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Shrimpers discuss economic impact of petition

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BAYBORO, Pamlico County - A recent shrimping petition was the main point of discussion at Pamlico County's Chamber of Commerce meeting Tuesday.

Jerry Schill, president of the commercial fishing lobby group North Carolina Fisheries Association spoke to a crowd of nearly 30 about the potential economic impacts of the petition. The shrimping petition was passed in February and will restrict the amount of days shrimpers can work to three days a week. It will also restrict net sizes, which has a local net business worried.

Virgil Potter, owner of Potter Net & Twine, said he sold nearly 20 nets last winter. He said he would be lucky to sell two if the petition makes it all the way through the approval process.

"It's no way you can make a living going three days a week with 90-foot rope," Potter said.

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A vote so contentious, security had to escort people out of a meeting.

Thursday, the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission voted to approve a petition that affects shrimpers along our coast. These new regulations have some questioning how they will survive.

"I think we've been in status quo for too long and that's why these fish stocks are in decline and in trouble." NC Wildlife Federation Policy Adviser David Knight said.

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That's why the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission voted to approve a petition that would regulate where, how and when shrimpers could work. The North Carolina Wildlife Federation brought forward the petition to protect juvenile fish.

"We believe that the package that we put forward is a fair balanced one," Knight said. "It's research based and that should be the basis for them moving forward."

The more than one hundred fishermen in attendance disagreed. They say the changes will affect the future of those in the industry as well as residents in the state.

"If these rules are implemented it will affect their ability to make a living shrimping," Terry Pratt said. "It will affect 9.5 million people's ability to have North Carolina grown shrimp and other seafood."

"That petition was obscure, it was inadequate, and it's going to destroy livelihoods and communities across this state." Sharon Peele Kennedy said.

David Knight says that the process is far from over. The commission will now look at the recommendations and figure out how to implement them.

"Well we're happy that the majority of the commission determined that this was a positive, research based and science based place to start their proceedings on the future rules for determining what bycatch should be and how it should be handled." Knight said.

Those against the petition say they are not ready to give up on this fight. They say they will be taking their battle to the governor to express their feelings on the rule making.

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