MOREHEAD CITY — Carteret County-area commercials and recreational fishermen are working with Coastal Carolina Riverwatch to tackle threats to water quality.
CCRW announced Wednesday it’s launched a new program, Water Quality for Fisheries. The effort is a collaboration between CCRW and commercial and recreational fishermen to build stakeholder and public support for improving North Carolina’s water quality.
“Together, we’re identifying recommended future actions to improve water quality through the voices of the coastal fishing community,” CCRW Executive Director and interim waterkeeper Lisa Rider told the News-Times Thursday.
The program was formed based on the results of a March 4-21 survey CCRW conducted, with assistance from East Carolina University. Five priority water quality concerns were identified in the report: agriculture and factory farm runoff, stormwater runoff, plastic pollution, industrial pollution and municipal wastewater and septic tanks.
“Through research and assessment, we know that industrial agriculture and factory farming impacts water quality, and therefore fisheries, through runoff of chemical and bacterial pollutants,” Ms. Rider said. “North Carolinians can help reduce these impacts by supporting small, sustainable farms, reducing industrial farmed foods and advocating for improvements in industrial farm regulations.”
Stormwater runoff, meanwhile, is the No. 1 source of non-point water pollution on the state’s coast. Stormwater washing over impervious surfaces, like pavement, can carry pollutants into nearby water bodies.
As a part of its new program, the CCRW has formed an industry working group of commercial and recreational fishermen to address each of the priority concerns. The goals of the group are as follows:
- Collaborate and communicate with fisheries representatives to address concerns about how water quality affects fisheries.
- Learn what’s currently being done in North Carolina to address water quality issues affecting fisheries.
- Make recommendations on what more needs to be done to improve water quality for fisheries.
- Propose next steps to address gaps in what’s not being done for water quality issues.
The group held its first meeting June 15 and will hold its next meeting July 13. Among the group’s members are N.C. Fisheries Association Executive Director Glenn Skinner of Newport, Hooper Family Seafood owner and operator Mark Hooper of Smyrna and Ryan Bethea of Harkers Island.
Mr. Hooper said Thursday good water quality is “the bedrock of our industry.”
“The working group is made up of recreational and commercial fishers,” he said. “Part of the idea is that we’re on the water more than most folks and would see poor water quality events or have an impression that water quality is affecting our various fisheries.”
Other members of the group are Thomas Newman of Williamston, Sam Romano of Wilmington, Greg Ludlum of North Topsail Beach, Joey Van Dyke of Frisco, Krissi Fountain of Wrightsville Beach and Jot Owens of Wilmington.
As of Friday, the working group has discussed the first of the water quality priorities, addressing agricultural and industrial farm runoff. Carteret County is home to Open Grounds Farm, one of the largest east of the Mississippi River.
“The working group would like to know what type of long-term water quality data is being assembled and what are the trends (from the farm),” Mr. Hooper said. “I live in Smyrna and work in Jarrett’s Bay and Core Sound…generally water quality is good.”
Mr. Hooper went on to say stormwater runoff issues tend to come up more in areas with development and the heads of creeks. He has a clam growing operation in Midden’s Creek, which he said is closed to shellfishing whenever there’s 2 inches of rainfall or more in a 24-hour period.
“I think there are things that could be done to help mitigate this issue,” he said.
Last but not least, Mr. Hooper said severe weather events, like hurricanes, can cause drastic changes in water quality in a large area. This may affect marine life in their larval stages.
“In the fall of the year, some larvae, such as crabs, are moving from the ocean to the sounds,” he said. “If this larvae is hit with a wall of fresh water from storm events, (it’s) hard to say what the effect would be. That fresh water is also carrying all kinds of contaminates.”
CCRW is working on gathering more information on existing policies, programs and research into the five identified primary concerns. An assessment is underway as of May, which will be finalized and published in the fall.
“Recommendations from the assessment, including specific recommendations from the industry working group, will be released throughout the program,” Ms. Rider said. “The agriculture and factory farm runoff assessment recommendations will be released in July, after all written comments are collected from the IWG during the comment period.”
Contact Mike Shutak at 252-723-7353, email email@example.com; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.