Nineteen rules go into effect as of Aug. 23, including amendments pertaining to reducing shellfish lease user conflicts, repackaging foreign crab meat, and limiting certain gears on state ocean artificial reefs. The rules were amended and readopted under a state mandated periodic review schedule.
Portions of three rules under 15A NCAC 03O (Licenses, Leases, Franchises, and Permits) were amended and re-adopted to address user conflicts associated with shellfish leases while supporting a productive shellfish aquaculture industry, as required by state law (NCGA Session Law 2019-37). The changes:
- Increase setback requirements from developed shorelines for new shellfish leases;
- Limit the allowable number of corner markers for demarcating shellfish leases to simplify the polygon shapes;
- Set new criteria for shellfish lease stakes and signage to alleviate navigation concerns; and
- Initiate a new shellfish leaseholder training program that emphasizes user conflict reduction strategies.
Three rules – one new, 15A NCAC 03L .0210 (Repacking of Foreign Crab Meat Prohibited), and two amended in 15A NCAC 18A (Sanitation) – make it unlawful to repack foreign crab meat into another container in North Carolina. These rule changes address concerns following incidences in North Carolina where foreign crab meat was fraudulently marketed and sold as domestic blue crab. They are meant to prevent future fraud and improve consumer confidence. The changes do not apply to crab meat that has been transformed into another product, such as crab cakes or other value-added products.
Three rules – two new, 15A NCAC 03J .0404 (Ocean Artificial Reef Gear Restrictions) and 15A NCAC 03R .0119 (Ocean Artificial Reefs), and one amended 15A NCAC 03I .0109 (Research Sanctuaries) – limit highly efficient gears on state ocean artificial reefs. The changes limit allowable fishing gears on the 13 artificial reefs in state ocean waters (out to 3 nautical miles) to hand line, hook and line, rod and reel, and spearfishing gear. The changes were made to protect all species of finfish, reducing the likelihood of overexploiting resources on the reefs and to complement federal restrictions for snapper grouper species that became effective in 2021 for the 30 artificial reefs off North Carolina in the Exclusive Economic Zone (from 3 to 200 nautical miles) in the Atlantic Ocean.
Changes to two rules – 15A NCAC 03L .0301 (American Lobster) and NCAC 03M .0519 (Shad) – remove outdated harvest requirements for both species and add regulatory authority for the Fisheries Director to issue proclamations for American Lobster because of variable conditions that require frequent changes. There is no effective change to the fishermen from these changes.
The remaining eight rule changes correct capitalization and other punctuation and make word usage consistent across all rules. There is no effective change to these rules.
Complete text of the rules can be found in the Aug. 23, 2022 Supplement to North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission Rules at https://deq.nc.gov/dmf-rules.