NMFS accepts comments on proposed gear restricting zones

Points on a map indicate potential special management zones the National Marine Fisheries Service is considering establishing off the Carteret County coast. (Contributed graphic)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Carteret County residents and others have an opportunity to provide input to federal fisheries managers on potential restrictions to fishing gear.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries service is accepting public comment on Regulatory Amendment 34 to the fishery management plan for the snapper-grouper fishery of the South Atlantic Region.  Comments on the proposed rule are due by Wednesday, Dec. 16. The proposed rule would create 30 special management zones around artificial reefs off North Carolina, including six off the coast of Carteret County, and four off of South Carolina. The the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources have requested these SMZs. 

The proposed SMZs range in size from 0.041 to 1.01 square miles. There would be additional gear and harvest restrictions within the proposed zones.

The stated purpose of the framework amendment is to restrict use of fishing gear that could result in high exploitation rates to reduce adverse effects to federally managed snapper-grouper species at these sites. Harvest of snapper-grouper species would only be allowed with handline, rod and reel and spear in the SMZs. Therefore, the action would prohibit the use of bandit reel, powerhead, pot and longline gear at the sites.

In the proposed SMZs off North Carolina, harvest of snapper-grouper species by spear would be limited to the applicable recreational bag limit.

Comments may be submitted by electronic submission or by regular mail. Comments sent by any other method to any other address or individual or received after the end of the comment period may not be considered by NOAA Fisheries.

Anyone interested in submitting comments online may do so by visiting regulations.gov/docket?D=NOAA-NMFS-2020-0123, clicking the “Comment Now!” icon, completing the required fields and entering or attaching comments.

Comments may also be submitted by regular mail to Rick DeVictor, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.

More information on Regulatory Amendment 34 may be found online at the NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office website at fisheries.noaa.gov/action/regulatory-amendment-34-special-management-zones-smz.

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