North Carolina residents can voice their opinion about pending permits that will allow the occasional unintentional capture of animals, birds or fish protected by the Endangered Species Act – in this case, sea turtles and Atlantic sturgeon.

The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries has applied for Incidental Take Permits (ITPs) to allow commercial fishermen to have some incidental, unintended interactions with turtles and sturgeon. The permits are in different stages of the approval process, but both have been posted for review and solicitation of public comment by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Without ITPs, some commercial netters will not be able to set certain kinds of nets in North Carolina’s sounds, bays and coastal rivers. Currently, portions of Core Sound, Pamlico Sound and all inland waters south of the US 58 bridge at Cape Carteret are closed to large-mesh gill nets through at least Sept. 1 because of documented interactions with turtles.

The ITP for sea turtles is nearing the final stages and has been reviewed once already for environmental assessment. NMFS has published the draft environmental assessment for the NCDMF’s application for an incidental take permit for sea turtles in the Federal Register at https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/07/16/2013-17037/notice-of-availability-of-draft-environmental-assessment-on-the-effects-of-issuing-an-incidental.   

The ITP for Atlantic Sturgeon is in the early stages, and this is its first review, so the time for the review and public comment is longer. NMFS has published the NCDMF application for an incidental take permit for Atlantic Sturgeon in the Federal Register at http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0104-0003.    

NMFS is soliciting public comments on both ITPs. This is your time to be heard and your comment registered. The deadline for public comment on the environmental assessment for the ITP for sea turtles is July 31, and the deadline for public comments on the application for the ITP for Atlantic sturgeon is Aug. 8.