing community.”

Mr. Knight, meanwhile, said the the federation thinks the petition has been well-received by the public. 

“I think the public sees this as an opportunity to make real progress in protecting and sustaining our fisheries,” he said. “Many of our most important fish stocks are in crisis, and in jeopardy of crashing. If we don’t take concrete steps now to protect these fish and important habitat areas, we may not have another opportunity to bring them back for years.” 

Mr. Knight said he thinks the commission will endorse the federation’s recommendations. In response to the concerns voiced by Mr. Schill, he said the federation seeks to improve both commercial and recreational fishing industries by putting fish stocks in state waters “on the road to recovery.” 

“The federation doesn’t seek to ban shrimp trawls in North Carolina waters,” he said. “The goal of the petition is to define, designate and protect important habitat areas for fish in North Carolina waters. This petition balances the needs of the commercial shrimping industry with the need to protect important habitat areas that support juvenile fish and shrimp, which benefits all fishermen.” 

Mr. Knight said the federation wants to ensure the survival and sustainability of the state’s fish stocks to the benefit of both recreational and commercial fishing, both of which he said aren’t thriving. 

“This petition is purely about how we, as a state, are going to protect the millions of juvenile fish that are now being killed each year by shrimp trawls,” Mr. Knight said. “If we can save these fish, then we can possibly save these fishing communities that are now in distress.” 

Contact Mike Shutak at 252-726-7081 ext. 206, email; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.  

(23) comments

sick and tired

Yep, as soon as I see quotes that have "real progress" in them, it's rarely good. These distressed fishing communities are distressed because you've "protected" them right out of their livelihoods. Yes, restrict, limit, regulate the fisherman BUT when it comes to over developing, which is dumping so much waste into our waters that, well quite frankly, eat the local seafood at your own risk, there's no problem there. Maybe and I know this will sound silly to the over educated progress folks but if the "natural resources" are dwindling it's because your over development/progress is the culprit.


Where are recreational anglers catching spots and croakers? I am having no luck. What are the statistics on commercial catches? I do not begrudge the commercial fishermen; they put food on my plate. I only want to have a little success when I have the time to go out to catch my own supper.


I am not sure why these guys think they are some protected class. Times change and people must as well. You are not owed a job because your Daddy and granddaddy and great granddaddy did it.
Peoples granddaddy's use to own slave's to is that OK now ? No! Your granddaddy and your daddy made liqueur out in the woods to is that OK now ? NO ! So If you want to go back to using the equipment they used 100 years ago, we could probably have a sustainable fishery - but not using today's technology. The amount of by-catch is simply too high to sustain a healthy fishery. We need to ban gill nets and severely reduce trawling, or there will not be anything left.


The net's and trawl's should have been banned years ago from being used in the sounds. This will not happen! The commercial fishermen has some very very deep pockets. And more payed off government officials than anyone. So the destruction of our fisheries will continue for years. Nothing is going to change until it is to late to reverse the damage! Then they will stop and blame everything under the sun except for them not doing there job of protecting our fisheries! It is so sad our government has put a price on our fisheries and dont care!!

David Collins

Far too many people wanting to consume far too little resource. Prime local seafood is shipped away to the highest bidder and it isn't here. Harvesting methods are way too efficient with too many players. If I don't catch them, someone else will. Take, take, take and never renourish or give them a chance to recover. Commercial fishing should be limited to full timers only and not to supplement another job, period. Way too many (part timers, wink, wink) in the game. No nets of any kind in the sounds and creeks, period. Haven't even touched on runaway development but to be sure it continues to take it's toll on the various fisheries and water quality. Time to get serious about this or shut up and let the hair go with the hide, so to speak. Not anti commercial at all but enough is enough.


I remember when huge menhaden schools darkened the water. The fishery collapsed because commercial fishing became too efficient. Now the shoals of fish appear very infrequently and they are not a recreational fish, they stink too bad.


The state has known the stocks have been overfished since 2002. They have attempted numerous times to reduce harvest but those who fish for a profit have stalled them every time. The stocks continue to decline or lie flat even with the conservation measures that have been tried.

The last stock assessment done two years ago said the same thing and ALL of the three peer review scientists who reviewed the assessment acknowledged there was something wrong with the stocks and it needed to be rebuild. Not one of them, not two....all of them.

NC has the least regulations of any state that has southern flounder in their waters. Some will point to recreational limits in other states being higher in NC and say I'm wrong, but they always fail to mention that those other states do not allow a net based commercial harvest in any of them. Take out the nets in NC's waters as the other states have done and see what happens to our stocks. They will rebuild themselves as will other species.

This should be passed. Trawls should not be allowed in our sounds, And the gill nets needs to be stopped as well !
NC seafood used to be plentiful, cheap, and free for all that could come to the coast and enjoy it. In recent years, those who fish for profit have aided in management that it is neither abundant or cheap anymore.


Just where do you dingbatters'I would think most of if not all of you were not born here in Carteret County but want to change things to Your liking ' think you are going to get your seafood from?Feel free'PLEASE' leave and move somewhere that people gives a f--- what your opinion is.

Core Sounder

I reckon one of the main reasons I have spent a large part of my 70 years in downeast Carteret county is the fact that I can always find fresh local seafood by catching my own or by going to a seafood dealer and buying it from them, seems like when the folks from west of 95 started arriving and buying up waterfront things started going downhill in a hurry. Now it seems that these same dingbats or their offspring are now demanding that commercials give up their way of life along our coastal community and either quit fishing with nets or start running a guide service for deep pocketed dingbats, I do not think that many people along our coast are willing to give up fresh seafood in order to appease a handful of deep pocketed recs that belong to the NC CCA. Do not allow these jerks to take over the coastal fishery in eastern NC and support our hard working watermen before its too late.


PINEYPOINTER (aka) dingbatter! It is so funny how some people like you want everyone to leave here! Does that mean you want all that was brought here to leave to? I dont see any power plants that is not a local thing so shut it off to the great people down here who dont need nothing but fish! No doctors i dont see a medical university here so they need to leave to, No gas refinery here so cut off the trucks. No automobile plant so stop sending them here! No boat motor plant so looks like you need to make some paddles! No clothing manufactures here so no more clothing needs to come here. No medicine, No oil, No nothing but a few dumb people that want to blame everyone for the destruction they have caused! Or should i say them and there granddaddy and great granddaddy has done over the years. And now that some want to try and reverse the damage all you want to do is cry! If there was only one fish left the commercial fishermen would be crying the government should have done something a long time ago to keep this from happening. Just like children if you leave them alone they will destroy everything around them, And blame you for letting them do it. If you try to help them they cry and say you are just picking on them. Now who dont give a f--- it is you! And the ones that has destroyed the fisheries !! All for a dollar! The bible states the root of all evil is Money !! I dont believe this it is man! Only man will destroy everything around him for Money. And cry once it is destroyed!


Regulation is necessary to protect our resources. Without regulation, everything would be gone. The degree of regulation that is necessary is dependant on the sustainability of the resource. Anyone who claims the fisheries are at a healthy status is in denial. All of us that have lived at or just visited the coastal waters can clearly see the decline of the fishery resource.

sick and tired

"All that was brought here" ??? Hate to tell you but I've been here my whole 48 years, and belive it or not we had electricity, doctors, hospitals, cars, gas, etc. So, I'm pretty sure you can't take credit for that. What you can take credit for is where there use to be trawlers there are condos and houses. Where there use to be plenty of food for use dumb locals to feed our families, because despite what y'all say, lots of us didn't make money off the water, we fed our families, and that was it, now we have closed waters, or regulations so we can't even get near the water because we might be breaking some regulations, we know nothing about. You can take credit for where there use to be beautiful land, there is now concrete and buildings(half of which are empty but there are more being built) Where there use to be wetlands, trucks after truck of dirt has been hauled in, filled in, and whatever you want built there. Where we use to be able to go and park to swim, from radio island and beyond, is now fenced off, and only usable by the new folks who can afford to build on what use to be unbuildable wetlands because as we were raised, AND told by the state, that was habitats and food for animals that we need, and filters for the lands. Where we once could swim EVERY DAY, now there is a swim advisory. When I was growing up, I remeber ONE swim advisory back when I was 16 or 17 so 1986 or so, from the red tide. Now, we have them daily. So, the destruction you speak of didn't exist here, well, until the influx of folks who came here to make it better. Sure we had to drive to New Bern back then, or beyond to go to a mall but our waters were clean, our land was beautiful, our families could feed themselves by grabbing a rake, a net, a rod, or a gig, and head to the water. We could afford our property taxes, we could afford our insurance, electric, gas, etc, all of which are now so out of proportion, which not to point out the obvious, also arrived with the new folks. I guess it would be hard for y'all to understand. I guess you don't know what a paradise we had because to y'all we needed help, improvements, progress.


sick and tired First let me tell you i was born here over 65 years ago! And yes sir all the thing i mentioned was here. You were just to wet behind the ears to remember it, or to look for it back then. My family has been around here for some 200 years the ONEAL'S are every where down here. Next my dad and grand dad were both commercial fishermen. So i saw it first hand. What was done back then. And There was no internet so new traveled slow if at all. And the only thing we have here that was not brought to from the west is seafood! Nothing else! Everyone want the people to leave but they want them to buy there product! All the commercial fishermen want the Dingbatters to leave and never come back . Well they are the ones keeping the business around here open and going. The locals dont buy enough to keep 1/3 of them open! If the Dingbatters as we love to call them stop buying the product what then. A fish market dont need fish if no one buys them! As for the pollution in our water that is everyone's fault. Look at the septic tanks we have in the grounds all over with leaking lines! And look at all the old used not in use boats sitting in fishermen s yard that is leaking oil and god knows what else all over the ground. Yes the new housing is a bad thing but how did they get the land? The locals sold it to them. Then complain on what is done with the land. Who's fault is it? But the problems is not getting better it is only getting worse.Things has got to change or your grand children are going to ask you grand paw what was it like to catch all the fish you wanted when you were young! Because they will be gone for them to catch!

sick and tired

Well, if you've been here all your life then you know what I'm talking about. As far as the locals not keeping 1/3 of the businesses open, we seemed to manage just fine until about a decade ago. Then all the big stores came in. I live in Beaufort, and the same busineses were here, forever, Stampers, Rollands, Vics\Royal James cafe, the spot, O'Neals Body shop, Marks Tire, Clawsons, The General Store, etc, etc. I'm NOT a commercial fisherman so, I never caught ALL the fish I wanted but I caught enough for dinner(nor am I a sir or grand paw, ma'am is more accurate) and I miss the days where I could come home from work, grab a bucket, and get me some clams or oysters for dinner. When I could stop at a dock and buy some shrimp, right off the boat, when I could catch a flounder to fry up for dinner, throw me a crab pot out, or a line and enjoy what God blessed me with to eat. I have never been one who wanted the dingbatters to leave and never come back, I just miss the days when they came for the day, week, and some came for the whole summer but they always went back. They didn't want to move here and make it just like where they moved from. As far as septic, they are never good for the ground but I do know that adding 10 times more to the ground(and that's being conservative) isn't going to make it better. As far as the locals selling the land well, obviously they did but the ones I know that did 90% said, quite frankly they couldn't afford the tax, insurance etc that has doubled, then doubled, and in some cases doubled again. And yes things go up but when it goes up over 40 years you can adjust, when it does this over 4 years, some can't. I'm sorry your dad and granddad did what they did and apparently ruined our waters, I wouldn't know, you saw it first hand, not me. I do know that I will be another one of those locals who will be selling and moving with in the next few years, because as my husband said, honey, we aren't going to be able to afford it. We are blessed that our house it paid for and we have only car payments but with retirement around the corner, and the cost to live here going up the way it is, not being able to supplement our food cost with the ocean that surrounds us, like we did in times past, we too will have to go. It saddens me quite frankly John, this is my home, this was the best, safest, friendliest, loving paradise God could have ever blessed us with and to raise our son in but those days are gone. Such is life, things change. Do away with the fisherman, that will be one problem solved, but you will need to work on the next, which is development, and port expansion or the grandkids will still be asking, grand paw what was it like.


I've been here 5 years, so I guess I'm still a dingbatter. I wish I'd grown up here, seen what it was like before the development. I grew up and lived in several places that ppl moved to and then wanted to change to make "more like where they came from." I'd never want to live in one of those places again. This is like heaven here, with mom and pop stores, small towns and ppl who actually talk to you and have conversations with you. I fear that it will all be gone in a generation and it will be more like the places I left if development keeps happening.

For those who say development is great for the economy and the towns, look around. Where are the good paying jobs for people who don't have degrees? Where are even the good paying jobs for those with degrees? Most of my neighbors work two or more jobs just to keep up with the rising costs. I just see more and more short terms jobs (bridge jobs won't last forever) and Dollar Trees - who can make a living working there? If you look at OBX and other "resort" areas, the locals have to work several low paying jobs to just make it - and there isn't a lot of affordable housing. They import workers from other countries during their busy season to work - workers who don't pay all the taxes and who bunk together in tiny trailers during the season. Do we want that here?

Look at the businesses going in - where are the ones that will benefit the year round young families who could raise families here and contribute a lifetime to the economy and to the growth of the area? The mini golf is an improvement, as is the skatepark, but we need to keep focusing on year round growth, not short term, seasonal jobs and benefits.

Some ppl seem to be angry at the locals who just want to fish like their grandparents and parents did. Yea it's important to make sure the fishing environment stays safe and stocked, but not at the detriment of the locals who grew up fishing and the culture that NC wants to espouse. I think it's great that you can still fish and clam here without having to go to the store and spend $ - this is one way locals have been able to survive the low paying jobs. Without freedom of fishing, we'll just be eating all the fish China grows in their fish farms. There has to be a reasonable compromise everyone can make, but the locals should be able to be involved in the compromise - not just the government. What about all the fishermen who come in for these big contests and how they impact the amount of fish around here? It seems like they would have a real big impact negatively too on the amount of fish, but everyone wants to blame the locals.

In terms of the leaking septics and old boats, that is a good comment. There's probably a lot of pollution that way and I don't think anyone has a good solution for that one, but it sounds like a good point.

I love it here and I hope it really doesn't develop out of control like OBX and other resort areas, as more $ from short term vacationers doesn't always solve all the problems - it just brings in more issues, with less well paying jobs (hotel maids and fast food jobs) that don't help build a strong local economy. Maybe instead of focusing on how we can attract more vacationers, the towns should put their money into how they can make the towns stronger and attract well paying jobs or start focusing on building affordable housing that isn't just an apartment building here and there. Make the Lennoxville builder set aside a certain percentage of houses that will be sold at affordable rates for the locals - not these high prices that most of us can't afford.


Sick and Fired I apologize for say sir, No disrespect intended. But yes i do know what you are saying about the building up of our country and coat line. I to am no fan but i can do nothing to stop it. Now the biggest reason we do see so many people moving down here is one thing! Our property taxes are almost the lowest in the state! I checked it out a few years ago and it is true. And i remember going out fishing and catching all i wanted to eat also years ago! Gone but not forgotten. But when i was young the gear the commercial fishermen used was different than that of today. The gill nets was made of cloth so the fish could see it and about 30 to 40 % of the fish would see it and not swim into it. But today's gill nets are made of mono filament fishing line so they cant be see in the water until the fish are caught. Thats why they have earned the name curtain of death! It kills everything. And the trawls are using a net small enough to catch a shrimp smaller then your finger so you know what it is doing to all the small fish to yep killing them. Look up the amount of by-catch caught by shrimpers! It will blow your mind to see the millions of millions of fish that are killed in a days time on our coat line from shrimp trawls! As for the stores coming here it helped us to have them come here. I shop Walmart, Roses, Dollar tree and Dollar General, Food lion, All the time the prices are cheaper i am on a fixed income. My dad did say back years ago, "That nothing stays the same but constant change" And he is right. And if we live long enough we are going to see it change a lot more in time. It just how life is.

Concerned and Confused

Throughout human existence we have relied on the oceans – for food, as a waste dump, for recreation, for economic opportunities and so on. However, it’s not only our activities in the marine environment that affect life in the sea – it’s also the things we do on land. With more than half the world’s population now living within 100 miles of the coast, it’s not surprising that our activities are taking their toll. Human impacts have increased along with our rapid population growth, substantial developments in technology and significant changes in land use. Over-fishing, pollution and introduced species are affecting life in the sea. Our oceans have long been used as an intentional dumping ground for all sorts of waste including sewage, industrial run-off and chemicals. In more recent times, policy changes in many countries have reflected the view that the ocean does not have an infinite capacity to absorb our waste. However, marine pollution remains a major problem and threatens life in the sea at all levels.
Some marine pollution may be accidental, for example, oil spills caused by tanker accidents. Some may be indirect, when pollutants from our communities flow out to sea via storm water drains and rivers. Some effects may not be immediately obvious, for example, bioaccumulation – the process where levels of toxic chemicals in organisms increase as they eat each other at each successive trophic level in the food web. All marine pollution has the potential to seriously damage marine habitats and life in the sea. Scientists are concerned that marine pollution places extra stress on organisms that are already threatened or endangered.
So you see, there are far more things that affect our waters than just blaming the commercial fishermen. Don't try to make them out to be the bad guy when other things contribute to the marine habitat destruction. So if you are going to continue to strangle the commercial fishing industry in our state, then you also need to go after the developers, the farmers, and the yacht owners who also play a part with their so called treated waste that they pump overboard, and the careless recreational fishermen who discard their trash and tangled fishing line overboard.


The Article was about Trawls and shrimping and the destruction is has and is causing our fisheries stocks. Not about what you liked back in the day. Everyone keeps saying it was so great back then. Well dont you think the Indians say that to before us! Before we came in and murdered and took everything they ever had away from them and made them leave and called it ours. But that was ok it was called progress back then too. Don't be hypocrites we stole it from someone else now we want other to leave it because it is ours!


Concerned and Confused You are right to a point. First the 6,537 commercial fishermen land more fish in most cases than the more 500,000 rec fisher men do every year! Let that sink in for a minute. That is the only reason they will not allow no more than 6,537 commercial fishing license. Next look up By-catch like has been mention the comments here. Now i know all the thing you stated are factors. And if you will look into it you will find fishing line now is made to decay twice as fast as it did 10 years ago. Next i see commercial fishermen doing the same with trash and waste. But you see we have to slow down the destruction of our fisheries and the only way is by doing it to every one. The rec fishermen are limited now so bad some of them want even come to our coast they are going to other states to fish. And more and more are doing it every year. But the commercial fishermen are not limited on amount in most cases. And you will never ever ever, find or hear the real amount of by-catch the gill netters have! They would never report it. If they did report the true amount of by-catch they landed on every pull they made, it would be shut down in the first year. They wast more than most all other commercial fishermen do combined. We can blame all we want on other stuff.But think about this. The Chesapeake bay in VA was known as the chemical catalpa of the world back in the 70's. And it is a little better now not a lot. But look at there fisheries. You can go there and land 1 1/2 lb spot and croker all day long. Where can you do there here in NC?

David Collins

Just a note on monofilament. Yes they have changed the formula and when exposed to the sun it will degrade relatively quickly. Same goes for plastic jugs of milk or water. The sun is the key player and when the mono becomes covered with slime the sun can't reach it. Still it is better than the original 25,000 year degradation period.
Sadly the mono and Polly degrades into little pieces that are swallowed by all sorts of critters . Not a good thing.


I too don't think this will ever be passed. The commercial fishermen has had this fixed for years. Not going to happen. Just add more restrictions to the rec fishermen is all this is going to do. And yes the Gill nets and Shrimp Trawls has been the biggest destruction of our fisheries. The problem is no one knows what amount of fish are being killed in gill nets on a soak! I have seen then being worked so i know the commercial fishermen don't want the public to know the amount! The DMF knows it is an extremely high amount of waste with gill nets but they allow it anyway! They know the gill nets and Trawls are destroying our fisheries but will do nothing to stop it. God i hope the Fed's will look into it i know letters are being sent to them now about this.


Beachman It wont these crying people saying there daddy's daddy's daddy's did it so they should be able to do it to !! They Will keep destroying the fisheries and the rec and public will keep paying the price. Of there ignorance!!


We can only hope. But nothing will be done just like for the Grey trout nothing. The damage will not reverse it's self until things are changed. When the nets are removed out of our sounds then the fisheries will start to rebound. But until then it will only be depleted. I for one just hope they dont wait until it is to late then try after the stock has collapsed and cant rebuild it's self. Witch is what they will do !

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