The North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) has voted to eliminate purse seining from a “mother ship” effectively limiting the practice by the reduction fishery in harvesting menhaden for fish meal and oil in North Carolina waters.
Menhaden are one of the primary prey species for marine fish and serve a critical role as forage for species ranging from trout to tuna.
Purse seine fishing uses giant nets to scoop up entire schools of menhaden, which are then suctioned into the hold of the mother ship. Bycatch such as red drum and striped bass, which to no one’s surprise are often in proximity to menhaden schools, are killed as well in the process. North Carolina no longer has a menhaden reduction plant. The last plant closed in Beaufort in 2005. The boats currently operating in N.C. waters are from Omega Protein Corporation, operating out of Reedville, Virginia.
Coastal Conservation Association North Carolina has long campaigned to eliminate the menhaden reduction fleet. In 2009, purse seiners from Virginia caught as bycatch and killed a large school of red drum, N.C.’s state fish, which subsequently washed up dead on Core Banks.
“We are glad to see the NC MFC take action to help North Carolina fish and fishermen,” said CCA NC Fisheries Chairman Bill Mandulak. “Menhaden are currently at the lowest level of abundance ever recorded. North Carolina fishermen are seeing fewer and fewer menhaden. This measure will certainly help North Carolina’s fish stocks and eliminate the wasteful bycatch problems associated with this practice.”
“The MFC should be recognized for taking positive action to help all North Carolina fish stocks. We applaud their vote for conservation today,” said CCA NC President, Greg Hurt.