North Carolina commission approves shrimp trawl measures aimed to reduce bycatch
North Carolina’s Marine Fisheries Commission has approved new rules aimed at dramatically reducing the amount of bycatch taken in by shrimpers.
The commission approved by unanimous vote, at its 17 May hearing, to mandate that shrimp trawls, where more than 90 feet of headrope is allowed, use a gear combination. Tests showed the changes reduced finfish bycatch by 40 percent.
The measure takes effect 1 July 2019. It also comes after a three-year public-private stakeholder group first gathered to begin testing methods that reduce bycatch while minimizing shrimp loss.
Chris Stewart, a shrimp biologist with the state, said the group received about USD 500,000 (EUR 426,127) in grant funding and up to USD 165,000 (EUR 140,621) in in-kind corporate contributions to conduct the studies. Funding came from such groups as the MFC Conservation Fund, the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act and NOAA Fisheries’ Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program.
He said working group members spent thousands of hours in conducting research and examining the data.
“I’m very excited to share the results,” he said. “I’ve been very impressed by the collaboration.”
Kevin Brown, a gear development biologist, told the commission that a challenge was finding a solution that filtered out fish that are roughly the same size as the shrimp the trawls targeted.
“We had to use devices that sort by behavior,” he said, noting that the fish often maintained their station with the net while shrimp moved toward the collection areas.
In addition to reducing bycatch, the new gears also should help fishermen reduce culling time, Brown said.
The group also recommended – and the commission approved – funding for additional gear testing to conduct more bycatch reduction research. The group recommended the funding come from a surplus from the Commercial Fishing Resources Fund. Industry members added they would be willing to continue committing in-kind contributions.