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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

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Marine Fisheries - Fishing To Avoid Interactions

Marine Fisheries

Fishing To Avoid Interactions

Fish Eye News
Oct. 2010 Archive

One of the biggest challenges facing North Carolina commercial fisheries today is how to avoid interactions with endangered species.

“State fisheries authorities wrestle with this issue every day as they try to find ways to continue an economically and socially important industry and still protect sea turtles,” said Louis Daniel, director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries.

But completely avoiding interactions between fishing gear and sea turtles is probably not a feasible goal, said Kevin Brown, gear specialist with the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries.

“If you have gear in the water and increased numbers of sea turtles you’re probably going to have increased interactions,” Brown said.

However, there are things that can be done to reduce the number of interactions.

Area, time and season closures, along with gear limits and spacing requirements, all can reduce interactions with sea turtles, Brown said.

These management tools were used in regulations implemented this summer for gill net fishing in North Carolina coastal waters. The regulations reduced the fishing time to four nights per week and further limited the yardage of gill net an individual fisherman is allowed to set. The regulations also set a 15-mesh height limit on the gill nets.

A 15-mesh net means there’s half the amount of net in the water than there would be if fishermen were using a 30-mesh net, Brown said. Additionally, a fisherman can make a 15-mesh net stand up straighter so it does not create a bag effect in the water, which can entangle the turtle.

But there can be unintended consequences to these types of regulations. For instance, gill net fishermen facing tougher restrictions may shift to other fisheries, such as the pound net fishery, Brown said.

“We do know there are interactions with pound nets,” Brown said.

So there are several research projects going on in different fisheries to find ways to reduce turtle bycatch or provide practical alternatives.

In one project, Brown has been working with fishermen to explore the use of fish pots as an alternative to gill nets for catching flounder.

He has worked with 10 different designs of pots, including one design with a soft-sided funnel.

Thus far, fish pots have not proven effective, he said.

“We have caught some flounder, but we’ve not found that magic combination,” Brown said.
The pots are not catching fish in the numbers that would be needed for a commercial operation. And the pot with the soft-sided funnel actually caught a sea turtle.

 

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