Sounds closed to gill nets

Published 5:11 pm Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Incidents of sea turtles being entangled in wide-mesh gill nets is resulting in the closure of the internal water of Pamlico Sound and upper Core Sound, beginning an hour before sundown this evening, according to Patricia Smith with the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ office in Morehead City.

The closure will remain in effect until at least Sept. 1.

“The action is being taken due to the number of observed sea turtle interactions in the gill net fishery in upper Core Sound and southeastern Pamlico Sound,” according to Smith.

Since late May, NCDMF’s sea turtle-observer program has confirmed eight sea turtle interactions, including two dead green sea turtles, three live green sea turtles, one live loggerhead sea turtle, one live hybrid sea turtle (loggerhead-Kemp’s ridley) and one live sea turtle of unknown species (it fell out of the net before it could be identified).

One of the observed dead green sea turtle interactions was in a gill net set prior to one hour before sunset, which is a violation of state fishing regulations.

The state is in the process of seeking a incidental-take permit so it can better monitor the number of sea turtles being entangled in gill nets and act — when needed — to prevent widespread entanglements, said Chris Batsavage, the division’s protected resources section chief. The sea turtles are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Such permits allow for limited takes of threatened or endangered species in an otherwise unlawful activity.

“All takes are technically illegal. We closed mainly because there have been several turtle interactions in the Pamlico Sound this summer. We’re concerned about allowing too many takes while we wait for this permit could impact the conditions of the permit. Also, the other side of this, too, is the fishery is operating under a settlement agreement,” Batsavage said Tuesday.

Large-mesh gill net fishing in these waters is subject to management measures resulting from a lawsuit settlement agreement between the state and the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center.

“We implanted management measures back in 2010 to reduce the number of sea-turtle takes while we try to get this incidental-take permit. Part of that is when we see numbers of sea-turtle interactions increasing that we close things down to try to minimize those takes. It’s one those things we do when we just see the takes are getting to be too much. Unfortunately, it impacts a pretty large body of water,” Batsavage said.

The permit would allow a limited number of sea-turtle interactions in the gill-net fisheries in the sounds, Batsavage said. Obtaining the permit requires DMF to look at the number of sea-turtle interactions related to the gill-net fishing effort to ensure the number of allowed takes is not exceeded, Batsavage said.

“It allows this fishery to operate legally,” he said.

The closure applies to set gill nets with stretched mesh between 4 inches and 6 ½ inches that are fished south of Croatan and Roanoke sounds to lower Core Sound. The closure does not apply to run-around, strike, or drop nets that are used to surround a school of fish and then are immediately retrieved.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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