Gill net fishermen along most of the North Carolina coast received a setback – literally and figuratively – from regulations that become effective Sept. 15 that will require small-mesh gill nets to be set a minimum of 100 yards from the beach to protect bottlenose dolphins.

Dr. Louis Daniel, director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, issued a proclamation on Sept. 10 setting the new regulations, which cover the North Carolina coastline except in an area from Cape Lookout to Bogue Inlet and an area from Carolina Beach inlet to the South Carolina state line.

According to Chris Batsavage, a DMF biologist, the exempted beaches are historically home to gill net fisheries for sea mullet, spots and several other species that are seasonal and the exemption was to allow these fisheries to continue.   

“This has progressed from early in the summer when it was first discussed by the (National Marine Fisheries Service),” Batsavage said. “We asked for the exemptions for our traditional areas, and they were granted for three years. However, these exemptions may be rescinded immediately if there is a single interaction with a bottlenose dolphin, and those areas will be monitored heavily.” 

Data collected for several years by NMFS Bottlenose Dolphin Take Reduction Teams indicated that small-mesh gill nets continue to seriously injure and kill bottlenose dolphin at levels higher than allowed by a federal plan to reduce those interactions. That is the basis for moving nets a minimum of 100 yards offshore.

“The setback restriction is for monofilament gill nets,” Batsavage said. “This includes all commercial and recreational gill nets that are set. The restriction does not apply to stop nets and multifilament seine nets. It also does not apply to monofilament strike nets used to surround a school of fish and immediately retrieve the catch. 

For coordinates and all details of the ocean gill net setback regulations, see Proclamation M-26-2013 at www.ncdmf.net. For other information contact Chris Batsavage at 252-808-8009 or Chris.Batsavage@ncdenr.gov