Comment period opens, public hearings scheduled for various marine fisheries rules


The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission is accepting public comment on proposed amendments and re-adoption of 50 rules under a state-mandated periodic review schedule.

Most of the rules pertain to shellfish lease user conflicts, reclassification of Special Secondary Nursery Areas, oyster sanctuaries, classification of shellfish growing waters, and sanitation standards for commercial crustacea processing procedures.

Other rules pertaining to joint fishing waters are proposed for re-adoption with no changes.

Two public hearings will be held by web conference on Oct. 21 at 6 p.m. and on Oct. 27 at 6 p.m. The public may join the meetings online; however, those who wish to comment during the hearing must register to speak by noon on the day of the hearing.

Members of the public also may submit written comments through an online form or through the mail to N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Recreational Water Quality Rules Comments, P.O Box 769, Morehead City, N.C. 28557. Comments must be posted online or be received by the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries by 5 p.m. Nov. 30, 2020.

Links to the public hearing registration form and online comment form, as well as text of the proposed rules and links to join the meeting, can be found on the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission’s Proposed Rules Page.

The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission proposes re-adoption of a portion of rules in 15A NCAC 03O (shellfish lease user conflicts), 15A NCAC 03Q (joint fishing waters), 15A NCAC 03R (Special Secondary Nursery Areas and oyster sanctuaries), and 15A NCAC 18A (shellfish growing waters and shellfish sanitation and processing). Proposed rule changes will:                                                                       

Address user conflicts associated with shellfish leases while supporting a productive shellfish aquaculture industry, as required by NCGA Session Law 2019-37. The proposed changes will increase setback requirements from developed shorelines for new shellfish leases; limit the allowable number of corner markers for demarcating shellfish leases to simplify the polygon shapes; set new criteria for shellfish lease stakes and signage to alleviate navigation concerns; and, initiate a new shellfish leaseholder training program that emphasizes user conflict reduction strategies.

  • Reclassify nine Special Secondary Nursery Areas to Secondary Nursery Areas, as recommended by the Shrimp Fishery Management Plan Amendment 1. The nine areas have not been opened to trawling since at least 2004, so there will be no effective change to the shrimp trawl fishery; however, the reclassification will result in a small mesh gill net attendance requirement in these waters, except for Scranton Creek. All areas have gill net attendance requirements now; the proposed rules would require additional attendance in all waters, not just 50 yards from the shoreline, from May 1 to Nov. 30.
  • Amend the oyster sanctuaries rule by adding five new sites (Long Shoal, Little Creek, Pea Island, Raccoon Island, and Swan Island), updating boundaries for three existing sites (Neuse River, West Bluff, and Gibbs Shoal), and removing two sites that no longer function as sanctuaries (Ocracoke and Clam Shoal).
  • Update shellfish sanitation laboratory procedures, sanitation survey reporting requirements, standards for classifying shellfish waters, and definitions to conform with current national standards.
  • Readopt with no changes nine rules that pertain to joint fishing waters, in accordance with a state-mandated periodic review schedule.
  • Correct grammar, typographical errors, and update agency names.

The proposed rule changes will be presented to the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission for final approval in February 2021 and have an earliest effective date of April 1, 2021.

For questions about the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission rulemaking process, email Catherine Blum, rules coordinator for the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries.

WHO:  Marine Fisheries Commission
WHAT: Two Public Hearings for Proposed Rules
WHEN: Oct. 21 at 6 p.m.
Oct. 27 at 6 p.m.
WHERE: Click Here for Information and to Sign Up to Speak


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