Director's Editorial: Bob Austin
(Bob is a full-time commercial fisherman, an occupation he's pursued for over 25 years. He has a B.S. in Biology and has taught environmental science in high school.)
CORE SOUND LEASE MORATORIUM
Current State of the Core Sound Wild Clam Harvest: Core Sound historically has been a significant commercial fishing ground in this state. It is one of three routes used by migrating fish, shrimp and crabs to reach the Atlantic Ocean as they leave the vast inland nursery of Pamlico Sound and its associated rivers and bays. Until the mid 1970’s, clamming was basically a subsistence fishery; something to fall back on when other, more lucrative fisheries were slack. In 1977, the mechanical clam “kicking” industry in Core Sound was born, enabling boats to harvest clams much more efficiently than by hand. It almost immediately became apparent that it was too efficient and the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) moved to start regulating it.
The season was limited to four months in the winter, only three days a week. Finally, a daily catch limit was installed, starting at 10,000 clams and gradually reduced to the current 5,000. It is a testament to the reproductive capacity of the hard clam that the clam kicking industry lasted as long as it has. The resource is so depleted now that only about 30 boats rig up out of a fleet that once numbered in the hundreds, and the effort is all concentrated in the very northernmost end of Core Sound, which receives new seed from Pamlico Sound every year (for the first three weeks of their lives clams are free swimming and mobile).
Aquaculture in Core Sound: No one in North Carolina showed much interest in growing clams on leases until after the decline of the wild harvest; before then, leases were geared towards growing oysters. With the development of northern clam markets and the development and refinement of clam growing techniques in other states, some local fishermen became interested, switching from oyster to clam culture. An agricultural training program out of New Bern, funded by the Neuse River Council of Governments, introduced many of the current clam growers to the new techniques. The Sea Grant program lent its expertise to interested individuals and the N.C. legislature instituted a Fishery Resource Grant program that listed aquaculture as one of its four areas of research of new and better techniques. These programs, combined with the decimation of the oyster by the dermo virus, caused many prior Core Sound oyster growers to attempt clam culture, and wild clam harvesters to become interested in growing clams on leases.
The Moratorium: In 1993, an individual applied for a lease on the banks side of Styron’s Bay, and was granted this lease (which met all DMF requirements) over the protests of local fishermen. Soon after, a group of interested growers applied together for a block of leases in the same general area. This action incensed the local fishermen. Gaining no success after following the prescribed protest and denial procedures, they went to their legislators with a petition and succeeded in having implemented a two-year moratorium on all new leases. When this moratorium lifted, a new flood of applications came in, and the anti-lease group convinced the legislature to enact another moratorium until the leasing situation could be studied and solid conclusions drawn. This moratorium was extended annually until a series of public meetings and a study, headed by Dr. Michael Orbach, could be held and presented in 2001.
The results of this study indicated that to best achieve a variety of objectives, including the maximization of clam production and the protection of public trust interest, the eastern side of Core Sound should remain closed and the western side should be allowed to reopen with a 1% to 3% cap. This report was sent to the legislature and to the DMF Shellfish committee. In November of 2001, a Core Sound Stakeholders Committee of concerned commercial fishermen was formed. After several meetings, their report was also sent to the DMF Shellfish Committee. The final recommendation sent to the Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) and the legislature was to allow leasing to continue only on the western side of the sound, and with a 1% cap. Currently only 109 acres are leased in a sound that contains 88,000 acres.
Recent Developments: Marine Fisheries Commission held a public hearing in Atlantic. About 100 people indicated they were against more leasing and only a handful spoke out for it. In a split decision, the MFC then recommended to the legislature that the moratorium be extended once again. Our two local legislators, Jean Preston(R) and Ronnie Smith(D), had indicated to us at a Crossroads Board meeting this winter that they thought it was time for this moratorium to be over. In June of this year, however, they voted with their fellow legislators to extend the moratorium once again, this time for six months until June of 2003.
The moratorium continues despite the recommendations of a specially commissioned and thorough study, the recommendations of the Shellfish Committee, the Core Sound Stakeholders Committee, and the Division of Marine Fisheries. The squeaking wheel continues to get the grease. Meanwhile, our neighboring states produce aquaculture clams in the hundreds of millions while we manage only six million statewide. What a missed opportunity for fishermen who are being forced out of other, more traditional fisheries by ever increasing pressure on dwindling resources. Shouldn’t we, as conscientious stewards of our environment, endorse a fishery that reaps only what it sows, unlike the take, take, take from the public resource of a more typical commercial fishery?
Crossroads Educational Initiative
Environmentalists agree that early education about good stewardship is an important component of an effective educational effort on environmental protection. To this end, Crossroads Board of Directors offered a gift to all Carteret County Educational System elementary schools of an interactive, educational CD game designed for 3rd to 5th graders. This game, called Desdemona's SplashTM, was produced by the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC), at Purdue University, to teach children about nonpoint source pollution and ways to reduce or avoid it. Additionally, we supplemented the CD with two educational pamphlets, one written by Board Directors Bruce McCutcheon and Lisa Wimpfheimer and the other produced by Sea Grant (N.C. State University). These written materials are for teachers and media center directors to relate the information in the game to our particular situation on the coast and in Carteret County.
We thank CTIC for making copies of the CD available to Crossroads at a greatly reduced price and to Bob Sherwell, owner of Mail Boxes, Etc., for making multiple copies of our pamphlet free of charge.
A Good Book
We've all heard about the "bad actors", those people who, for personal gain, willfully break rules that protect the environment. In contrast, think of all the people who give of their money, skill and effort to benefit the environment. Many do this without notice or fanfare. A book by A.E. & R.A.K. Dorbin, called Saving the Bay: People working for the future of the Chesapeake (JHU Press, 2001), presents stories of such people. Accounts like this encourage us all to persist in those many small acts that, in cumulative measure, give us a healthier environment.
State Writes Stormwater Rules
As part of the EPA's requirements for controlling water pollution, protective rules (Phase II Stormwater Rules) must be applied to the discharge of stormwater into bodies of surface water. The Environmental Management Commission (EMC) is now in the process of finalizing the details of these rules and defining the entities to which they apply. At a recent public hearing on these rules in Washington, NC, Crossroads President Dick Bierly concluded: "…we encourage EMC …[to] set high standards for compliance, to be specific for compliance with the Clean Water Act, and see this initiative as an opportunity to educate our local officials on the dynamics of our ecosystem and their obligations to protect it."
Crossroads Board of Directors welcomes Bill Rawls to the Board. Bill is a well-known physician in Morehead City and an enthusiast of several watersports. His wife, Meg, was a former member and Vice President of the Board .
Thanks to Martha Bruno, Paxon McLean Holz and Ginny Jones, our newest Life Members.