February 17, 2017 — WILMINGTON, N.C. — The state Marine Fisheries Commission voted Thursday to begin drafting rules that would limit trawling for shrimp in North Carolina’s inland coastal waters, a move that many on the coast say could destroy the shrimping industry.
The decision came after months of wrangling between commercial and recreational fishermen, with the latter group arguing that trawlers are scooping up millions of young fish before they’re old enough to spawn, effectively killing off fish stocks in the region.
The North Carolina Wildlife Federation petitioned the state – the only one on the East Coast that allows shrimp trawling in its sounds and estuaries – to reduce the size of trawler nets, limit how long nets could be pulled in the water, permit shrimping only three days per week and eliminate night-time shrimping.
“North Carolina has some of the most lenient shrimp trawling rules on the East and the Gulf Coast,” said David Knight, a policy consultant for the Wildlife Federation.
Thousands of people signed petitions against the proposal, and commercial fishermen packed Marine Fisheries Commission meetings in recent months to make their stance known. Hundreds left in disgust Thursday after the commission overrode the recommendations of its advisory committees and accepted the Wildlife Federation’s petition.
“What just happened today is appalling,” said Brent Fulcher, who owns Beaufort Inlet Seafood in Beaufort. “The state process is broken.”