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Where was the Spot Run this year?

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Rick View Drop Down

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    Posted: 13 December 2021 at 6:50pm

Trawling in nursery areas and key strategic habitat areas (SHA) like near-shore staging areas that spot, croaker, flounder, kingfishes and weakfish use for offshore migration is a problem

Trawlers hammer the Pamlico Sound from July to November and are now hammering the juveniles that escaped in the near-shore ocean waters.  The ocean fishery is expanding exponentially.  

Trawling in these key near-shore staging areas was a problem in 1997 when it was a small fraction of the effort we see today.

February 6 RALEIGH - The Division of Marine Fisheries has set new limits on the use of flynets to catch weakfish off North Carolina’s southern coast and closed an area of ocean to shrimp trawling.

Bruce Freeman, director of the Division, cited a need to protect juvenile weakfish by prohibiting the possession of flynets on board coastal fishing vessels in the area of Cape Hatteras to Beaufort Inlet. He said the restrictions are in response to concerns that some fishermen are bypassing current controls over flynet fishing for the use of this type of fishing gear.

He said the restrictions are effective at noon on Saturday, February 8th.

“In the case of weakfish catches,” Freeman said, “we are prohibiting the possession of flynets south of Cape Hatteras to Beaufort Inlet and out to 200 miles. That will help clarify and ensure that flynets are not used in the area south of Cape Hatteras, as required by existing Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) rules.”

Existing restrictions also prohibit any person from taking, possessing, transporting, buying, selling, or offering for sale weakfish less than 12 inches long, in the ocean or within 200 miles of the shore, Also, existing restrictions set limits on the mesh size of gill nets used to catch weakfish, they also bar the possession of weakfish taken within 200 miles of the shore with a shrimp trawl or crab trawl.

To allow fishing vessels to transit the coast, to or from open fishing areas, a transit zone will be created within five nautical miles of shore at mean high water and extended around the southern boundary of Diamond Shoals (Cape Hatteras) and around Cape Lookout Shoals. Vessel operators going to or returning from legal trawling activity north of Cape Hatteras must notify the Division or (under emergency conditions) the Coast Guard when entering and leaving the transit zones.

The area south of Cape Hatteras to the Beaufort Inlet is closed to shrimp trawling and the possession of shrimp trawls on board, Freeman said the Division has concerns over the taking of juvenile fish from the area, including weakfish, croaker, sea mullet and flounder.

Freeman told MFC members in a conference telephone call January 31 that he might have to close the area to shrimp trawling. Currently, little or no shrimp are being caught in the area. He said earlier rules by the MFC affecting flynet fishing for finfish had exempted shrimp trawling.

“For the past month,” Freeman said, “this exemption has been used to circumvent the intent of the rule, and for the sake of the resource, I feel strongly that this activity should not continue.”

In an open letter to fishermen and shrimp dealers along the coast, Freeman said “the continuations of shrimp trawling for finfish in these waters will damage the state’s efforts for the best conservation measures.” He said it could result in a loss of credit given by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission for closing the area involved and could result in closing the entire North Carolina weakfish fishery.

Patrol Officers of the Division will be monitoring the vessels in the area for violations and Division biologists will conduct sampling of the fish in the closed area. Freeman said the area “most likely will reopen in mid-March for traditional shrimp trawling, but this will depend upon the results of our biological sampling.”

For more details about the restrictions, contact the Division of Marine Fisheries in More head City at (919)726-7021.

Just as it is today, in 1997 fisheries management was a Political Science.  Bruce Freeman was forced to rescind the closure and was fired.

February 24 MOREHEAD CITY -- Today, fishermen and the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) were able to negotiate a resolution to allow shrimp trawlers to begin fishing again; in turn the fishermen have agreed to assist fisheries managers in gathering scientific catch information.

The compromise was reached at a two-day meeting of the Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC), where the shrimp trawl prohibition was the focus of much debate. Earlier this month the DMF banned the use of shrimp trawls from Cape Hatteras to Beaufort Inlet because of reports of large numbers of juvenile finfish being caught. MFC members ask the DMF to review the prohibition and to try to come up with a compromise that would protect the juvenile finfish while allowing fishermen to go back to work.

MFC Chairman Bob Lucas was pleased with the outcome. “The MFC and the DMF are stewards of the resource and we take that role very seriously, but we must always factor in the human element in the management decisions. Today, we have shown that by working together with the fishermen, we can be responsible to both fisheries protection and the people who rely upon those resources for their livelihood.”

Earlier this month, the DMF banned shrimp trawling in the ocean between Cape Hatteras and Beaufort Inlet because of concern over the taking of juvenile finfish, especially weakfish. Weakfish is a stressed species that is closely monitored by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). Officials with the DMF were pleased with the compromise because the trawlers will be able to go back to work and North Carolina will continue to stay in compliance with the ASMFC’s Weakfish Management Plan. If North Carolina was deemed out of compliance with ASMFC, the federal government could shut down the state’s weakfish fishery.

Beginning Monday, February 24, 1997, fishermen wanting to use shrimp trawls in the restricted area must obtain scientific sampling permits from the Fisheries Management Section of the DMF. Fishermen have agreed to allow DMF observers on some of their trawlers when they are in the restricted area. Trawlers with observers will not cull any of their catch at sea but will bring the entire harvest back to the dock so fisheries managers can document the amount and type of juvenile finfish in the catch.

Everyone agreed that shrimp trawls would continue to be prohibited in the ocean from the shoreline out to three miles in the restricted area and that flynets are still banned south of Cape Hatteras.

For more information about this amendment or to obtain a scientific sampling permit, contact the Fisheries Management Section, DMF-Morehead City, at 919/726-7021 or 1-800/682-2632.

Edited by Rick - 13 December 2021 at 6:56pm
NC Fisheries Management- Motto: Too Little, Too Late, Too Bad   Slogan: Shrimp On! Mission Statement: Enable Commercial Fishing At Any and All Cost, Regardless of Impact to the Resource.
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Rick View Drop Down

Joined: 16 July 2003
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 December 2021 at 6:30pm

It's been a while, but I need to update my "True Effort- Snapshot in Time" trawling post.

This past Friday, Dec 10, 2021, shown below is highly concentrated nearshore trawl effort. This effort is 1/2-mile to 1-1/2 mile off the beach.

That flotilla has every state just about covered from Texas to Virginia. The long distance winner is Mr. B from Freeport, Texas.

Mr. B

Jimmy John Jr running a recreational AIS transponder (pink icon).

Kayla Maureen
Miss Victoria
Nguyen T.J.
Cathryn Elizabeth

Miss Carolyn Louise

Chasity Brooke
Linda Gayle
Amber Dawn
Miss Kayden
Dawson Blaize
Birdie P
Papas Girl

Little Jesse
Lady Anna
Capt Carl
Gaston's Legacy

NC Fisheries Management- Motto: Too Little, Too Late, Too Bad   Slogan: Shrimp On! Mission Statement: Enable Commercial Fishing At Any and All Cost, Regardless of Impact to the Resource.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TomM Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 November 2021 at 1:32pm
I think last spot run. Was 2005 and it was minor 
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Rick View Drop Down

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 November 2021 at 10:36am
Spot...It's a "cycle" thing, right? Wrong.

Until inshore trawling in the Pamlico Sound and nearshore SHAs are addressed spot will continue to decline. There will be years of greater abundance when the stars align and a sweet spot is hit. We may see that next year or the following year. Lower brown shrimp abundance in the Pamlico Sound last year and this year anecdotally appear to have reduced some trawl effort. Maybe a few more spot will make it offshore to spawn this winter. The long term trend is down and it will continue to decline as long as trawling is allowed in strategic habitat areas- undesignated nursery areas.

For the naysayers who say "But, Virginia doesn't allow trawling and its spot population is declining also." Spot migrate south along the beaches (that's the run) before heading offshore for the winter. Virginia spot, gray trout and croaker have to get past this gauntlet-

In 2015, the MFC voted to pass Amendment 1 to the Shrimp FMP requiring that the industry develop gear to reduce bycatch by 40%. Contrary to what the division and industry claim, the 40% reduction didn't happen.

The industry led trials dumbed-down the control net to increase bycatch from around 3.5-to-1 to 6.3-to-1 by deceasing the tail bag mesh size to 1-1/2". They "tested" gear using a 1-3/4" tail bag, which was the industry standard already being used at the time. The "test" gear "reduced" bycatch to roughly 3.6-to-1, exactly what the industry had been doing for years. The reduction was false. There was no reduction in bycatch.

The MFC voted last week at the Nov-2021 Business meeting on the management measures under Shrimp FMP Amendment 2.  The measures have been sent to the Secretary for approval and then final adoption at the February 2022 MFC meeting.

The division spent significant time analyzing Pamlico Sound juvenile abundance data to help develop recommendations to the MFC for Amendment 2. The division's P195 trawl surveys conducted in June and September were used to develop "Hot Spot" analysis identifying areas in the Pamlico Sound that contain high concentrations of juvenile finfish.

Below is that hot spot analysis by species- June Survey is Yellow. September Survey is Purple.

The division mapped aggregate finfish and shrimp for the two trawl surveys- June and September:

Using the above hot spot analysis, the division presented to the Shrimp Advisory Committee the idea of a permanent Pamlico Sound closure line that would run from Oregon Inlet to Point of Grass at Cedar Island. Everything West of that line would be permanently closed to trawling.

To help protect the key weakfish nursery areas North of Bluff Shoal, the division presented to the AC the idea of a seasonal closure line. Waters North of that line would close to trawling on August 15th.

The above is sound analysis with reasonable action to protect juvenile nursery areas.

In the end, the division ignored all of its own hot spot analysis and recommended to the MFC no action to reduce trawling in the Pamlico Sound. The reason given was:

In the end, the division recommended a permanent closure line for the rivers and a few Western Bays of the sound, which is shown below. I have also included the division's river closure line and the AC permanent and seasonal closure lines on the hot spot analysis by species posted above.

Please note that the division's proposed Western Bay closure areas had little to any Hot Spots data plots.

At last week's Nov-2021 Quarterly Business Meeting, the MFC voted to ignore the division's recommendation and basically maintain status quo.


Nov 19, 2021The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission selected their preferred management options for the draft Shrimp Fishery Management Plan Amendment 2 during their November business meeting. The goal of the shrimp plan amendment is to further reduce bycatch of non-target species and minimize ecosystem impacts.

The commission selected options to permanently close all trawling in crab sanctuaries; to prohibit trawling in Bogue Sound and its tributaries except for the Intracoastal Waterway; and prohibit trawling in the Carolina Yacht Basin, except for the Intracoastal Waterway. However, it did not go forward with proposed regional area closures that would have prohibited trawling in most estuarine waters except for Pamlico Sound.

The commission also chose management options to:
  • Eliminate the four quarts (heads on) and two and one-half quarts (heads off) recreational creel limit for cast nets in areas closed to the taking of shrimp.
  • Change the flexible opening date in all Special Secondary Nursery Areas to a static Sept. 1 each year.
  • Continue collaboration with the commercial stakeholder groups through the industry workgroup to identify and test gear modifications to further reduce bycatch in the shrimp fishery.
  • Provide for adaptive management for future action to address issues related to submerged aquatic vegetation identified through Division of Marine Fisheries collaboration with the Coastal Habitat Protection Plan support staff, the Habitat and Water Quality Advisory Committee, and stakeholder groups.
  • Maintain existing headrope limits for shrimp trawls in internal coastal waters but allow for additional headrope restrictions to be implemented to resolve user conflicts.
  • Request the division collaborate with the CHPP staff and the Habitat and Water Quality Advisory Committee on issues related to habitat. As the division deems appropriate and feasible, actions to address that impact will be identified by the appropriate committees and brought to the commission for action as part of adaptive fisheries management.

The draft shrimp plan amendment now goes for review by the Secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality and legislative committees before coming back to the commission for final adoption in February.

Also this week, the commission gave final approval to the Coastal Habitat Protection Plan 2021 Amendment. The CHPP is a long-term strategy to improve coastal fisheries through habitat protection and enhancement efforts. The CHPP amendment has already been approved by the Environmental Management Commission and the Coastal Resources Commission. It provides information on habitat distribution and abundance, ecological functions and importance to fish production, status and trends, and threats to the habitats, and includes recommendations to address those threats.

The video below shows shrimp trawling in the Pamlico Sound. Nothing has changed since this video was filmed by the crew of the Birdie P. While the industry will claim a 40% reduction in bycatch as a result of gear modifications identified in the 2015, '16 and '17 trials, the data does not support that claim.

Click on the direct link below if the video doesn't show in it's own window.  Sometimes the video feature on this site becomes inoperable. 


The votes last week for status quo and against the resource were-
Commercial Seat- Romano
Commercial Seat- Cross
Commercial Seat- Blanton
At-Large Seat- Hendrickson
At-Large Seat- Posey

Those voting against status quo and for the resource:
Recreational Seat- Bizzell
Recreational Seat- Roller
Recreational Seat- McNeil
Science Seat- Kornegay

Edited by Rick - 23 November 2021 at 1:46pm
NC Fisheries Management- Motto: Too Little, Too Late, Too Bad   Slogan: Shrimp On! Mission Statement: Enable Commercial Fishing At Any and All Cost, Regardless of Impact to the Resource.
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