N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Motions To Change Shrimp Trawling Rules

May 17, 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 voted Thursday to change the way large vessels trawl for shrimp in the Pamlico Sound. 

After more than three hours of discussion, the Commission unanimously passed the motion, requiring shrimp trawls to use a gear combination that reduces finfish bycatch by least 40 percent.  The new gear requirements apply to shrimp trawls where greater than 90-foot headrope length is allowed.  The changes become effective July 1st, 2019.  

“It’s a long process, that’s how these things turn out a lot of times with contentious issues," said Kevin Brown, gear development biologist with the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries.  "But I think the motions that were made have a lot of positive change in them and I think the industry has buy in to it.  Overall, it’s going to be a good thing for bycatch reduction in North Carolina’s shrimp trawl fishery.”

The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission also voted to explore funding options to continue the shrimp industry workgroup, which consists of commercial fishers and net makers.  The Division of Marine Fisheries plans to implement a survey to gather information on current bycatch reduction devices used by the industry.  

Brown presented the findings of a three-year study to the Commission that identified four new gear configurations that significantly reduce bycatch. Fourteen different trawl net configurations were tested and nearly 314,000 pounds of fish and shrimp were sampled during the study.  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