Federal fishing bans have local fisherman reeling
The oyster season lasts from October to March. Commercial fishermen like Jerry Edens count on those six months to make a living. Eden said this season’s been tough because of all the rain.
“Anytime we get an inch and a half of rain, they close it, and most of November it’s been closed because we’ve had a lot of rain. Thanksgiving week is our best week, and it was closed about the whole week, and it takes a lot of money out of our pockets,” Eden said.
The Division of Marine Fisheries bans shell fishing whenever heavy rain leads to too much runoff and pollution in our waterways. Restrictions prohibit harvesting or selling oysters, clams, and mussels until tests show the water has cleared.
In our area, the ban stretches from the Intracoastal Waterway to the mainland between Surf City Bridge and Snow’s Cut, and from Southport to the South Carolina state line.
The Division of Marine Fisheries also has an emergency sixth-month ban on red snapper fishing starting January 4th. Regulators hope the ban will replenish depleted stock.
The bans don’t end there. Marine fisheries typically ban grouper fishing for two months during the grouper spawning period. But for the first time, this no-fish period will last four months – from January to May; something commercial fisherman Tom Ronner doesn’t feel is necessary.
“There’s more gag grouper now than there was 10 years ago. I’ve had a federal permit for 14 years and I’d say they’ve taken a couple of measures that have helped and I think they’ve helped a lot, but now it’s time to let us go fishing,” Ronner said.
Commercial flounder fishing in certain waterways closed December 1st. The Division of Marine Fisheries made an exception for flounder caught in pound nets. That has extended through December 15th. All flounder fishing will resume in the New Year.
The captain of marine patrol told WWAY they hope to re-open shell fishing next week, but it all depends on the weather.
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