Division Enhances Fishery Management Plan Process

The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries recently updated the way it develops fishery management plans to boost public input early in the process and to build internal division efficiencies.

The most notable change involves holding scoping meetings at the beginning of the fishery management plan process. These meetings allow the public to provide focused, informed input at the point in the process when it has the most impact. Stakeholders are encouraged to comment on strategies identified by the division as well as any additional relevant strategies for consideration during development of the fishery management plan. Scoping is the first and best opportunity to provide input on potential management strategies for the division to consider before an amendment is developed.

Another change replaces the individual fishery management plan advisory committee meetings with joint workshops consisting of the fishery management plan advisory committee and the division plan development team members. The advisory committee assists the division by providing input on refining management options in the draft fishery management plan. Workshop-style meetings allow scientists, managers, and stakeholders to address questions, comments, and concerns more effectively and in a less formal setting. While there is not an opportunity for public participation at the workshops, the public may attend the meeting.

Based on the outcome of the workshops, the division then presents a revised draft of the fishery management plan to the Marine Fisheries Commission. The Marine Fisheries Commission then votes to send the revised draft out for public comment and review by the regional and standing advisory committees, which are separate from the FMP advisory committee. At this point, the process follows the steps as prior to the recent enhancements to FMP development.

The new fishery management plan process creates a more focused and efficient process that is built on a close-knit partnership between division staff, advisers, the public, and ultimately the Marine Fisheries Commission.