Proposed regulations aim to reduce shrimp bycatch

NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) – Proposed regulations on shrimpers could have significant impacts on the daily catches as well as the fishing industry in eastern North Carolina.

The biggest talking point between state and federal agencies and the fishermen is how to help the environment thrive without hindering the fishing industry.

The Division of Marine Fisheries is working to reduce bycatch, which is the number of fish accidentally caught in shrimping nets.

To do that, they’re proposing changes to bycatch reduction devices on shrimpers’ trawl nets.

The state currently requires 20 square-inch fish eyes on bycatch reduction devices. Federally, that number increases to 36 square inches.

“The stuff that we’re testing right now will not have a large financial impact on individual fishermen,” said Kevin Brown, a gear development biologist. “Most devices are probably in the $25 to $30 range so if we’re requiring two, obviously the 50 dollar range.”

Federal and state agencies met with fishermen in New Bern Monday to present research on different types of bycatch reduction devices.

The goal is to reduce bycatch by 40 percent federally and statewide by 60 percent.

“From a practical standpoint, limiting bycatch for the commercial fishermen will actually potentially increase his product value,” said Blake Price, a fisheries biologist with NOAA Fisheries.

Preliminary results show a bycatch reduction of 44 percent with a five percent shrimp loss on average, depending on the size of the nets’ grids.

The bycatch reduction device ultimately chosen will need to easy to use and not limit the amount of shrimp caught.

“That’s the goal of our industry is the preservation, but at the same time, a good harvest for the local consumer also,” said Brent Fulcher with the N.C. Fisheries Association.

Additionally, some of the gear may only work on trawlers and will need to be tested on smaller boats.

The Division of Marine Fisheries is only two years into its research.

More gear device testing is planned for the summer and fall after Hurricane Matthew set research back.

These proposals are different from the regulations proposed in the N.C. Wildlife petition.

A meeting concerning those regulations will be held January 17 at the New Bern Convention Center.

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