Comment period opens, public hearing scheduled for 103 marine fisheries rules

Published 2:05 pm Tuesday, August 15, 2023

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The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission is accepting public comment on 103 proposed rules pertaining to data collection and the prevention of harassment of N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries staff, the Shellfish Relay Program and shellfish leases and franchises, oyster sanctuaries and shellfish sanitation procedures.

A public hearing will be held by web conference on August 16 at 6 p.m. A listening station will be established at the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Central District Office at 5285 Highway 70 West, Morehead City. The public may join the meeting online; however, those who wish to comment during the hearing must register to speak by noon on the day of the hearing. Those who wish to speak at the listening station may sign up when they arrive.

Members of the public may also submit written comments through an online form or through the mail to N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Rules Comments, P.O. Box 769, Morehead City, N.C. 28557. Comments must be posted online or be received by the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries by 5 p.m. on October 2, 2023.

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Links to the public hearing registration form and online comment form, as well as text of the proposed rules and links to join the meeting, can be found on the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission’s website under 2023-2024 Proposed Rules Page.

Data Collection and Harassment Prevention: Proposed amendments to 15A NCAC 03I .0113 broaden and enhance protections for Division of Marine Fisheries employees from verbal, physical or sexual harassment by those engaging in fishing activities while the employees are in the process of obtaining data about fishing activity. Proposed amendments also strengthen rule language that requires fishermen to cooperate with division data collection programs. The proposed amendments are needed because the division has had increasing occurrence and severity of harassment incidences and decreasing participation in its data collection initiatives.

Shellfish Relay Program and Shellfish Leases and Franchises: The proposed repeals of 15A NCAC 03K .0104, .0401, .0403 and .0405 and amendments to 15A NCAC 03I .0101, 03K .0101, .0301, 03O .0201, .0501, .0503, 18A .0901 and .0906 remove outdated shellfish relay requirements, reflecting the discontinuation of the Division of Marine Fisheries Shellfish Relay Program. Proposed changes to a shellfish lease rule (15A NCAC 03O .0201) require shellfish lease or franchise holders to meet the listed production, marking and permit requirements for current shellfish leases before being eligible for additional shellfish lease acreage. Doing so would help ensure more efficient and meaningful use of the public trust bottom by preventing persons not in good standing from precluding potential applicants from applying for a shellfish lease in affected areas.

Oyster Sanctuaries: Proposed amendments to 15A NCAC 03R .0117 add the boundaries of the two newest oyster sanctuaries (Cedar Island and Gull Shoal) and correct boundaries for three other oyster sanctuaries (Pea Island, Raccoon Island and Swan Island). These changes were implemented by proclamation while the rulemaking process is undertaken.

Commercial Shellfish Sanitation and Processing Procedures: Rules in 15A NCAC 03 and 18A are proposed for re-adoption, amendment or repeal under a state-mandated periodic review schedule. The proposed changes are to ensure that North Carolina remains in compliance with National Shellfish Sanitation Program requirements. Many of the proposed rules codify existing practices or regulations implemented by proclamation.

The proposed rule changes will be presented to the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission for final approval in November 2023 and have an earliest effective date of April 1, 2024.

For questions about the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission rulemaking process, email, rules coordinator for the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries.