State to ban gill nets within 100 yards of ocean beaches to protect dolphins

Pod of dolphins in Roanoke Sound. [Outer Banks Center for Dolphin Research photo]

State fisheries managers will institute a no gill net corridor along the ocean surf zone of North Carolina starting April 22 to reduce bottlenose dolphin interactions.

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Director Steve Murphey issued a proclamation Thursday expanding the current restriction on small mesh gill net use within 100 yards of the ocean surf zone to include large mesh gill nets.

According to a news release, the intent of the prohibition is to provide a safe corridor along which bottlenose dolphins are known to travel, and is matches recommendations provided by a federal Bottlenose Dolphin Take Reduction Team.

The recommendations were addressed in a November 2018 letter from National Marine Fisheries Service Southeast Regional Administrator Roy Crabtree.

Crabtree said bycatch from commercial gill nets continues to exceed allowable levels for two North Carolina stocks of dolphins under the Bottlenose Dolphin Take Reduction Plan, which is required under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.

North Carolina estuarine stock dolphins are known to spend significant time in the surf zone foraging and traversing the area, Crabtree wrote.

Run around, strike or drop nets that are used to surround a school of fish and are then immediately retrieved are exempt from the restriction.

The restriction also does not apply to stop nets, which are stationary nets used to trap schooling fish so that they can be harvested with a seine. Stop nets are managed under a different set of proclamations.

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Sam Walker was news director for, Beach 104, 99.1 The Sound, Big 94.5 WCMS and Z 92.3 from August 2011 to March 2022.