NORTH CAROLINA — Why is North Carolina the only state that facilitates the killing of threatened and endangered sea turtles by commercial fishermen?

Why is renewing the statewide gillnet Incidental Take Permit (ITP) such a priority for the state’s Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF)?

The destructive impacts of gillnets are one part of a critically important issue facing all North Carolinians – the chronic decline of the state’s coastal fisheries due to mass overharvesting for profit. The only purpose for the ITP is to keep commercial gillnet fishermen fishing, and more specifically, to keep them fishing for southern flounder, a stock that has been decimated by more than three decades of overfishing.

The North Carolina DMF is currently applying for a 10-year renewal of an existing federal permit that allows killing or injury to threatened and endangered sea turtles by commercial gillnets. Instead of protecting threatened marine life, the state’s priority is to protect commercial operators who use gillnets, a wasteful method of mass harvest which has been banned or severely restricted in every seafood-producing state – other than North Carolina – from Texas to Maryland.

North Carolina is the only state in the country that has such a permit. Making matters even worse, according to pro-resource advocates led by Coastal Conservation of North Carolina (CCA NC), the permit isn’t necessary at all. Traditional gears that cause only minimal harm to sea turtles already harvest, on average, more than the entire annual commercial quota for southern flounder.

The ITP renewal process has been done “under the radar” without sufficient public notice or discussion. The state’s ITP renewal application can be read at this link:

The National Marine Fisheries Service will receive public comment through Feb. 22 and make its decision on the ITP renewal this spring. Public comments on the current renewal application are overwhelmingly against the renewal. Similarly, public comments were also overwhelmingly against issuance of the original permit. In light of that overwhelming public sentiment, why is the state so determined to go forward with the permit?

Some of the primary reasons that the ITP should not be renewed are listed below. CCA NC is currently engaged in legal action against the state, asserting that decades of bad resource management favoring maximum extraction for profit have infringed on the constitutional rights of the public anglers. See the Associated Press story at “Appeals court says NC fisheries challenge can continue | AP News” and check out for additional information.

Questions/Concerns over Renewing the 10-Year Federal ITP for Sea Turtles

The critically depleted status of the southern flounder fishery: Southern flounder is an extremely significant food fish stock that is owned in common by all of the citizens of North Carolina. Despite its public importance, the stock has been grossly mismanaged by the state and allowed to be continuously overfished for more than three decades. Nevertheless, the ITP is being sought primarily to allow less than 700 commercial fishermen to mass harvest a depleted stock.

The necessity – or lack thereof – for the ITP: The ITP is entirely unnecessary, given the traditional use and continued availability of more benign commercial gears to harvest southern flounder.

The inequities involved in the state’s management of southern flounder: Southern flounder is perhaps the species most sought after by public anglers, yet the state allocates 70% of total allowable harvest to a few thousand commercial licensees, leaving only 30% of harvest available to the other 11 million citizens of North Carolina. That means that currently public anglers can only harvest one fish per day and only during the month of September.

The economics of southern flounder management: Historically, the positive economic impact of public angler flounder fishing is estimated by DMF at $240 million per year, while commercial flounder landings are valued at approximately $5.5 million annually.

The substantial costs of the ITP: The relatively small economic impacts of gillnetting do not justify the public investment – which is in the millions of dollars – in the bureaucracy and other costs of the observer program, reporting and other tasks the ITP requires of DMF.

DMF’s ITP compliance record: Over the 10-year term of the original ITP, DMF’s compliance with ITP conditions has been problematic, and compliance efforts have required significant public expense and diversion of resources, in large part because of lack of cooperation from the gillnet fishermen the ITP is meant to legally protect.

Harm to the state’s sea turtles: While the federal ITP program creates a limited exception for allowable harm to protected species incidental to traditional human activities, state statutes still prohibit killing or harming sea turtles, without exception.

(3) comments


First, I'm tired of being blamed, as a recreational fisherman, for the depletion of fish stocks in NC. Totally wrong. If we ever sent to have our available fish stock, especially flounder, remove all netting operations in inland waters. This includes all gill nets, all trawler nets, etc. To find out what's really going on here, FOLLOW THE MONEY.

David Collins

Are you sure that is a Pelican in the photos ?


Lets remove all dingbatters from Carteret County .Much better solution


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