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Public hearing for two marine fisheries proposed rules rescheduled for Dec. 16

The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission will hold a public hearing on two marine fisheries proposed rules at 1 p.m. Dec. 16 at the Division of Marine Fisheries’ Central District Office, 5285 Highway 70 West, Morehead City. The hearing was originally scheduled for a Nov. 1 web conference but was cancelled due to technical difficulties.

Those who wish to speak at the hearing may sign up on location prior to the meeting.

The first proposed rule sets requirements for the harvest classification of shellfish growing waters in and around marinas, docking facilities, and other mooring areas. It is proposed for re-adoption and amendment to help ensure that North Carolina remains in full compliance with national requirements so N.C. shellfish can continue to be sold through interstate commerce. Proposed amendments would allow the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries to determine necessary buffer closures for shellfish growing waters in and around these areas based on a more scientific and public health-based rationale and make implementation and enforceability of requirements clearer.

The second proposed rule makes amendments to mutilated finfish requirements.

The current mutilated finfish rule (15A NCAC 03M .0101) has been on the books since 1991. It requires while fishing or aboard a vessel, the head and tail remain attached to any finfish that is subject to a possession limit, including a size limit, recreational bag limit, commercial trip limit, or season. It makes three exceptions:

  1. Mullet used as bait;
  2. Hickory shad used as bait; and
  3. Tuna in a commercial fishing operation that meets the measurement required in a separate rule.

Currently, there is no provision to add species to the list of exceptions without going through a lengthy permanent rulemaking process. The proposed amended rule would give the Director of the Division of Marine Fisheries authority to add or remove species from the list of exceptions by proclamation to address variable conditions as warranted.

For instance, American eel, spot, Atlantic croaker, and bluefish are now subject to possession limits that did not exist when the rule was adopted. They are all commonly used as cut bait, creating a conflict with the current rule. The proposed amended rule would allow the director to add these species to the list of exceptions or specify terms of use.

Additionally, the exception for mullet may need to be modified based on the recent striped mullet stock assessment and potential management measures developed through the upcoming fishery management plan.

Due to the adjusted hearing schedule, the deadline for written comments has also been extended to 5 p.m. Dec. 16, 2022. Members of the public may submit written comments through an online form or through the mail to N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission 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. Dec. 16, 2022.

The online comment form and text of the proposed rules can be found on the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission’s Proposed Rules Page.
    
The proposed rule changes will be presented to the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission for final approval in February 2023 and have an earliest effective date of May 1, 2023.

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

WHO: Marine Fisheries Commission
WHAT: Public Hearing for Proposed Rules
WHEN: Dec. 16 at 1 p.m.
WHERE: N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries
Central District Office
5285 Highway 70 West, Morehead City