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Martin County leaders await herring hearing

By Staff
Will try to hook state legislators if needed
By NIKIE MAYO, News Editor
WILLIAMSTON — Martin County commissioners affirmed Wednesday night they will fight to see the moratorium on catching adult river herring lifted, acknowledging it could be “an uphill battle” to sway votes in their favor.
The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries is expected to consider the draft River Herring Fishery Management Plan at a meeting in Carolina Beach on Thursday. Commissioner Mort Hurst said he and fellow Commissioner Al Perry had asked speak at that meeting, but their request was denied.
The division will hear comments from the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Joint Legislative Commission on Seafood and Aquaculture before voting on the draft plan.
The joint commission voted to lift the river-herring ban during a Jan. 18 meeting in Raleigh. The commission voted for limited harvesting — allowing 100,000 pounds of herring for commercial harvests and 25 fish per person per day for recreational anglers.
Still, county commissioners believe the Division of Marine Fisheries will decide next week to keep the herring ban in place. If that happens, their next stop is at the Legislature’s doorstep, Hurst said.
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission approved a moratorium on river-herring fishing in March 2006, altering it after an outcry from the public.
That means no adult herring for fishermen, a move that angler Terry Pratt says scoffs at history. Pratt, a member of the Albemarle Fishermen’s Association, helped draft the resolution Martin County commissioners passed last month in requesting the herring ban be lifted.
Since that meeting, about a dozen other counties have passed similar resolutions.
Pratt and Perry have made several trips to Raleigh fishing for support. Their last trip resulted in a 90-minute meeting with DENR Secretary Bill Ross. Perry said Ross “was very enthused about how we’re going about things.”
Hurst contends there’s no proof that extending the period of the ban would help the herring population.
The Martin County town of Jamesville has hosted an annual herring festival for almost 60 years.