Happy New Year!

Outer Banks Catch has said adieu to 2017 and is welcoming 2018 with a huge smile.

Many of the same issues that plagued 2017 are still around but the commercial fishing industry and its supporters are ready for them.

One of the bright spots is that a complete economic impact study was finally accomplished by the new economist at the Division of Marine Fisheries. In the past, the value of the commercial fishing industry was based only on dockside value – what was paid directly to the fisherman at the dock.

The proper direct and indirect impact is found to be $735,035,408 – almost three-quarters of a billion dollars.

The economic study was accomplished as part of a to-do list related to the shrimp petition presented to the Marine Fisheries Commission in 2017. The petition for rule-making requires an economic impact statement to be submitted before the petition can be considered.

The petition seeks to severely curtail shrimping and to find the required economic impact of the proposed changes, a complete industry impact total was needed before the portion related to shrimping can be determined. That second step is expected to be finished in late Spring or early Summer.

Also related to the shrimp petition, on Jan. 22, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the Division of Marine Fisheries will hold a shrimp bycatch workshop at the Riverfront Convention Center. The workshop panel will discuss findings from the multi-year research project aimed at reducing bycatch in shrimp trawl nets.

On Jan. 11, a three-person Marine Fisheries Commission committee will meet to discuss how to define a commercial fisherman. Chaired by MFC Chairman Sammy Corbett, the committee includes commissioners Chuck Laughridge and Mike Wicker.

The stated purpose of the attempt to define commercial fisherman is a perception that recreational fishermen are buying commercial licenses to bypass recreational hook and line creel limits.

A recreational saltwater license is $15; commercial licenses are $400.

When Recreational Commercial Gear Licenses were raised from $35 to $70, the number of issued licenses took a steep dive of about 50 percent.