New marine fisheries rules begin April 1

Published 7:19 pm Thursday, March 27, 2014




Several new marine fisheries rules will go into effect April 1.

The rules will:

• Give the director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries proclamation authority to implement National Shellfish Sanitation Program harvester and dealer requirements for the protection of public health;

• Give the division director proclamation authority to set size, recreational bag, commercial trip, gear, season and time restrictions on the taking of sheepshead if needed to maintain a sustainable harvest;

• Designate new seed oyster management areas at Possum Bay and Swan Point in New River;

• Clarify what organizations and activities are eligible to receive Scientific and Educational Activity permits and Coastal Recreational Fishing License Exemption permits from the Division of Marine Fisheries;

• Clarify that the exemptions to the general 4-inch size limit on fish only apply to finfish;

Repeal a rule on hybrid striped bass culture that references outdated N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission rules;

• Implement an amendment to the Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan by:

• Broadening the authority of the director of the Division of Marine Fisheries to manage the blue crab fishery by proclamation under an adaptive management strategy. This includes the authority to implement more restrictive measures for the use of pots; restrict means and methods for managing the use of escape rings; and designate additional areas as crab spawning sanctuaries and extend the time that harvest restrictions are in place for all crab spawning sanctuaries.

• Clarifying existing rules and relocating rules in the rulebook for better organization.

• Codifying current proclamations, including one for the taking of mature female blue crabs with pots, reducing the exempted area for the Pamlico Sound Outer Banks region, but providing more clearly delineated boundaries for this area and the Newport River area. Other codifications include establishing a dividing line in Pamlico Sound for the taking of hard blue crabs using trawls of certain mesh sizes; closing the lower Broad Creek area (Neuse River) to crab pots June 1 through Nov. 30; and using the existing no trawl line along the Outer Banks in Pamlico Sound as the new boundary line where closure of escape rings to take small mature females is allowed.

• Using the type of bait instead of pot mesh size to define escape ring requirements in a crab pot.

• Requiring terrapin excluder devices in crab pots at a later date, after development and approval of criteria by the Marine Fisheries Commission.

• Opening eight non-pot areas (long haul areas) in the Pungo River to the use of pots, but keeping the Long Point non-pot area in Pamlico River closed to the use of pots.

The new rules will be available in a supplement to the June 1, 2013, N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission rulebook and posted on the division webpage at