N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission To Consider Changes To Shrimp Trawling Industry

May 14, 2018

View from inside trawl looking forward of the Composite Panel BRD with fish spooker cone.
Credit NOAA Fisheries Harvesting Systems Unit

The North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission plans to discuss and possibly vote on new gear requirements in the shrimp trawl fishery at their quarterly business meeting in New Bern on Wednesday and Thursday.  


A three-year study identified four new gear configurations that reduce finfish bycatch by at least 40 percent.  The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries, NOAA Fisheries and N.C. Sea Grant worked with commercial fishermen and local net makers to test 14 different trawl net configurations.

“Each time that we met, they would define what gears to be tested and, you know, as the three-year process went on, we started seeing some devices that showed more promise and we started focusing our efforts on those type of devices.”

Kevin Brown, gear development biologist with the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries says nearly 314,000 pounds of fish and shrimp were sampled during the study.  

Credit NCDMF

“Typically, when these bycatch reduction certifications are done, you subsample.  Typically, you have one observer on board and he samples both catch… But since the industry had some reservations about the subsampling process, they requested that we whole haul sampled, which we felt met our needs and gave them some more ownership in the process.  So we did that but we had to put two observers on board just to handle the amount of material that we weighed and measured.”

Brown plans to present the findings to the commission on Thursday for possible management action.  If the new gear requirements are approved, it would change the bycatch reduction devices that are allowed in the Pamlico Sound.

The gear combinations that achieved at least a 40% reduction in finfish bycatch include:

1)      Double federal fisheyes, 1 7/8-inch tailbag, and 4-inch TED

+     Reduces finfish bycatch: -40.8%

+     Net gain in shrimp observed: +1%

+     Reduces culling time due to less bycatch

+     Potential to catch larger shrimp

+     Implements actions of Amendment 1 to the Shrimp FMP

-           Costs associated with purchasing and installing gear: +$600 per net

-          Untested on smaller vessels and in the Atlantic Ocean

2)      Double federal fisheyes, 1 3/4-inch tailbag, and 4-inch TED

+     Reduces finfish bycatch: -57.2%

+     Reduces culling time due to less bycatch

+     Implements actions of Amendment 1 to the Shrimp FMP

-      Observed shrimp losses greater than 5%: -12.1%

-        Costs associated with purchasing and installing gear: +$600 per net

-        Untested on smaller vessels and in the Atlantic Ocean

3)      Double federal fisheyes, 1 3/4-inch tailbag, and 3-inch TED

+     Reduces finfish bycatch: -44.9%

+     Reduces shark bycatch: -18.6%

+     Potential reductions in debris and jellyfish

+     Reduces culling time due to less bycatch

+     Observed shrimp losses greater than 5%: -4.9%

+     Implements actions of Amendment 1 to the Shrimp FMP

-             Costs associated with purchasing and installing gear: +$1,250 per net

-             Potential fouling issues in areas and times of high grass concentrations

-             Untested on smaller vessels and in the Atlantic Ocean

4)      Single state fisheye, 1 ¾-inch tailbag, and Virgil Potter BRD

+     Reduces finfish bycatch: -43.2%

+     Reduces culling time due to less bycatch

+     Implements actions of Amendment 1 to the Shrimp FMP

-             Costs associated with purchasing and installing gear: +$800 per net

-             Observed shrimp losses greater than 5%: -5.5%

-             Untested on smaller vessels and in the Atlantic Ocean