Commercial fishermen in the Pamlico Sound and the northern portion of Core Sound had until midnight this morning to remove all anchored, large-mesh gill nets from those waters due to interactions with sea turtles, the NCDMF announced.
The closure, under the state’s Sea Turtle Incidental Take Permit, affects all of Pamlico Sound and the northern portion of Core Sound down to a line from Club House on Core Banks to a point on the shore at Davis near Marker 1.
Staff with the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries observed interactions with 19 live and 11 dead green sea turtles in anchored, large-mesh gill nets. This comes near the maximum allowed takes of green sea turtles, based on observer coverage, in the affected area for the Incidental Take Permit year, which runs from Sept.1 through Aug. 31.
The Incidental Take Permit requires the division to close an area if allowable takes are approached based on observer coverage. Waters in the area will not reopen to anchored large-mesh gill nets until at least Sept. 1. The reopening could occur later, depending on the abundance of sea turtles in the area at that time.
North Carolina’s estuarine gill net fishery is managed under incidental take permits for sea turtles and Atlantic sturgeon, issued to the state by the National Marine Fisheries Service. The permits authorize limited takes of these species, listed under the federal Endangered Species Act, as part of conservation plans that divide the state’s internal coastal waters into six management units.
The permits require observer coverage, so that the management units are closely monitored for interactions with sea turtles and Atlantic sturgeon. An annual number of allowed interactions with each species is assigned to each gear type in each management unit. If the number of interactions is approached, the management unit must close for the remainder of the season or year.