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At the Helm

From the President's desk

Below are updates and forthcoming events that NCWU is currently, and/or planning to be, advocating for.

If you have any questions or suggestions on a certain event, topic, or pressing issue, please email us at ncwuinfo@gmail.com

North Carolina Watermen United addressing a proposed control date for federal charter vessel/headboat (for-hire) of the Atlantic coastal migratory pelagics, Atlantic dolphin and wahoo, and south Atlantic snapper-grouper fisheries:

This letter has been sent in to the SAFMC

President Woody Joyner

North Carolina Watermen United

In the December, 2023 meeting of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) a proposal was drafted to consider a control date of December 8, 2023 on the above-mentioned fisheries. The stated purpose was “to improve the for-hire fishery” and “to prevent speculative entry into the fishery.” The discussion and PowerPoint centered on the charter vessel/headboat operator’s not reaching the anticipated reporting percentages using the SouthEast For-Hire Integration Electronic Reporting (SEFHIAR) system. Andy Strelcheck, Regional Administrator for NOAA Fisheries, was quoted as saying “Fishermen have had two years to comply with those reporting requirements. These measures are needed to improve the data being reported through the program.”

Federal agencies are relying on a demographic that is historically unaccustomed to computer driven analytics and many of the watermen I have spoken with find the reporting confusing and cumbersome. Many of our operators must wait days to either complete the electronic reporting or seek assistance.  In addition, many of these federal permit holders are not full-time for-hire operators and make fewer than a couple of dozen trips a year. There is also a subset of operators that are buying the permits on the premise they might be of use and ultimately never actually fish.  This group is does not have the same initiative to complete the required reports as our fisherman who make their living on the water. As shown on the graphs and data presented, a large percentage of the non-reported trip data falls into the did not fish (DNF) catagory.

The establishment of a control date as opposed to the current open access permitting will result in punitive actions to several sectors of federal permit holders. For the fisherman who may not fish for these species for a season for whatever reason; weather, health, vessel problems and do not report DNF, they would be ineligible to apply for a permit the following year. What strikes as even more unfair is the cost required to enter the fisheries to the next generation of watermen that we are going to have to rely on to provide fresh seafood from our waters. Rather than applying for and paying these permit fees for less than $100.00, these young men and women will be forced to buy from a current permit holder at costs of $15,000.00 to $30,000.00. Add this to the financial requirement of acquiring a vessel, gear, etc., and we have just priced this generation out of the industry.

Before imposing any control date, we implore the Council to extend the comment period as many owners/operators were not aware that a control date was even being considered. More feedback from the permit users will certainly provide additional data to make an informative decision. In addition, we ask the Council & NOAA to formulate a plan of action to better educate the permit holders on the reporting system, make the programs more user friendly and give our watermen the possible ramifications of non-compliance. Help us reach the anticipated benefits of SEFHIER:

  • Improved for-hire data, for management:  

    • Increased accuracy & timeliness  

    • Census-based reporting  

    • Reduction in recall bias

 

• Improved monitoring & compliance

 

The North Carolina Watermen Untied wholeheartedly endorses the option listed in your summary of the December, 2023 meeting: “The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council also may choose to take no further action to control entry or access to the federal charter vessel/headboat (for-hire) component of the recreational sectors of the Atlantic coastal migratory pelagics, Atlantic dolphin and wahoo, and South Atlantic snapper-grouper fisheries”

Thank you for your consideration.

MFC Meeting Recap 
Feb 21, 2024

Woody Joyner, North Carolina Watermen United President attended the latest NC Marine Fisheries Commission meeting. The following is a recap:

 

The Wednesday, February 21 meeting saw a large public representation with standing room only for the Public Comment session. Many local fishermen, concerned citizens and Dare County bait & tackle shop owners relayed the economic hardships incurred by the NC MFC 2023 forced closure of the Striped Mullet season from November 7 through December 31. The NCWU voiced our stand with both a comment letter to the Commission and Woody’s in-person comments. Ultimately, because of the belief the data used for the options is not the best science, we recommended a return to the status quo of 2022 with no restrictions to both the commercial and recreational sectors. In an effort of compromise and to work with the Commission, we offered Option 5a…January-December / Saturday-Sunday closures with no trip limits.

 

RECAP OF THE NC MFC MEETING… 

Feb 21-23, 2024    New Bern, NC

STRIPED MULLET FMP AMENDMENT 2 (draft)…Options adopted by unanimous vote

 

COMMERCIAL:

Option 5: Combination of Measures…including day closures

5n: January-September / Sat-Sun closures… October-December / Sat-Sun-Mon closures

 

Option 6: Stop Net Fishery Management

6a:Status Quo – DMF recommends managing the stop net fishery with the same management measures applied to the rest of the fishery. Further, DMF recommends the stop net season open annually no sooner than October 15 and close no later than December 31. All other stop net and associated gill net regulations will be set by proclamation consistent with, but not limited to, previous management.

Option 10: Adaptive Management Framework

If adaptive management is adopted as part of Amendment 2, the specifications would apply to the commercial and recreational fisheries for mullet. Parts 1-3 are explicitly tied to a stock assessment update. Part 4 allows for adjustment of management to ensure compliance with and effectiveness of management strategies and would be a tool to respond to concerns with stock conditions and fishery trends.

  1. Update the stock assessment at least once in between full reviews of the FMP, timing at discretion of the division.

 a. If current management is not projected to meet management targets (management targets are minimum SSB remaining between SSBThreshold and SSBTarget, and maximum F remaining between FThreshold and FTarget), then management measures shall be adjusted via an adaptive management update and implemented using the Fisheries Director’s proclamation authority to reduce harvest to a level that is projected to meet the FTarget and SSBTarget.

 b. If management targets are being met, then new management measures would not be needed, or current management measures could possibly be relaxed provided projections still meet the management targets. When management targets are met, a striped mullet industry workgroup will be convened to discuss the possibility of “guard rail management” to maintain a sustainable harvest for the striped mullet stock. 

 

  1. Management measures that may be adjusted using adaptive management include:

a. Season closures 

b. Day of week closures 

c. Trip limits 

d. Gill net yardage or mesh size restrictions in support of the measures listed in a-c 

 

  1. Use of the Director’s proclamation authority for adaptive management to meet management targets is contingent on: 

a. Consultation with the Northern, Southern, and Finfish advisory committees 

b. Approval by the Marine Fisheries Commission. 

 

Upon evaluation by the division, if a management measure adopted to achieve sustainable harvest (either through Amendment 2 or a subsequent revision) is not achieving its intended purpose, it may be revised or removed and replaced using the Director’s proclamation authority; provided it conforms to part 2 above and provides similar protection to the striped mullet stock. If a revised management measure is anticipated to reduce or increase harvest compared to measures implemented through Amendment 2, it must comply with parts 2 and 3 above

 

RECREATIONAL:

Option 1. Recreational Vessel and Bag Limit

  1. Reduce Recreational Bag Limit (100 fish) and Implement Vessel Limit (400 fish)

 

Option 2. For Hire Vessel and Bag limit

  1. Exception for For Hire Vessel Operations to Possess a Bag Limit for the Number of Anglers Fishing Up to the 400-fish Maximum (Including in Advance of a Trip).

 

FOR FULL REVIEW OF ALL DOCUMENTS GO TO:

  • Marine fisheries commission NC DEQ

    • Quarterly Business Meeting – Feb 21-23, 2024

    • Complete briefing book

    • Pages 197-207

https://www.deq.nc.gov/news/events/marine-fisheries-commission-quarterly-business-meeting-2

ADDRESSING THE STRIPED MULLET FMP AMENDMENT 2

This letter has been sent in to the MFC. The opinion will also be presented during the public comment portion of the February 21-23 meeting in New Bern.

President Woody Joyner

North Carolina Watermen United

The April 2022 Stock Assessment of Striped Mullet in North Carolina Waters supplied the data to view the stock status and the necessary reductions, if needed, required to rebuild the stock.  This assessment used as a basis the commercial harvest relative to commercial landings in 2019. It is our position this data is flawed and we are not working with the best available science. Even a quick glance at the data gathered from 2015 to 2019 bookended two years with major early October landfall hurricanes. Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and 2018 saw Hurricane Michael. We also appreciate the inability of the Division to conduct a meaningful assessment in the years of the Covid 19 pandemic.

I presented an in-person comment to the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission at the May 2023 meeting and voiced the opposition of the North Carolina Watermen United to November 7 through December 31, 2023 proposed closure for Amendment 1 Supplement A. I stressed the importance of the striped mullet shoulder season to our watermen and quoted your estimated value lost per person on 2019 data of $1,278.00. This monetary figure was woefully short regarding our watermen and additionally reinforced the premise that the final impact would be much greater not only on the fishermen but to our supporting industries. 

 

After attending a meeting in mid-February 2024 of local bait & tackle shop owners and concerned fishermen at Frank & Fran’s Bait & Tackle in Avon, I realized the true financial loss to the Dare County owners and operators. These locally owned businesses rely on the fall fishing shoulder season for the sale of mullet, the desired tackle, clothes, and other supplies. Not only were they not allowed to even have in their possession frozen locally caught North Carolina striped mullet but had to bear the financial burden of stocking the bait fish from Virginia. Many fear any continued seasonal closings will have an extremely negative perception on our visiting fishermen. It is easy to extrapolate this to other industries that rely on tourism…restaurants, shops, hotels, property rentals, etc.

 

These last few years have in fact shown larger than average harvest yields but it is our contention the species is not experiencing over-fishing. However, the Division is striving to meet the directive for a 21.3 to 35.4% reduction in the overall commercial harvest.  To meet this end, the Division is recommending the most conservative reduction of 35.4% to increase the probability of rebuilding success. Knowing a reduction is going to recommended by the commission, using data from Option 5 table 2.13., compared to 2019 commercial landings, day closures of Saturday-Sunday for January-September and Saturday-Sunday-Monday for October-December will approach the Divisions desired reduction.

 

The North Carolina Watermen United favors an option that will focus on day of week closures only with no trip limits.  Using the data from this same table, day closures of Saturday-Sunday for January-December will result in a 25.7% commercial harvest reduction. The Division can then gather all data at the end of the 2024 calendar year to determine where the stock status registers. Again, we do not agree with the over-fishing view but this ruling will surely meet the current NC Statue that the FMP must end over-fishing in a specific time frame.

Legislative Dinner 2024 Recap

JANUARY 2024

President Woody Joyner

 

I hope each of you had a safe and enjoyable New Year and I am very excited about taking the North Carolina Watermen United growth and expanded presence into 2024. We began the new year by providing the catering for the annual Hyde County Legislative Duck Hunt Dinner in Swan Quarter on the 18th of this month. This marks our third year in this capacity and proud to say we had eight members of the Board of Directors and staff on hand to represent our members. Many thanks to Mike Johnson from Cross Trail Outfitters and Ches McDowell of Checkmate Government Relations for their continued cooperation in inviting the NCWU to partner in the banquet.

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Membership coordinator Mary Ellon Ballance, Founding Board Member Ernie Foster, President Woody Joyner and Board Member James Byrd at the 2024 Legislative Dinner in Swan Quarter, NC.

This was our third year and although the attendance was smaller than past years due another legislative pre-primary event, it actually worked in our favor. Fewer guests allowed the Board and staff a greater opportunity to engage each of the legislators on hand to discuss current issues facing our hard-working watermen. The organization has always strived to ensure, through political activity and public relations efforts, that any new legislation or regulation allows for the continued viability of the charter for hire, head-boat and commercial sectors in North Carolina.

The Board would like to acknowledge the following elected officials and their staff from across the state for not only participating in the dinner but for their time to individually listen to action needed to keep our members on the water.

  • Representative John Bell – District 10

  • Representative Ray Jefferies – District 2

  • Representative Brendon Jones – District 46

  • Representative Jeff McNally – District 84

  • Representative David Willis – District 68

  • Senator Paul Lowe – District 32

  • Senator Jim Perry – District 2

 

 

The delicious seafood buffet was prepared by Carl Walker and his staff from Tom Thumb Cookouts in Manteo. All the seafood items were generously donated by local purveyors of which most are members of the NCWU:

  • Jeffrey’s Seafood – Hatteras Village

  • Fresh Catch Seafood – Wanchese

  • Sticky Bottom Oyster Company – Hatteras Village

  • O’Neal’s Sea Harvest – Wanchese

  • Avon Seafood of Hatteras Village

 

Events of this nature allow the NCWU to interact with the decision makers in our state government to further enhance the positive future of our membership.

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