RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolina’s Marine Fisheries Commission is expected to vote Thursday on a proposal that would place certain conditions on shrimp trawling in order to reduce the bycatch of juvenile fish such as spot, Atlantic croaker and grey trout.
The new rules would allow the state to regulate the times when shrimp could be harvested, manage the coastal areas open to shrimping, and limit the size of shrimp nets. Tim Gestwicki CEO of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation says destructive fishing practices have harmed the health of the state’s fish populations.
“On average, for every pound of shrimp harvested, there’s an additional four pounds of fin fish harvested and wasted, primarily juvenile,” Gestwicki says.
Supporters of the proposal say putting caps on shrimp trawling would set commercial and recreational fisheries on the road to recovery by reducing juvenile fish deaths and giving them the opportunity to spawn at least once before being harvested.
Gestwicki says North Carolina’s lax trawling rules have allowed large commercial fishery businesses to swoop in and harvest shrimp at the expense of local small-scale fishermen.
“For more than two decades, we’ve allowed unfettered trawling in our estuaries, the only state on the East Coast that allows that,” says Gestwicki. “And here we are twenty-plus years later, and our fish stocks are in total collapse.”
Gestwicki adds that when fish are caught in shrimp nets as bycatch, estuarine food chains and ecosystems are heavily disrupted. More information on the proposal is on the North Carolina Wildlife Federation’s website.