State marine fisheries changes rules for striped bass gear
By SUSAN WEST
Before the 2008 fishing season gets underway,
commercial fishermen working in the Atlantic Ocean striped bass fishery
will need to buy a gear permit.
The permit will require fishermen to lock into using one gear type to
harvest striped bass for three years and will cost $10 annually.
Striped bass, also called rockfish, are harvested with beach seines,
gillnets, and trawls. The state Division of Marine Fisheries
(DMF) divides the statewide, annual 480,480 pound quota among the three
For Billy Beasley of Colington, the sticking point in the new permit is the beach seine definition included in the rule.
The rule defines a seine as “a swipe net constructed of
multi-filament or multi-fiber webbing fished from the ocean beach that
is deployed from a vessel launched from the ocean beach where the
fishing operation takes place.”
Like most other commercial fishermen, Beasley turned to the lighter and
less-expensive monofilament net to replace the nylon or multi-filament
net he once used in the fishery.
Beasley said small fish escape the 8 1/4-inch mesh in the monofilament
net he uses, and predicts that smaller fish will be caught with nylon
“There’s more rock now than ever, and if the small fish are there, we’ll catch them too,” he said.
He said that in 1971, he caught more than 56,000 pounds of rockfish in two hauls at Cape Point.
“The difference was that back then we could sell a 12-inch and up fish,” he explained.
Now the minimum size limit for striped bass in the ocean is 28 inches.
“I’ve told them that they are opening up a slaughterhouse with this change,” he said.
“Fish will smother and die and wash up on the beach, and the
towns will complain and then they’ll shut down the whole
mess,” he said.
DMF has said that the definition originated in part from a request from
traditional beach seine fishermen who complained that fishermen using
monofilament gillnets were catching the quota share assigned to the
beach seine fishery.
DMF has also said the rule will help prevent interaction between bottlenose dolphins and beach seines.
The North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) approved the gear
permit rule at its September meeting. DMF will send the rule to
the Rules Review Commission for approval in October. Louis
Daniel, DMF director, said the agency would not implement the rule
until next year.
“The state shouldn’t have done this. What they need
to do is cut back on the number of people fishing for rockfish.
Many of them aren’t even commercial fishermen to start
with,” said Beasley.