NCCFRG said state hasn’t made any effort to restrict trawling activities that violate Clean Waters Act
Two months after warning the state of North Carolina that it planned to file suit, a conservation group punched the button on Aug. 5 in U.S. District Court.
The N.C. Coastal Fisheries Reform Group (NCCFRG) filed a federal suit charging that the defendants — the owners of a handful of large shrimp trawlers, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality and the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries — have been damaging or allowing the damage of state waters in violation of the federal Clean Waters Act, because shrimp-trawling operations in the state’s sounds and coastal rivers has resulted in the discard of millions of pounds of finfish caught incidentally in trawl nets.
“We didn’t want to end up in court, but we ran out of good-faith options. Two months ago we reached out to the state and to the industry,” said Joe Albea of Winterville, N.C., long-time host and producer of UNC-TV’s Carolina Outdoors Journal and one of five NCCFRG principals listed on the lawsuit. “This matter of industrial-sized shrimp trawlers going into our inshore waters and killing millions of finfish and tearing up the bottom has to stop.
Finfish dumping violates the Clean Water Act, says NCCFRG
“If the politicians won’t do the right thing and make common-sense regulations reform, it’s time for the Court to weigh in.”
NCCFRG filed a Notice of Intent to file suit in mid-May, giving the state and shrimpers 60 days to work out some kind of agreement that would address the group’s complaint. Albea said the matter was discussed by both plaintiffs and defendants, but defendants refused to give any ground, so the suit was filed in the Eastern District of U.S. District Court.
NCCFRG’s charges are three-fold: that large, shrimp-trawling operations violate the Clean Water Act by dumping millions of pounds of finfish caught in their nets into state waters and by the disturbance of sediments on the bottom of bodies of water, and that the NCDEQ and NCDMF are failing to uphold North Carolina’s Public Trust Doctrine by allowing, and even encouraging such activities.
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