05/02/08 — State fishing permits pulled

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State fishing permits pulled

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on May 2, 2008 1:48 PM

MOREHEAD CITY -- Striped bass fishermen can put their wallets away, for now.

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources announced this week that they will not require commercial fishermen to obtain a permit in order to fish for ocean-striped bass in the Atlantic Ocean this year.

"This is a complicated fishery with incomes and livelihoods involved and it needs to be done correctly, no matter how long it takes," said David Taylor, head of Fisheries Management for the Division of Marine Fisheries.

For years, commercial striped-bass angling has been competitive and contentious.

During a recent meeting in Greenville, the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission decided to delay the permit requirement and explore other options that include limited entry.

The state of North Carolina has a 480,480-pound annual quota in place.

"It is an allocation issue of how to divide 480,480 pounds of striped bass among three groups," said Taylor. "Two groups now use essentially the same gear (gill nets double as beach seines), but we will be coming out in May with a definition of a beach seine to address that problem (mesh size, length, etc.)."

These "loopholes" have caused participation in the striped bass fishery to quadruple, and forced fishermen into derby-style tactics and early-season closures.

The state had planned to institute a new permit for the harvesting of ocean striped bass this fall, which would have required fishermen to pay a $10 fee. They would also have to declare which of three gear types -- gill nets, beach seines and trawls -- they would be using.

The permit program was originally conceived as a limited entry system to control the number of commercial harvesters. The final permit that was approved by the state legislature did not allow for a reduction in fishermen.

With the main objective left out of the approved proposal the Division of Marine Fisheries decided to pull the plug on permits for 2008. The DMF plans to go back to the drawing board in search of alternatives.

"Permitting the fishermen would be pointless since we cannot limit the number of permits we give out," said Taylor. "We have a subcommittee working on coming up with recommendations for criteria that would let the true fishermen participate, while excluding those who just sold fish at some point."