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N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - Protected Species

Marine Fisheries

turtle Observer holding sea turtle

sturgeonAtlantic sturgeon

Bottlenose dolphinBottlenose dolphin
(Keith Rittmaster, NC Maritime Museum (MMPA Permit No. 779-1633)

 

Description of Protected Species in N.C.

Sea Turtles

All species of sea turtles found in North Carolina waters are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, and unpermitted interactions with these animals are illegal. This includes interactions that occur with commercial and recreational fishing gears.

Loggerhead, Kemp’s ridley, and green sea turtles are the most prevalent sea turtles found in North Carolina waters, while leatherback and hawksbill sea turtles occur less frequently. Sea turtles populate North Carolina waters from approximately April through December of each year. They migrate into the estuaries each spring before leaving in the winter to find warmer waters.

For more information on sea turtles including the status and identification of each species, please visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Office of Protected Resources webpage at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/turtles/.

Sturgeon

There are two species of sturgeon found in North Carolina estuarine inshore and near shore waters (Atlantic and shortnose). Juvenile fish are found year round while adults are anadromous, migrating from the ocean to freshwater to spawn in the fall and spring. The juvenile fish are mainly found in freshwater while the adults can withstand higher salinities. Sturgeon typically prey on invertebrates such as crustaceans, worms, and mollusks. Both Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon are listed as endangered species and unpermitted interactions with these animals is illegal, including those interactions that occur with commercial and recreational fishing gears. For more information on sturgeon including the status and identification of each species, please visit the Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Office of Protected Resources webpage at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/fish/.

Marine Mammals

Marine mammals are present year-round in estuarine and coastal waters. They can be found as far inshore as rivers and throughout state and federal waters. Many marine mammals feed on fish both small and large. The most common species of marine mammal you are likely to encounter in North Carolina estuarine and nearshore waters is the bottlenose dolphin. Humpback whales are also common in nearshore North Carolina waters, particularly in late fall and winter months. For more information on marine mammals including the status and identification of each species, please visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Office of Protected Resources webpage at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/mammals/.

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

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