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State Marine Fisheries Officials
Studying Limited Entry Concept
BY DOUG RUTTER
It may lie years in the making, but
state officials have started talking
about limiting the number of com
mercial fishermen who are licensed
to harvest oysters, flounder and oth
The N.C. Division of Marine
Fisheries has no limit now on the
number of commercial fishing li
censes it issues each year, and some
officials believe it has resulted in
over-fishing and the decline of cer
tain types of fish.
"In general, we probably have too
many fishermen and too much
equipment in the water," said
Dennis Spitsbergen of the Division
of Marine Fisheries. "The pieces of
the pie are getting smaller and
Prompted by blue crab fishermen,
Spitsbergen said state legislators are
expected to start looking into a poli
cy known as "limited entry" which
restricts the number of commercial
"It's in its infancy yet. I don't
know that anyone has taken a solid
position on it yet," Spitsbergen said
Tuesday. "It's just an idea that has
been kicked around."
Lloyd Ward of Calabash, presi
dent of the Carolinas Commercial
Fishermen's Association, said he has
mixed feelings about the idea.
"In one way I could see where it
would help the people who make
their living at it," Ward said. "But in
another way it's taking away the
rights of people who want to get a
mess of fish or oysters."
Ward said he will reserve his
judgment until legislation is drafted.
"I'd like to see the whole proposal
before I make a decision on it," he
If it's possible, though, Ward said
he doesn't want to see things get to
the point where the state dictates
who can and cannot fish.
"I think it's getting in trouble
when we get to that point. I'd hate to
see the natural resources taken away
from the public at large," he said.
Limited entry is not a new con
cept. Spitsbergen said federal offi
cials already have programs in place
for several species including sea
scallops, summer flounder and
Virginia lawmakers recently
passed legislation that requires a
two-year waiting period for fisher
men to get into a fishery if they
don't already have a history in that
For instance, someone with no
records as a blue crab fisherman has
to wait two years before he can get a
license. People who harvested blue
crabs prior to the legislation were
Although such a proposal would
not directly affect recreational fish
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crmcn in North Carolina, Ward said Ward said he was told the limited
it would affect them indirectly since entry proposal came from Bob
the number of licenses would be Lucas, a recreational fishermen who
limited. chairs the N.C. Marine Fisheries
Commercial license holders are Commission.
generally allowed to harvest more But Spitsbergen said that's not the
than fishermen without licenses. For case. "He definitely didn't initiate it.
example, recreational fishermen are Knowing him, he will do a lot of
limited to one bushel of oysters per evaluation before he takes a strong
day while commercial fishermen position on it."
can take five. Spitsbergen said the issue came
Spitsbergen said any limited entry up a recent meeting with blue crab
plan would have to come through fishermen. "This just came up as
the N.C. Genera! Assembly since they were discussing various license
the legislature must approve all rules options...It's one of several options
related to fishing licenses. now that is being kicked around."
Division Seeks Comments
On Oyster Shell Program
Whether or not the state places oyster shells in Brunswick County
coastal waters this year could depend on the comments of local fisher
The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries is seeking comments on its
Oyster Rehabilitation Program and has scheduled five public meetings
next month for fishermen.
However, none of the meetings will be held locally. Telephone calls
and letters may be the best option for local fishermen interested in the
Each year, the division places shell material on estuarine bottom in
an effort to enhance oyster production. Oyster larvae attach to the shells
and the oysters grow, providing new resources for fishermen.
State officials want suggestions on all aspects of the upcoming shell
planting season including locations, methods, materials and amounts.
Public meetings have been scheduled in Bayboro, Hatteras, Swan
Quarter, Manteo and Morehead City.
Fishermen unable to attend the meetings can make suggestions to
program coordinator Jeff French by calling 1-800-682-2632.
Letters may be mailed to Jeff French. Division of Marine Fisheries,
P.O. Box 769, Morehead City, N.C. 28557.
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