Marine Fisheries Commission advocates for water quality programs, delays action on striped mullet plan

Marine Fisheries Commission advocates for water quality programs, delays action on striped mullet plan

February 27th, 2023

The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission took a stand with its fellow state environmental commissions for improved water quality in North Carolina.

The Commission adopted a resolution advocating for increased funding for and expansion of cost-share programs that assist landowners in managing and reducing the amount of nutrient runoff into the state’s waters.

The resolution was developed by the Collaborative Coastal Habitat Initiative, a private-public partnership formed as a recommendation from the Coastal Habitat Protection Plan 2021 amendment.

The resolution was also adopted by the Coastal Resources Commission this week, and it is on the Environmental Management Commission’s agenda for its March 9 meeting.

In other business, the commission voted on but did not adopt Supplement A to Amendment 1 of the Striped Mullet Fishery Management Plan, as scheduled. The draft supplement included three draft options for commercial and recreational season closures to end overfishing.

The most recent striped mullet stock assessment indicated that the stock is overfished and overfishing is occurring. The supplement is meant to immediately end overfishing while Amendment 2 is under development. Commission Chairman Rob Bizzell said the matter will come back before the commission at its May meeting.

The commission also took the following action:

  • Asked Division of Marine Fisheries staff to develop rulemaking language with management options to allow for growth at various percentage points for false albacore.
  • Adopted amendments to two rules
    • Mutilated Finfish Rule (15A NCAC 03M .0101), and
    • Marinas, Mooring Areas, and Other Docking Facilities Rule (15A NCAC 18A .0911).

The mutilated finfish rule would provide flexibility to manage current conditions for the use of certain finfish species as cut bait, as well as variable conditions that could occur in the future, all while continuing to protect fisheries resources.

Due to current possession limits, use of American eel, spot, Atlantic croaker, and bluefish as cut bait creates conflicts with the current mutilated finfish rule based on communication from stakeholders, feedback from Marine Patrol officers, and implications from stock assessments and
fishery management plans.

Additionally, changes to the current exception for mullet may be needed based on the outcome of the striped mullet stock assessment and management changes developed through the fishery management plan process.

It is likely that species beyond the five outlined could require similar consideration in the future.

The Marinas rules is in relation to the harvest classification of shellfish growing waters in and around marinas.

The National Shellfish Sanitation Program Guide for the Control of Molluscan Shellfish requires that a pollution assessment be used to determine the necessary classification in and around the marina docks, and that a dilution analysis be used to determine the size of any harvest closure that may be necessary because of the pollution assessment.

The current rule already requires that a pollution assessment be used to determine the necessary classification in and around the marina docks, but it does not require a dilution analysis to determine closure size, and instead prescribes specific closure measurements based on a limited number of marina characteristics.

The proposed rule would maintain the pollution assessment requirement and would also require that a dilution analysis be used to determine closure size.

Also, the elimination of an exemption clause from the rule would allow for more clarity among stakeholders and help ensure consistent, clear, and more efficient enforcement across marinas.

Both rules must be approved by the NC Rules Review Commission and the Mutilated Finfish is automatically subject to legislative review. The earliest effective date for the Marinas rule is May 1, 2023. The earliest effective date for the Mutilated Finfish Rule is in 2024.

  • Selected options for a number of proposed rules pertaining to the below three issues to allow staff to prepare rulemaking items for a later meeting,
    • Data Collection and Harassment Prevention for the Conservation of Marine and Estuarine Resources,
    • Oyster Sanctuary Rule Changes, and
    • Conforming Rule Changes for Shellfish Relay Program and Shellfish Leases and Franchises.

Click here to read more details from the meeting, including agenda, briefing book, and audio.

Posted in GOV
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