Category Archives: MARITIME

Shrimping debate continues

NEW BERN — Coastal Carolina Taxpayers Association has invited a speaker on both sides of the controversial issue.

Jerry Schill, President of the North Carolina Fisheries Association, will represent commercial fishermen; and, Donald Willis, Vice President of Coastal Conservation Association in North Carolina and President of the Neuse River Chapter will represent recreational fishermen.

Each man will present an argument for, or against, the NC Wildlife Federation Petition for Rulemaking to designate all coastal fishing waters not already classified as nursery areas as special secondary nursery areas; establish clear criteria for the opening of shrimp season; and define the type of gear and how and when gear may be used in the special secondary nursery areas in season.

The format of this presentation is designed to explain the petition and primary effects from both points of view, allow questions from the audience, and give those in attendance an opportunity to decide where they stand. The CCTA public meeting will begin at 7 pm on Tuesday, Feb. 21 in the Stanly Hall Ballroom at 305 Pollock Street, downtown New Bern. Note, for easy access there is also an elevator entrance at 249 Craven Street.

‘Travesty of the truth and moral injustice’ says one

Commercial fishing industry urges huge turnout for Jan. 17 meeting

By Doug Cross | Pamlico Packing Co.

NORTH CAROLINA — Once again the commercial fishermen of this state are faced with proposed measures that would eliminate their ability to make a living and provide for their families.

This time it comes in a guise proposed by the North Carolina Wildlife Federation that would make Pamlico Sound, additional internal waters, and the Atlantic Ocean out to three miles a ‘special secondary nursery area.’

This, just coincidentally, is where the shrimping fleet of North Carolina works to provide for their families. This measure would once again close or severely limit any trawling in these waters and virtually eliminate the shrimp fishery for this state as we know it. 

Make no mistake this will ELIMINATE it and starve families and keep any consumer from access to Wild North Carolina shrimp products.

So you may ask “How is this possible?” or “How is this even being considered from a moral point of view”?  Well, it’s possible because the average John Smith has been convinced through propaganda and rhetoric that the commercial fisherman is basically the “Evil Empire” when it comes to fishing and the ultimate cause of Mr. Smith’s lack of success with a rod and reel.

It’s considered from a moral point of view because the special interest groups have no morals when it comes to denying a hard working citizen his right to provide for his family. The North Carolina Wildlife Federation in this instance is acting and being pushed by members to seek another way to eliminate trawling from the waters.

The truth of the matter is that they are a front for the true organization behind every effort that comes up to eliminate the commercial fisherman — the Coastal Conservation Association, also known as CCA.

As with the last two efforts pushed by the CCA, the Gamefish Bill and the Hergenrader petition, the CCA is ALWAYS looking to eliminate the commercial fisherman at EVERY level.  They are a well-funded, politically entwined organization whose sole purpose is to rid the world of commercial fishing. They don’t care how or who it hurts as long as they achieve their goals.  This is where the moral questions come into play.  Just how far will they go to achieve this purpose?

There can be little to no doubt that past and current members of the Marine Fisheries Commission are on the CCA payroll or have special interests involved with them.  From active blog-site owners, administrators and current members, these commissioners have one goal and one goal only, to continue the support of any and all rules changes and modifications that will eliminate any and all commercial fishing.

They cast aside any facts and due process that will lead to the truth about fisheries and try to circumvent the fishery management plans that they themselves voted in with measures such as the re-classification of the waters that they are now seeking.

They even enlist former employees of the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries such as its former director Dr. Louis Daniel.  Dr. Daniel has been asked to represent, or perhaps retained by the North Carolina Wildlife Federation in this push to reclassify these water of North Carolina in question.

In this presentation there are numerous points that you are expected to believe as absolute fact, especially coming from a former director of the very organization that he now presents this information back to as fact for their consideration.

Is this fact or is it now well-crafted rhetoric once again designed to blind the average person to the truth?  If we are going to seek the truth in these issues, then the truth has to be based on science and proven facts. The very same facts were questioned by Dr. Daniel, when he served as Director of the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries. In an Oct. 2, 2012 letter from Dr. Daniel to the Coastal Fisheries Reform Group, Daniel wrote:

“The majority of the finfish taken as bycatch in the shrimp trawl fishery are juvenile fish, which have a high natural mortality.”

At other points in the in the letter, Daniel also wrote:

“Also, the CRGF letter implies that other states which have banned inshore trawling have built ‘thriving fisheries’  on species such as weakfish, spot, and croakers. The decline in the stocks of these fisheries is in fact coast wide, and not just a NC phenomenon. The decline has been most apparent in states where inshore trawling is not allowed and where recreational landings have historically been the highest.”

Louis Daniel letter to CFRG about shrimp trawl by catch 2012

“North Carolina currently has the largest recreational landings of any state along the Atlantic Coast.”

Want to attend?

Open to the public, the meeting cited by Mr. Cross in this article is set for 12:30 pm Tuesday, Jan. 17, at Riverfront Convention Center in downtown New Bern.

“Scientists along the Atlantic coast have concluded that it is likely natural mortality, NOT FISHING MORTALITY (harvest or discards), that is the driving factor in the current weakfish decline.” (Emphasis added.)

Separate ‘boat washes’ in keeping with town’s long-range vision, say officials

Whittaker Creek Yacht Basin is one of the town’s oldest marinas. Owner Knute Bysheim told the town commissioners Tuesday night that he would do his best to improve the marina’s appearance and maintenance, which has been a concern of neighbors.

Whittaker Creek Yacht Basin is one of the town’s oldest marinas. Owner Knute Bysheim told the town commissioners Tuesday night that he would do his best to improve the marina’s appearance and maintenance, which has been a concern of neighbors.

ORIENTAL – This town, which likes to tout itself as a ‘working waterfront community,’ gave the green light Tuesday night for two unrelated boat washes, although state regulatory hurdles remain for each operation.

Both Point Pride Seafood, owned by local seafood magnate Chris Fulcher; and Whittaker Creek Yacht Basin, owned by marina operator Knute Bysheim, were required to apply for so-called ‘Special Use Permits.’ As fate would have it, the applications were not coordinated in any formal way – both projects just happened to hit the town meeting agenda on the same night.

Fulcher’s quest is by far the bigger of the two projects. In fact, one critic (town resident Bob Arrington) compared the ‘travel lift’ required in order to wash Point Pride’s massive fishing trawlers to another, existing lift used by a local boat repair yard.

“It will be a 300-ton lift which would dwarf the (other) lift in a way you cannot imagine,” said Arrington. .

And, let’s make another thing clear. The term ‘boat wash’ is a misnomer when describing either Fulcher’s or Bysheim’s projects.

Point Pride Seafood sits on a prominent peninsula inside the town limits. Prompted by a dispute over building height almost two decades ago, the structure has been roof-less. That should change, according to owner Chris Fulcher, who has assured town officials it is a planned improvement related to a new ‘boat wash’ at the sprawling complex.

Point Pride Seafood sits on a prominent peninsula inside the town limits. Prompted by a dispute over building height almost two decades ago, the structure has been roof-less. That should change, according to owner Chris Fulcher, who has assured town officials it is a planned improvement related to a new ‘boat wash’ at the sprawling complex.

These projects are far from what landlubbers might envision. Fulcher and Bysheim are not doing the typical souped-up car wash — complete with hoses, brushes, and a high semi-enclosed structure — where weekend warriors rinse off their beloved vessels after excursions into the area’s brackish waters.

Oh no!  Not at all!  Let’s just say Fulcher’s will be MEGA, and the Bysheim’s FAIRLY LARGE.

Since the late 1990s, almost all economic development– which has come in fits and starts – in Oriental has been governed by a zoning and a land use manual, known as the Growth Management Ordinance. The document contains a “Table of Permissible Uses” for each of the town’s handful of zones. For example, the table lists ‘travel lift operations’ as an OK type of thing in a commercial zone – requiring just a fairly routine land use permit.

But, ‘boat wash’ is a bit scarier!  It hints at runoff, contaminants, cleaning solvents – and the like. So, in its wisdom, the GMO demands more caution on the part of elected officials – hence the lofty-sounding mandate for a “Special Use Permit.”

Applicants, like Fulcher and Bysheim, are always leery of one requirement for Special Use Permits – the dreaded public hearing! There, concerned citizens sign up to express their grievances, often emphatically! Then, once the public hearing has been concluded, granting of a Special Use Permit requires seven, separate affirmative votes by elected officials to ensure everything is ‘above board’ (pun intended):

  • The project is within the jurisdiction of the town.
  • The project’s written application is complete in all respects.
  • The project complies with the relevant chapter of the Growth Management Ordinance
  • The project will not endanger the public’s health or safety.
  • The project will not injure the value of adjoining or abutting properties.
  • The project is in harmony with existing uses.
  • The project comports with all of the town’s various plans – for example, harbor-front management, vision statement, drainage, etc.

Commissioner Barb Venturi, the board’s senior statesman (having served longer than anyone else) waxed eloquent when she reminded the large crowd that a document – drafted 10 years ago after much public input – instructs elected officials to adopt policies intended to preserve Oriental’s ‘working waterfront.”

“I look at those trawlers in the harbor and they almost seem like mythical beings to me,” she said. “And, in our town, for the most part, commercial and recreational boaters mingle well. People don’t come here to look at the sailboats. Instead, they say ‘Wow!’ and then start taking photos of all the trawlers.”

Creek Keeper launches legislative arm-twisting

Jordon Lake (file photo)

Jordon Lake (file photo)

By Bill Hines, Creek Keeper

NEUSE RIVER – I am asking readers of the County Compass to oppose the state Senate proposals in House Bill 1030 that would block cleanup plans for impaired bodies of water such as Jordan Lake, Falls Lake (headwaters of the Neuse), the Catawba River, and Randleman Reservoir. The premise for the provision – that North Carolina’s nutrient management strategies have not worked and will not work – is false. The strategies have reduced nitrogen and phosphorus pollution input where they have been implemented.

The NC Senate has inserted language in the budget bill that would set a termination date for all four current nutrient management strategies in NC, and propose to redo what was a lengthy (12 year) and thorough stakeholder process to develop those strategies. The language directs the Division of Environment Quality to lead a new stakeholder process to develop new strategies. This is clearly a plan to weaken or eliminate nutrient controls, and all Republican Senators voted for the provision including our own Norman Sanderson.

In contrast to what is said in the bill, the nutrient management strategies have had an impact.  Some of Oriental residents and fishermen will remember the massive fish kills of the mid to late 90’s when the Neuse was rated one of the 10 most endangered rivers in the US. We have all work very long and hard to change this.

Senator Sanderson – Norman.Sanderson@ncleg.net – 919-733-5706
Representative Speciale – Michael.Speciale@ncleg.net – 919-733-5853

Below is the email I sent to these legislators. I encourage you to communicate your concerns. Spread the word.

I am writing on behalf of Sound Rivers out of grave concern about section 14.13 in the Senate version of HB 1030, the budget bill.  This section effectively eliminates all nutrient management strategies that were developed through a thorough and balanced stakeholder process over almost a 10-year period.  Pressure has been applied on you and others stating that the nutrient management strategies don’t work. This is simply not true.

Please consider the following points:

These strategies have been demonstrated to work on all the sources of pollution identified in the nutrient management strategies to the extent that they have been implemented.  Some of the rules such as those for Jordan and Falls Lake have yet to be implemented so statements that they haven’t worked are specious in the extreme.

Four long running stakeholder processes were used to develop the current nutrient management strategies this bill eliminates; repeating that stakeholder process as directed by the bill is obviously a waste of both time and tax-payer money.

Our estuaries have stabilized due to the benefit of these management strategies, but are not yet healed.  As was well understood by the stakeholders, the impact of these nutrient management strategies will be gradual and increase over time.

Although the improvement in the estuaries isn’t as great as desired, it is improvement compared to the mid to late 90’s.The cost of ending the existing nutrient management strategies will ultimately result in higher costs as the benefit of the current strategies is undone.

The budget bill during the short session is not the appropriate manner or time to create and consider a very important environmental action.  For instance, committing another $500,000 to study how to correct pollution once it is in Jordan or Falls Lake will simply embarrass the legislature once again as the Solar Bee experiment has done.

On behalf of Sound Rivers members and the thousands of people who depend on clean water throughout our region and the state, I urge you to oppose Section 14.13 of the budget bill until more care and thought can be given to this important issue.

Visit Vandemere soon! You’ll love this spot!

Before

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In a photo from late summer of 2015, the original boat ramp was not much to look at.


After

Forget the term ‘ramp.’ The site is now a gleaming ‘Boating Access Area!’

Forget the term ‘ramp.’ The site is now a gleaming ‘Boating Access Area!’

VANDEMERE — The new boat ramp here is beautiful. However, multiple state agencies involved would prefer that you call the completely transformed eight-acre site a Boating Access Area.

Better yet, according to Vandemere Mayor Judy Thaanum, Town Manager Tom Woodruff, and a host of the community’s elected officials and regular rank-and-file citizens, an even better moniker is Vandemere Waterfront Park.

No matter what the name, suffice it to say that this spot – at 86 Griffin Road — will undoubtedly become an economic blessing for a nook of Pamlico County, still reeling from the devastating effects of Hurricane Irene in August of 2011.

Woodruff knows well how many miracles — both small and large – that it took to pull this thing off. First of all, he credits Mrs. Catherine Pratt and her late husband Fred “for patiently working with the Town and offering financing options that made the grant opportunities, which came later, possible.”

The Pratts were prior owners of the site, which straddles Log Pond Creek – where boaters put in their craft to quickly reach vast stretches of Bay River, and ultimately Pamlico Sound.

Once the deal with the Pratts had been locked down, Thaanum and Woodruff made the rounds of almost every state agency involved with fishing, boating, marine-related development – you name it. Slowly, incrementally, piece-by-piece – with several significant setbacks along the way – a plan came together.

More than one tedious, time-consuming, meticulous application to the Division of Marine Fisheries eventually ‘hooked’ a grant, which is funded from fees paid by anglers to acquire their Coastal Recreational Fishing Licenses. Most of that money went to pay the Pratts, who had been more than patient!

Next, Woodruff was relentless in pushing the location “as just perfect” for the county’s fourth boating access area, to be developed and constructed by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. Who could turn him down? Woodruff was irrepressible – and he always showed up prepared when pitching his dream. Ultimately, the OK came in – but then the state’s budget cuts upset the apple cart.

Woodruff, not to be denied, bided his time. More than two years ago, his wait paid off!

“I can’t say enough about the folks at the Wildlife Resources Commission,” exclaimed Woodruff. “They have been a huge asset to Vandemere throughout the entire process. Without their unwavering support, this project would not have been funded or completed.”

But wait! There’s more. When you visit the park (and you surely will) the most stunning, eye-catching amenities are what locals affectionately call “Hog Slat docks” and slips for transient boaters – credit a sizable grant from the Coastal Area Management Agency for those wonderful additions.

“We are already seeing the benefits,” explained Woodruff. “We have more interest in real estate, both for personal use and rentals. A number of commercial interests have expressed an interest. And, we are already receiving calls about use of the transient boat slips.”

The parking lot includes 32 spaces for vehicles and trailers, and 15 spaces for single cars, including three ADA-compliant spaces.

Although boaters are already ‘putting in,’ much work remains to be done, including upgrades to existing water and electricity utilities, improvements to gazebos and restrooms, installation of picnic tables and benches, lighting, and landscaping.

Vandemere is mighty proud of this new park – and rightly so! It is a beauty – whatever the name!

New Boating Access Area Opening in Pamlico County This Week

The original boat ramp was not much to look at in this photo taken during late summer of 2015 before construction began.

The original boat ramp was not much to look at in this photo taken during late summer of 2015 before construction began.

VANDEMERE — The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission announces the opening of a new boating access area located at 86 Griffin Road in Vandemere in Pamlico County.

The Vandemere Boating Access Area will provide access to Log Pond Creek which connects to the Bay River. The BAA has two 15-foot wide boat ramps, a 60-foot floating dock, a wooden fixed courtesy dock, a bulkheaded and dredged canal and an asphalt parking lot. The parking lot includes 32 spaces for vehicles and trailers and 15 spaces for single cars, including three ADA-compliant spaces.

The Wildlife Commission funded construction of the project withf motorboat registration receipts and Sport Fish Restoration Program funds. Additionally, the Town of Vandemere renovated existing marina docks using funds from a CAMA grant and other sources.

The BAA is a partnership between the Commission and the Town of Vandemere, which owns the property and is providing the public access to the Commission through a Memorandum of Agreement.

“This new boating access area will give anglers some great fishing opportunities,” said Benjamin Ricks, the Wildlife Commission’s district fisheries biologist. “Boaters can expect to catch a wide variety of species including redfish, seatrout, flounder, croaker and spot.”

Marina at River Dunes nets two major boating awards

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ORIENTAL — River Dunes has been voted one of the Top Ten Best All-Around Marinas in the world, according to Marinas.com, a top ranked website with over 5.5 million visitors annually.

The survey allowed voters to select their favorites from over 16,000 marinas in the categories of Best All-Around, Transient, Home Port, Resort, Family-Oriented, and Boat Service Yards. Other winners ranged from as far as Portugal, the British Virgin Islands and Canada.

Deaton’s Yacht Service, located in Oriental, was voted one of the Top Five Boat Service Providers in the Marinas.com survey.

Marinalife, a combination magazine / website also announced winners of the 2015 Best Marina Contest. This year, votes were submitted based on two categories: Best Large Marina (over 100 slips) and Best Small Marina (under 100 slips).

NEWS1-River-Dunes-pic-2

River Dunes in Oriental, NC won Best Large Marina. South Jersey Marina in Cape May, NJ took honors for Best Small Marina.  

River Dunes is located along the Intracoastal Waterway just north of Oriental. Featuring a well-protected harbor, the marina is equipped with 120 slips. Guests have access to high-class amenities including steam showers and laundry, courtesy car, fine and casual dining, pool, spa, cabanas and fitness facility. The state-of-the-art marina offers floating docks within a protected 28-acre inland basin harbor. One popular feature is high speed fuel, along with other conveniences. Transient and leased slips are available.

“It is a great honor for us that River Dunes has been voted the Best Large Marina. Every member of the staff at the Marina and Harbor Club takes pride in providing the best customer service, maintaining our beautiful facilities, and ensuring that all our guests have the best possible experience,” said Ed Mitchell, President of River Dunes. “We appreciate the support of all our boating friends and thank them and Marinalife for this recognition.” 

Located at Mile Marker 173, River Dunes is also rated a five-star marina by readers of ActiveCaptain.com and sports a ‘2015 Best Southern Destination’ awarded by Marinalife readers.

Underwater memorial planned for long-time Reef Coordinator

Jim Francesconi

Jim Francesconi

MOREHEAD CITY – The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries is moving forward with plans to construct an underwater memorial in honor of the division’s former Artificial Reef Coordinator Jim Francesconi.

The vessel originally identified for sinking in Francesconi’s name is no longer available. An alternative vessel has been found, and efforts to contract for purchase, cleaning, towing and sinking the ship are underway.

The division will oversee sinking of the vessel on the Howard Chapin Reef (AR-330), about 12 miles outside of Beaufort Inlet. The vessel will be sunk near the wreck of the USS Indra, a 330-foot landing craft repair ship sunk on the reef site in 1992.

This reef is very popular with fishermen and divers, and the addition of another vessel will provide greater access and opportunity to both of these user groups.

Francesconi, who began working for the division in 1987, headed the Artificial Reef Program for 14 years before losing a battle with leukemia on July 18, 2014. In recent years, he worked closely with officials in the Town of Oriental to rehabilitate and expand an existing reef, which is just a few hundred yards off the town’s Neuse River shoreline.

Francesconi oversaw the deployment and sinking of several reef vessels including the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Spar, the tug Titan, the Captain Greg Mickey, the tug Pawtucket, the Captain Charlie and two Coast Guard Falcon Aircraft.

The project will cost about $120,000. About $70,000 will come from a special fund that receives money from the sale of SCUBA license plates.

For more information about the Artificial Reef Program or details of the ship’s sinking, contact division Habitat and Enhancement Section Chief Steve Murphey at 252-808-8046 or Steve.Murphey@ncdenr.gov.

Full steam ahead! Effort underway to sink more boating fees!

Tom Wynn

Tom Wynn

BRIDGETON – A man on a mission personifies Tom Wynn, the manager and dockmaster of Bridgeton Harbor Marina. To put it politely, Wynn is incensed that Republican lawmakers in the North Carolina General Assembly have proposed more in the way of new boating fees.

In a recent e-mailed ‘alert,’ BoatU.S., the well-known association of boat owners, claims “the new user fee would make North Carolina the most expensive state in the nation in which to register a boat.”

That’s right. Hard to believe, but true.

And, according to Wynn, snowbirds back-and-forth on the IntraCoastal Waterway are likely to be hit with the assessment too.

Early indications are that Wynn will have no problem mounting an organized effort to torpedo this proposed legislation. One of the arrows in his quiver is legislation passed only two years ago, raising boat registration fees dramatically – with the ostensible goal of helping to fund dredging.

Wynn, who admits that he has spent many an hour researching this issue, says “$8.7 million has been paid into that fund already, and every request made has been funded.” He also lambastes another proposed purpose for the money:

“Lake weed control? Where in the heck did that come from?”

Wynn wants to hear from anybody and everybody on this issue. He’ll furnish the name and phone numbers of alll state legislator with fingerprints on this proposed new law. Call Wynn at (252) 636-0171, or e-mail: Dockmasterwynn@gmail.com

Oriental Rotary welcomes Boat Show visitors

OBS-logo-png

By Paul Olson, President | Oriental Rotary Club

WATERFRONT — The weekend brings the 7th Annual Oriental Boat Show, produced by the Oriental Rotary Club. This event is now our largest fund raising effort to support scholarships for Pamlico County college-bound students.

For the second year in a row, everything happens inside the Village – hopefully a better show for your enjoyment.

We have added a Wooden Boat Exhibition and will have 10 preserved, restored, and handmade varieties on display. We will be asking you to vote for your favorite in each class and the “Best in Show.”

A boat will be built from scratch at the show – to be raffled off on Sunday!

Plan on attending a boat-building exhibition by Pamlico Community College. Graham Byrnes, Pamlico County’s worldwide renowned boat designer, will give a seminar on Saturday afternoon.

Vendors and exhibitors are up by 10 percent. We have a slightly new layout to ensure better traffic flow and visibility. We have attempted to improve our signage in all sorts of ways. We will have flags on the docks to highlight where you can see and board boats and boat docking offerings. We will have new entrance signs highlighting where to get your $5 wristband and show information. There will be signs directing you to boat building exhibits, hamburgers, popcorn and ice cream.

This year, enjoy Water Street Grill’s deck and dining room, which will be open during the whole boat show and in the evenings after the show closes. The show takes up almost all of their parking. Look for other parking on two different lots along New Street.

Thanks again to M&M’s café — open for normal hours and parking is available in their parking lot and on the street in front of the restaurant. They will be selling food and beverages on their front lawn.

Also new for this year is music that will be brought to you by the Front Porch Revival organization. Several of the people and groups that will be part of next October’s music weekend will be playing Saturday and Sunday afternoons at the Sea Harbour Stage in the “Beer Garden” of the Water Street Grill.

See the boat show program for vendor locations, and for the music and seminar schedules. When in doubt, come to the Rotary Headquarters tent for information. There is still time to get your stuff in the Nautical Flea Market; check “www.orientalboatshow.com” for the entry form.

Join us and spend some time with the vendors at the show who are here supporting the children of Pamlico County.

Thank you,

Paul Olson, President

Your Oriental Rotary Club