Category Archives: MARINE FISHERIES

Trawlers, well-organized opposition make convincing case not to monkey with state’s shrimping industry

Fishing vessels made for a spectacular sight Tuesday morning, as seen from the Neuse River Bridge.

NEW BERN – Three dozen fishing vessels – most massive, some tiny – dropped anchor Tuesday within a stone’s throw of Riverfront Convention Center, sending an unmistakable message to North Carolina fishing regulators that shrimp trawls must remain a viable component of the state’s seafood industry.

A grueling seven-plus hour public hearing pulled a large crowd. Officials estimated peak attendance in the vicinity of 800 – not including a large dais of approximately 40 people charged with advising the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission.

THE ONLY AGENDA ITEM: Consider a proposed rule change, championed by the North Carolina Wildlife Federation and the Coastal Conservation Association, that would severely limit shrimp trawls in a vast expanse of the state’s ‘inshore and near-shore’ coastal waters.

Most, but not all, of attendees who addressed the Commission were adamantly opposed to the proposed change. And, well after dark, five separate Advisory Committees took votes, with a majority on each panel recommending that the Commission reject the measure. However, the only vote that really matters comes when the Commission – which has several members known to favor recreational fishing over commercial fishing – takes its formal tally on the issue next month.

For a synopsis of the argument against changes to shrimp trawl policy, see Page B-12 of this newspaper to read a Resolution adopted Tuesday night by the Pamlico County Board of Commissioners.

Imports killing local shrimp industry

Tariffs on five countries could turn tide

Photo credit:  R.E. Mayo Seafood, Hobucken, N.C.

Photo credit: R.E. Mayo Seafood, Hobucken, N.C.

By Jeff Aydelette | Staff Writer

WASHINGTON, D.C. – American shrimpers, including those in eastern North Carolina, could get a major shot in the arm later this month if a federal agency approves, as is expected, significant new duties on imported shrimp products from China, Ecuador, India, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

In many parts of the country, consumers often buy the cheapest shrimp product, without checking the country of origin. That economic fact often dictates how much is paid for ‘wild-caught’ shrimp produced in this country.

In a brief telephone interview Wednesday, officials with the International Trade Commission in Washington, D.C. were reluctant to predict how the six-member panel might vote – although those familiar with documentation and analysis prepared by the U.S. Commerce Department say evidence is overwhelming that the five foreign countries have for years improperly subsidized shrimp products exported to this country.

However, the world’s two biggest shrimp suppliers, Thailand and Indonesia, appear to be in the clear – at least for the time being. Shrimp growers and elected officials in those countries apparently convinced U.S. authorities that they were following World Trade Organization rules limiting the amount and types of subsidies that governments can grant to private industries engaged in international commerce.

North Carolina and other southeastern shrimpers can thank the Mississippi-based Coalition of Gulf Shrimp Industries – a mix of more than two dozen shrimping operations and processors – which filed a formal petition with the Department of Commerce that triggered the years-long investigations.

A fact sheet furnished by the Department of Commerce said “the merchandise covered by these investigations are certain frozen warmwater shrimp and prawns, whether wild-caught (ocean harvested) or farm-raised (produced by aquaculture), head-on or head-off, shell-on or peeled, tail-on or tail-off, deveined or not deveined, cooked or raw, other otherwise processed in frozen form, regardless of size.”

Certain types of shrimp products are exempt from duties, including categories known as ‘battered’ or ‘breaded’ shrimp-based foods.

    Frozen Warm-Water Shrimp Imports into the United States for 2012

*Thailand – $1.1 billion
*Indonesia – $ 634 million
India – $ 551 million
Ecuador – $ 500 million
Vietnam – $ 426 million
Malaysia – $ 142 million
China – $ 102 million

*Ruled exempt from possible new import duties

The U.S. International Trade Commission is headed by six Commissioners, who are nominated by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. No more than three Commissioners may be of any one political party. Currently, three Democrats and three Republicans serve as Commissioners.

The Commission is scheduled to make its final determination on Thursday, Sept. 19.

Commercial fishing interests lambaste ‘ game fish ’ proponents . . .


How is it the right thing to do?

mercerBy Robbie J. Mercer | Special to the County Compass

EASTERN NORTH CAROLINA – I have been a commercial fisherman for 35 years and there is more Red Drum, Spotted Trout & Striped Bass than I have ever seen in the N.C. waters. Commercial fishing and farming has been a way of life in coastal North Carolina for hundreds of years.

Not everyone has the same opinion as you, Mr. Tim Hergenrader. To a lot of Commercial Fishermen, this has been a way of life for generations. This is not a hobby for them. Working these local waters has been a way for them to provide for their families, purchase homes, pay their bills, and send their children to college.

Recreational fishermen land a hundred times more fish than Commercial Fishermen. The numbers from the National Marine Fisheries will show this, but Mr. Hergenrader, I think you know that already, which makes you an outright liar.

As for the issue you raised that the fish houses will be able to continue to provide the products, what you don’t mention is that these will be imported or farm-raised. Most people in the United States don’t want to eat your farm-raised ‘mud fish.’ The fish houses will no longer be able to provide quality, local, fresh-caught fish and neither will our restaurants. (How good for tourism do you really think that will be?)

As for the $1 million that MAY possibly be provided for the fishermen for their loss of income, tell me how $1 million will help the thousands of commercial fishermen who will be put out of business permanently in today’s economy? You, sir, should be ashamed of yourself for trying to strip them of their way of life, their heritage. This is the way they support their families. They aren’t looking for your handouts. You claim this is to increase tourism, when that isn’t your true agenda. Let’s be honest here. What you really want is to eliminate the competition of the commercial fishermen who are making a living so hobbyists can have their limit either increased or eliminated all together! But, honesty doesn’t seem to be your strong suit.

Furthermore, Commercial Fishermen DO NOT receive subsidies and/or tax breaks from the taxpayers of North Carolina, or from anyone else as you stated in your article – and as you well know. They do, however, pay a lot of taxes just like everyone else in North Carolina. Mr. Hergenrader, that false statement once again makes you a liar – saying whatever it takes to support your hidden agenda.

Robbie J. Mercer,
Third Generation Commercial Fisherman and taxpayer.

Time to correct misinformation

stronBy Sherrill Styron | Special to the County Compass

I would like to address the article written by Tim Hergenrader in the May 9-15 issue of the Compass titled “Gamefish Right Thing to Do”. Also, I have additional comments regarding the letter written by the Coastal Fisheries Reform Group about severely reducing shrimp trawling in Pamlico Sound and other inland waters. Both pieces are full of misinformation and inaccuracies.

While there is no information in the article about Mr. Hergenrader’s qualifications to speak on fisheries management issues, it is obvious that he knows very little about fisheries management, economics, nor the historical and cyclical nature of fish populations in our state waters. He is, however, using the Coastal Conservation Association’s (CCA) talking points, which are easily refutable.

First, those pushing for House Bill 983 fish for fun, while commercial fishermen fish to make a living, provide for their families, and feed citizens of this state and nation. While there is nothing wrong with fishing for fun, there is plenty wrong with taking away all or part of another person’s income so that you could have more fun. What kind of a man would put his recreational pleasure ahead of another man’s ability to make a living? The answer is a man filled with greed and self-interest. Most recreational anglers do not belong to the CCA and even some of those who do don’t share their radical views on fish management, but the leadership of that group is bad news and has been since it was founded in Texas decades ago. The claim that Mr. Hergenrader and his CCA friends do not want a net ban is as disingenuous as it can be when one considers that in the CCA study promoting the bill and handed to members of the General Assembly the specific example of Florida’s gamefish status is discussed as being a model for North Carolina to follow. What is left out of the CCA study is Florida’s gamefish status was achieved by virtue of a net ban. Also, Florida’s gamefish status was argued on the basis of science, while here in North Carolina the science argument has been dropped because Division of Marine Fisheries statistics show that by virtue of sheer numbers of recreational anglers in our waters recreational discard mortality is multiple times more in all three proposed gamefish species than is discard mortality in the commercial sector. Interestingly, the Coastal Fisheries Reform Group’s argument to limit shrimp trawling is based on discard mortality rates in the commercial sector, but, again, no mention of the majority of dead fish coming from the recreational sector.

Regarding farm raised fish and the so-called “future of seafood” as Hergenrader calls it, there is no comparison between the two. The difference in price speaks volumes to the consumer’s preference for wild caught, and, moreover, farm raised is almost exclusively reserved for when wild caught is not available. HB983 would guarantee these three species are not available (wild caught) to the public.

A brief explanation of fisheries cycles is in order. Mr. Garland Fulcher (founder of Garland Fulcher Seafood) was born in 1913 and told me how when he could first remember going fishing with his dad (pound netting) they did not catch many fish of one species but rather a variety of different types. His dad told him that not many years before he believed he could have laid a board on top of the pound and walked across it on top of croakers. When the State was working on the Fisheries Reform Act (current law governing fisheries management) I was on the advisory committee. (The Moratorium Steering Committee) Another committee member, Jule Wheatley, brought a 1918 Beaufort newspaper to a meeting with the headline stating “Feds Come to Town to Look into Shortage of Fish.” Since shrimping began in earnest in the 1930’s it is hard to imagine shrimp boats destroying fisheries in 1918. I was born in 1942 and when I was a boy we had lots of fish, croakers and spots mostly, but in a short time they were gone, disappeared. In the 1970’s we had a lot of croakers, but once again they disappeared from our area. During the winter months there are still a lot of croakers off our coast but in the spring they mover north to the Chesapeake Bay, guided by nature and instinct something neither I nor the Coastal Fisheries Reform Group understand enough to make broad assumptions about the cause. It happens, and it will continue to happen in a cyclical pattern as it always has.

Summer Flounder were once so plentiful off our coast that one year we caught the commercial quota in 9 or 10 days. For the last decade the flounders have stayed further north, but like croakers they will return as they always have. In the 70’s and 80’s we had lots of weakfish (grey trout) in our area. One year Garland Fulcher Seafood froze over 200,000 pounds of trout fillets. We only freeze when supply is more than demand. Not long after trout were scarce and fly netting was banned south of Hatteras because commercial fishing was blamed. The Division and other management bodies told us the weakfish would be back in a few short years now that a certain gear was banned; every year there have been less and less, and the management bodies such as the NC Division of Marine Fisheries, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, and the Mid Atlantic Council all admit the weakfish problem has nothing to do with commercial fishing. Yet, many businesses went belly up as a result of that gear ban south of Hatteras. One theory is striped bass are eating the juvenile weakfish. What does the CCA plan to do about that Mr. Hergenrader? Also, spots come and go, some years are great and others are not, not just in North Carolina but other areas as well.

The economics argument put forward by the CCA and people like Tim Hergenrader is based on an exceptionally flawed study that looks at one aspect of the issue (monetary value of recreational fishing verses commercial fishing) and makes a case that whichever sector is of greater economic value in a fishery gets all the fish. Are Mr. Hergenrader and the CCA arguing that recreational fishing be banned in fisheries where the commercial fishery is infinitely more economically valuable? That would mean no more recreational crabbing, shrimping, or flounder fishing according to that logic. Interestingly, the author of the CCA commissioned study referred to above, Brad Gentner, stated in his own footnotes that “It is important to point out that economic impacts are not the appropriate metric for establishing allocations…” Of course, he is right, no self respecting economist would say otherwise, as there are so many other vital aspects to an appropriate economic analysis for the purpose of fisheries allocations. Facts, however, have never gotten in the way of the CCA or their mouthpieces.

It is readily admitted that bycatch in the shrimp fishery is an issue for the commercial sector, but, once again, the sky is not falling. The Coastal Fisheries Reform Group’s statistics have been thoroughly refuted by the Division of Marine Fisheries on numerous occasions in letters and at public meetings. Shrimp boats do not want to catch fish when they shrimp and have been working with government agencies for years to help find solutions to that problem. In fact, it was shrimpers in the Gulf of Mexico that first developed what we now call TEDs (turtle excluder devices) so that they would limit fish bycatch in their nets. Industry works closely with government agencies to find more innovative solutions to this issue, but destroying another North Carolina fishery is certainly not the answer. With or without shrimp nets in our Sound very few juvenile fish reach maturity compared to how many eggs are actually produced. In the overall picture of juvenile mortality shrimp boats are of minimal impact compared to natural predation from other species like rock fish and red drum and environmental factors affecting water. One or two strong hurricanes or very cold winters can severely damage fisheries populations for years. Cormorants, a large bird family of fisheaters reside in great numbers along our coast, do tremendous damage to juvenile fish populations by eating millions and millions of pounds of fish every year. Shrimp trawl juvenile mortality does not even come close to what nature does year after year.

Finally, I have been in this industry for almost all of my adult life and am totally unaware of any tax breaks or government subsidies to the North Carolina commercial industry that are not also available to other industries such as equipment depreciation and the like. The truth is the recreational sector, by virtue of the Dingell-Johnson Act or Wallop-Breaux Act, is a direct recipient of tax money as that Act provides Federal aid to the States for management and restoration of fish having “material value in connection with sport or recreation in the marine and/or fresh waters of the United States.” Even here, Mr. Hergenrader has the facts entirely backwards.

Commercial fishing has provided well for the people of Eastern North Carolina for generations and can continue to do so if misinformation like the kind the CCA, Coastal Fisheries Reform Group, and Tim Hergenrader put forward is challenged with the facts. Nothing they are proposing will add any value to the state’s economy despite what misused and flawed studies say, but management measures based on those studies such as gamefish or severe restrictions on shrimp trawling will hurt real people, real families and possibly end commercial fishing as we know it in our state.

Editor’s note: Mr. Styron is the owner of Garland Fulcher Seafood in Oriental, a graduate of Emanuel College in Georgia, and has been a commercial fisherman on numerous trawl boats. He is a current Oriental commissioner, and a former long-term Mayor of the town. He has served on the Fisheries Reform Group’s Advisory Committee, and on numerous fisheries advisory committees in the state.  

‘ Game fish ’ right thing to do, says reader


Tim Hergenrader

Tim Hergenrader

By Tim Hergenrader | Special to the County Compass

Editor’s note: Monday night, the Pamlico County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution opposing a proposed law that would outlaw the commercial catch of red drum, spotted sea trout, and striped bass.

EASTERN NORTH CAROLINA — In response to the commentary piece in The Beaufort Observer section of last week’s County Compass, House Bill 983 — Fisheries Economic Development Act — is not an attempt to force commercial fishermen out of business because they can’t control what they catch.

Nowhere in the bill can you find any reference to abolishing nets, net fishermen, or the commercial fishing industry. Reading tealeaves or mind reading from afar is no reason to oppose legislation.

The Coastal Conservation Commission is striving for passage of the game fish bill because the three species — red drum, spotted sea trout and estuarine striped bass — are worth more to the state of North Carolina as game fish than they are as commercially targeted species. If you don’t believe me, ask Dr. Louis Daniel, director of the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF), that very question and see what response you get.

To say that North Carolinians will not be able to eat red drum, spotted sea trout and striped bass is disingenuous. The three species are found in seafood houses in all the other states that have instituted either game fish and/or an outright net ban. If there is a demand for the fish, the seafood houses will provide the fish — it is in their best financial interests to do so.

The future of seafood is commercially raised fish, whether the writer likes to believe that or not. The stocks of almost all fish have been so diminished and the human population has grown to such levels, that without commercial fish farms we won’t have fish to eat.
By his own admission in the piece, the future of commercial fishermen in North Carolina is bleak and it will be bleak with or without the game fish bill.

Of the seven states that have instituted game fish and/or an outright net ban in inshore waters (beginning with Texas some 25 years ago) not one has seen fit to return to their old ways of doing business. Not one has reinstituted netting of red drum and specs

These states are reaping the financial whirlwind known as recreational fishing and laughing all the way to the bank at North Carolina for clinging to the old way of selling the fish off for a fraction of what recreational fishermen will spend to catch the same fish.

Already the three fish are designated as game fish in inland waters administered by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission. In federal waters outside our three-mile limit, red drum and stripers are off limits to commercial fishermen.

This bill is all about improving the economic well being of eastern North Carolina and providing much needed revenues to the tax payers of the entire state.

As a sidebar, the bill also provides up to $1 million for payments to commercial fishermen who can prove they have suffered financial damage from the bill. And the bill raises the fishing license fees for recreational fishermen, which will provide even more money to the Division of Marine Fisheries to continue their fine work of managing our inshore fishery.

In addition, the bill will take a small portion of the gas tax funds paid by boat owners for fuel and put it into a fund to help dredge our inlets. That too will benefit all boaters, including commercial operators, who depend upon our inlets for access to the ocean.

Furthermore, unlike the commercial fishing industry, which receives many subsidies and tax breaks from the tax payers of North Carolina, this bill will not ask for one red cent from the tax payers.

Pound nets proposed for area waters

NEWS-Anywhere-Pound-Net-mapORIENTAL — State fishing regulators announced this week that Keith Bruno, owner of Endurance Seafood in Oriental, has applied for permission to set two separate ‘pound nets’ in Pamlico and Craven Counties at the following locations:

1) Neuse River, SW of Wiggins Point in Pamlico County. This set will be perpendicular to the shore, with a length of approximately 387 yards with one pound.

2) Neuse River, Garbacon Shoal in Carteret County. This set will be perpendicular to the shore, with a length of approximately 260 yards with one pound.

Public comments relative to these proposed pound net sets must be received prior to April 2, 2013. Comments and/or questions concerning these proposed pound net sets, or the specific locations, should be directed to: Mike Marshall, District Manager; Division of Marine Fisheries, Central District; 5285 Highway 70 W. Morehead City, N.C. 28557 Call (252) 808-8077 or 1-800-682-2632, or e-mail

Depending upon any objections that might be lodged, the Fisheries Director may call a public meeting after April 2 to receive further comments in determining whether the requested permits should be issued.

Regulators seize illegal nets


Special to the County Compass

PANTEGO – Just before sunrise on Dec. 6, officers from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries raided an allegedly illegal gill net operation, set in Pantego Creek where inland waters are closed to all types of netting.

Jon Foreman was charged with illegally setting nets in inland waters; possession of elicit fish with intent to sell; no navigation lights, and an improper commercial registration for his boat.

Foreman’s four small-mesh nets, totaling approximately 500 yards in length, had captured 264 striped mullet, 96 gizzard shad, 9 black fish, and 12 white perch (gamefish). The fish were donated to deserving families in the Pantego community. The nets, which were set in anticipation of a large harvest of speckled sea trout, were seized as evidence.

Foreman’s court date is set for Feb. 12, 2013 in the District Court of Beaufort County. If
convicted, he faces replacement costs for the fish, fines, and court costs.

State fishing regulators describe Pantego Creek as a major sanctuary for many species of fish, particularly during the winter months. Cooler water temperatures slow the cold-blooded animals, making them especially vulnerable to commercial fishing gear.