Cape Carteret commission endorses anti-gill net legislation

Cape Carteret commissioners Monday night voted to endorse state legislation to place a referendum proposing a ban on use of gill nets and other entangling nets in coastal waters on a future statewide ballot. (News-Times photo)

CAPE CARTERET — Cape Carteret commissioners Monday night endorsed state legislation that would set up a statewide referendum on whether to ban the use of gill nets and other “entangling” nets in coastal waters.

The action to endorse House Bill 513 came during the panel’s regular meeting in town hall and virtually via GoToMeeting and was proposed by Commissioner Steve Martin. It passed by a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Jeff Wateropposed.

Mr. Martin said he is an avid, longtime fisherman in the waters in and around the town and elsewhere and views gill nets as “an indiscriminate killer” of fish that are important to recreational fishermen and to the local economy.

Mr. Martin also said he believes commercial watermen should favor the legislation because it will give all state voters the opportunity to decide on language to help ensure enough fish spawn to maintain healthy populations.

The bill was introduced in the state House by Rep. Bill Richardson, a Democrat from Fayetteville.

“I’ve fished these waters for 50 years. I’m not against netting per se,” Mr. Martin said during the meeting. “I am against gill netting in internal waters. I’m not against commercial fishermen.”

He added, however, fish “are a public resource that belongs to all, not just … commercial fishermen. Let everyone in the state have a say in this.”

Commissioner Jim Nalitz said he voted for the town’s resolution “because it seems all we are doing is (endorsing) a referendum.”

Mr. Waters said as a lifelong Cape Carteret resident, he was raised on the water and believes it’s the job of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries to make those decisions.

In an interview Wednesday, he said fewer and fewer people use gill nets every year, but the few that still use them do so “to feed their families,” either directly or by selling the fish they catch to earn their livings.

In addition, he said most people who would vote in a referendum “don’t even know what a gill net is and wouldn’t know what they’re voting on, so they’d just vote against gill nets.”

Specifically, the legislation states if the referendum passes, it will become illegal to use either a gill net or other entangling nets in coastal fishing waters for the purpose of catching or taking any saltwater finfish, shellfish or other marine animals.

In addition, it states, “no other type of net containing more than 500 square feet of mesh area shall be used in coastal fishing waters” and “no more than two nets which shall not be connected shall be used from any vessel, and no person not on a vessel shall use more than one net in coastal fishing waters.”

If passed, the referendum would not include a ban on the use of hand-thrown cast nets.

Rep. Richardson’s bill proposes the referendum be held in November 2022.

The bill missed the deadline to cross over from the House of Representatives to the state Senate, but its introduction has caused alarm among some commercial fishing officials.

N.C. Fisheries Association Executive Director and commercial fisherman Glenn Skinner has voiced opposition to the proposed referendum and net restrictions.

“We (the NCFA) don’t think the bill is going anywhere,” Mr. Skinner previously told the News-Times. “Our biggest concern is you have any representatives in Raleigh willing to sign their name to a bill with no scientific evidence to back it up.”

However, Coastal Conservation Association North Carolina Executive Director David Sneed said in a May 28 statement on the association’s news blog the organization “wholeheartedly supports the idea of a net referendum bill.”

“It’s driven by political science, not fisheries science,” Mr. Skinner rebutted. “My initial response (to concerns about overfishing) is to look at the other states that have implemented these bans. It hasn’t ended overfishing. You talk to the fisheries managers in these states, and they say it hasn’t prevented it.”

Mr. Skinner said he hopes voters “would have enough sense not to hurt food productivity.”


Reporter Mike Shutak contributed to this article.


Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.

(9) comments


I agree that fish species should be for everyone but it seems like the some want to rob Peter to pay Paul. Commercial fishing is not a sport folks, it's a way of survival. I have been living in Carteret County for 50 years and worked on the water the majority of my life. First of all, the job market in the county is a thing of the past. Most commercial fishermen rely on the industry to pay bills and feed their families. Second, recreational fishermen are no saints to the fish species. I'm not saying all of them now so don't get this misconstrued. I have been on piers and witnessed those on the shore literally kill the fish just because it was a non-edible one by stomping it or slamming it on the ground. So this is all good in the eyes of the people who want this referendum? How many times do you see DMF enforcement on the piers and shores check-in license and catches? Not many but they target the commercial fishermen who are just trying to earn a living. Give them a break already, you have already cut their gear sizes and shut off more waters for them to use. You said fishing should be for everyone right?, So stop trying to keep it away from the commercial fishermen and giving it to the recreational fishermen.

David Collins

Agree that widespread inland gill netting should be stopped but then I agreed and voted for voter ID only to have the people’s voice stymied by a leftist Judge . Is this going to be stymied 2.0 ?


It is disingenuous to make claims like "gill net bans in other states have not worked" without the science to back it up. There is plenty of evidence that the removal of gill nets in other southeastern states has improved fish stocks but it is often in conjunction with other progressive fisheries management actions which makes it difficult to quantify. A recent study by the NC Marien & Estuary Foundation found that "In some cases, fish stocks appear to have recovered when gear bans were enacted alongside other management actions". If our elected officials in Raleigh do not want to deal with the issue, then let the people decide. After all, it is a public trust resource.

David Collins

Do not piers and charter/head boats carry blanket licenses for their customers ? Yeah there are “ SLOB “ recreational fishermen/people out there as well as commercial types and they need to be harshly educated . Sadly , members of our legislature have in the past taken the teeth out of NMF enforcement . That needs to be restored . In past years , my bride and I witnessed inshore trawlers and netters culling their catch and tossing dead bycatch over the side for a few pounds of fish and shrimp . Wasteful then , wasteful now . Everything can be used in someway .


Is a cast net an entangling device? Yes-yes, it is! Perhaps cast nets should be included….😑


Just a thought here, while serving in the Coast Guard and having duty as a boarding officer to inspect and enforce Federal Boating Rules and Regulations. It was instructed at the time that the Coast Guard enforces laws under the Authorization, of the Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) and having full jurisdiction in all US territorial waters which I believe is with in 200 nautical miles and all the way up to inside cannons gate pond. Global enforcement if the vessel is registered or documented in the US. Federal. Authorization, Enforcement and Jurisdiction. Coast Guard does not enforce state rules and regs. Example; During a boarding the operator presents a paddle or oar and we the CG says we don't enforce state required additional equipment. Point here is why and how can a township impose gill net ban in their township lines which do not extend on to the water, period. State fishery and Wildlife enforce state laws in all state waters, that's in NC and not Texas Just a thought.

David Collins

A cast net is a personal purse seine . Fish are not entangled and can and do escape unharmed . Gill nets capture the fish largely by their gills generally killing most of them . The targeted species is kept and the “trash” is discarded . Just a time honored method that needs to stop .

Seine nets are not covered by this or are they ? Details , details , details .

Suspect little or nothing will come from this , been down this road a few times before . Dead end .


Lets also outlaw fishing rods' also the big rock marlin slaughter'for sport and prize money by the mostly rich and outboard motor boats running over 5 mph to keep from hitting the turtles.

David Collins

You can certainly advocate for it .

Welcome to the discussion.

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