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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - 02 2020 Director Report

Marine Fisheries

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From the Director’s Desk

8-point rule

 

Steve Murphey

 
Merriam Webster defines habitat as the place or environment where a plant or animal naturally or normally lives or grows. The forests, meadows and swamps and even your back yard form some part of habitat for our native plants and animals. The habitats of the marine and estuarine species are no different but are often hidden from the casual observer’s view because they are covered by water. In fact, the water column itself is habitat. The sustainability of our fish and invertebrate stocks rely not only on proper management from recreational and commercial harvest, but on the health and extent of the habitat.

Most of our important recreational and commercial species use more than one habitat type during their lives. The water column, shell bottom, submerged aquatic vegetation or SAV, the coastal wetlands, soft bottom, and hard reef bottom all comprise important habitats that are essential to our managed species and their prey. And they are all sensitive to degradation from a variety of factors.

In this edition of the Insight, you will get a glimpse of how the division works within its sections and with other divisions, partnerships, and non-profits to identify, map, protect and enhance these important habitats. The Coastal Habitat Protection Plan, which was developed as part of the Fishery Reform Act in 1997, plays the key role in identifying critical fish habitats, and it provides a solid foundation for us as citizens to protect and enhance these habitats for the benefit of all North Carolinians. However, implementation is much more complex than the identification of the habitats, and habitat protection often becomes a concept with wide-spread support but little concrete action.

A growing concern is also the resiliency of these habitats to climate change as evidenced by Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 80 — North Carolina’s Commitment to Address Climate Change and Transition to a Clean Energy Economy. The division is participating in this effort by looking at habitat threats from climate change. As an example, rising seas and changing salinities may threaten important marsh or oyster habitats. Thermal tolerances of important sea grasses may be exceeded resulting in declines in those important habitats. And the increasing frequency and intensity of storms may lead to excessive nutrient loading of our rivers and sounds.

We hope that you learn a little more about our marine and estuarine habitats and the importance of continuing to implement measures to protect and enhance these valuable resources.

Take care and stay safe out on the water.

 

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N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632

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