The NC Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) has issued a statement regarding the thousands of striped bass killed and thrown overboard during commercial trawling activity off the Outer Banks in the last few days.
Patricia Smith, the public information officer of the DMF, released the following statement in response to questions for the DMF and its director Dr. Louis Daniel:
“The NC Division of Marine Fisheries is investigating reports of numerous dead striped bass floating in the ocean waters in northern Dare County areas.
The estimates of the numbers of dead fish have ranged from in the hundreds to in the thousands. The division is trying to determine the actual extent and cause of this event. However, the fish appear to be discards from fishing activity.
There was extensive commercial and recreational striped bass fishing in these waters over the holiday weekend. Both commercial and recreational fisheries have had issues with discards of striped bass in the past. However, this is the first time in several years that striped bass have migrated this close to the shore.
The commercial striped bass trawl fishery is scheduled to close at 6 p.m. Thursday. The division will evaluate the effort and landings in this fishery to determine if quota remains and if the fishery should reopen. The division will also consider if alternative management measures could be used to prevent future discard mortality.”
The statement was released in response to the article I ran yesterday about the thousands of striped bass slaughtered off of the Outer Banks due to “culling” during the activity of these trawlers. Some recreational charter captains also contacted the DMF about the long wakes of dead stripers.
Charter captains continue to contact me about the miles and miles of dead stripers left in the wake of the striper trawlers.
I will say that the one fortunate thing about striped bass migrating closer to shore this year is that so many witnesses were on hand to document this wasteful practice. Everyone, now including the DMF, admits this goes on every year and yet no one has ever done anything about it.
Now that there is photographic and video evidence of the many legal size stripers that are being killed and culled off the Outer Banks there is at least a chance something will be done eventually.
It does not look like the big striper kill will end until 6 p.m. Thursday at the earliest, but I hope after that the DMF, the Marine Fisheries Commission, and the Coast Guard address this problem in a more direct fashion.
Commercial trawlers slaughtering thousands of striped bass off the Outer Banks
Commercial fishermen trawling off of the Outer Banks of North Carolina are slaughtering thousands of striped bass in “culling” operations and tossing them overboard trying to keep larger stripers and remain under their 50 fish limit.
Both recreational anglers and smaller operation commercial fishermen have been aghast at the actions of the trawlers who are wiping out massive schools of stripers and discarding smaller fish to stay under the state 50 fish creel but maximize their profits.
A video of the striper carnage has been posted on You Tube showing some of the thousands of floating dead fish left in the wake of the trawlers. Outer Banks fishermen who are witnessing the fish kill have been taking to message boards and calling authorities to protest this striped bass massacre.
“It’s an atrocity,” said Captain Aaron Kelly, a top striper guide with over 15 years of experience on the Outer Banks. “It’s gone on before but I think this was the first time it was in front of such a large crowd.”
Captain Kelly said that the day before the video was shot he and the members of his charter followed one trawler for five miles leaving a long wake of dead stripers.
“It’s like they have an endless quota,” he said. “Under the actual numbers are so many dead fish. It’s a frightful waste.”
The striper trawling season is not set to close until this Saturday, January 20. The fishery can be closed earlier if a certain quota is reached, but the quota does not count the thousands of dead discards.
Captain JH Miller was on the water the day the video was made and called the scene “disturbing.”
“I’m not anti-commercial fishing in the least bit, but there is no justification for leaving miles and miles of dead fish out there,” said Captain Miller. “These were legal-sized fish just thrown away to die.”
Striped bass have to be 28 inches in size to be kept legally, and all of the charter captains confirmed that among the thousands of dead stripers were many that were over 28 inches and in the 15 pound range and higher.
Captain Ray grew up in the area and has fished the Outer Banks for decades.
“It’s happened before but this year is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” said Captain Ray. “I saw three huge masses of dead stripers from Nags Head to Kitty Hawk. It would be so much simpler if they were allowed a certain amount of pounds and would come in when they caught that many. I have no clue about why they allow this kind of sickening discard.”
Because the trawlers are inside the federal 3 mile limit and not keeping over 50 stripers they may not be technically breaking the law by killing scores of dead fish and throwing them overboard in order to keep netting.
Both Captain Kelly and Captain Ray said the Coast Guard was flying planes and helicopters very low over the area and must have seen the carnage. The Coast Guard has been closely monitoring recreational and smaller commercial fishing boats during the striper season.
Captain Miller said he called the Division of Marine Fisheries hotline for violations today and was told no one was working.
“Even if they are not breaking the law you’d think the Coast Guard could get on for just the pollution like they do the menhaden boats,” said Captain Ray.
The charter captains said that some recreational boats simply gaffed some of the legal stripers and took them aboard to count towards their limits so the fish would not be wasted.
“Commercial fishermen talk about protecting their livelihood all the time,” said Captain Kelly. “But these big stripers they’re throwing out dead, that’s their livelihood right there.”
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