NC Fisheries Commission moves to protect sea turtles
Morehead, NC, United States (4E Sports) – The North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission has approved two important measures that will protect sea turtles and make flounder gill net fishing more productive and enjoyable.
According to public information officer Patricia Smith, the commission agreed during its August meeting to delay the opening of the Pamlico Sound Gill Net Restricted Area until mid-September to give sea turtles more time to move out of the area before fishing season begins.
“It allows more time for turtles to leave the water — which they do once waters start to cool — so that there is less likely to be sea turtle interactions,” Smith said.
At the same time, Smith said the commission also voted to reopen southern Core Sound, Back Sound, The Straits and North River to the use of large mesh gill nets from Oct. 15 to May 7. The waters closed May 13 to protect sea turtles.
“The mid-October date also gives more time for turtles to move out of the area but allows for fishing before the December closing,” Smith said.
Smith said the measures were approved with the understanding that all North Carolina waters will be closed to harvest of southern flounder during December.
“The commission was looking for a balance there; not waiting too long but waiting long enough to let the sea turtle move out,” Smith explained.
Under a federal rule, Pamlico Sound should be closed to large mesh gill net fishing from Sept. 1 through Nov. 30 of each year after several instances of fishery interactions with threatened and endangered sea turtles.
But since 2000, the National Marine Fisheries Service has allowed a highly monitored gill net fishery in certain areas of the sound under a series of incidental take permits that set out limitations regarding interactions with sea turtles.
“Commercial fishermen planning to participate in the fall flounder gill net fishery in the Pamlico Sound Gill Net Restricted Area need to apply for permit through any of the Division of Marine Fisheries license offices,” she added.