Outer Banks Centinel
Gov. Mike Easley has signed into law Senate Bill 1242, "An act to authorize the Marine Fisheries Commission to establish gear specific permits to take striped bass from the Atlantic Ocean."
The legislation was developed by the Joint Legislative Commission on Seafood and Aquaculture sponsored by state Sen. Charles Albertson (D-Duplin) and Rep. William Wainwright (D-Craven).
"This new law will improve the commercial striped bass fishing industry," said Easley. "These permits, issued at a minimal cost, will allow fisheries officials to better regulate catch-quotas and protect the livelihoods of North Carolina fishermen."
The three main kinds of gear used to catch striped bass in the Atlantic Ocean, mostly in the Hatteras area and as far south as Cape Lookout, are seines nets hauled behind a boat, gill nets which let smaller fish through holes in the net but capture larger fish in them, and trawls that go along the lower depths. Under the new law, fishermen must designate the equipment they intend to use when they get the $10 permit and not change in the middle of the season. The law authorizes the Marine Fisheries Commission to adopt rules and regulations for issuing the permits.
The state manages the annual Atlantic States Marine Fisheries striped bass quotas. The state had set equal quotas for each of the three kinds of gear but found that it was difficult to manage those limits. Officials say the new permitting will help manage those quotas better.
North Carolina currently has a yearly 480,000-pound commercial quota of ocean-caught striped bass. The season begins in December and ends in February. In recent years, there has been significant growth in the number of fishermen using haul seine and gill nets and quotas are often reached in just a few days.
"With a healthy Atlantic striped bass population along with an increase in the number of fishermen participating in the season, it has become difficult to manage harvests. This new law is an important step to help manage the situation and protect the state's aquaculture industry," said Sen. Charles Albertson.
"This new law will strengthen an important sector of North Carolina's economy and help keep it viable," said state Rep. William Wainwright.
The new law goes into effect immediately.