MOREHEAD CITY – To protect sea turtles, Pamlico Sound will close to all large-mesh gill net fishing on Wed., Sept. 26.
The Pamlico Sound Gill Net Restricted Area opened Sept. 15, and during the first week the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries has documented four interactions between gill nets and sea turtles in these waters. These interactions included one dead and one live endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles.
It is uncertain if the waters will reopen this fall. The decision will depend on the occurrence of sea turtles in the area.
By federal rule, all of Pamlico Sound closes to large-mesh gill net fishing from Sept. 1 through Nov. 30 each year. The closure began in 1999 after several instances of fishery interactions with threatened and endangered sea turtles.
However, since 2000, the National Marine Fisheries Service has allowed a highly-monitored, large-mesh gill net fishery during the closure in limited areas of the sound under a series of incidental take permits. These permits, authorized under Section 10 of the federal Endangered Species Act, allow for limited takes of threatened or endangered species in an otherwise lawful activity.
North Carolina’s latest incidental take permit for the Pamlico Sound Gill Net Restricted Area expired Dec. 31, 2010. However, the National Marine Fisheries Service has agreed to allow this fishery to continue while the state applies for an incidental take permit to cover set gill nets statewide. An application for this permit, submitted in May 2010, is still under review.
Specific regulations pertaining to the closure can be found at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/proclamation-m-42-2012.
For more information, contact the division’s Protected Resources Section chief Chris Batsavage at 252-808-8009 or Chris.Batsavage@ncdenr.gov.