WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC (WECT) - Tougher laws to protect sea turtles could be hurting local fishermen.
From Emerald Isle to the South Carolina line, the NC Division of Marine Fisheries monitors how many sea turtles come in contact with commercial fishermen. If too many interactions occur, Marine Fisheries will shut down all gill net fishing for that area.
"We were concerned from seeing two live sea turtles on the first day of fishing," said Chris Batsavage, the protected resources section chief for the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries. "If that trend continued, then we would quickly hit our allow number of sea turtle takes for the management unit down your way."
From September 25 through November 2, no gill net fishing was allowed because of two sea turtles spotted in the northern part of the state. A closure local fisherman, Randy King, does not support.
"I disagree with that," King said. "I think if this county isn't catching any turtles I don't think it should be closed."
King has been a local commercially fisherman for the past 35 year, but the recent fishing restrictions have negatively impacted his income.
"It has definitely knocked me out of my living," he explained. "July and August are my biggest months, and I missed out on about $1,500 to $2,000 a week."
King said he hasn't come in contact with a sea turtle in more than a year, and thinks the sea turtle restriction should be limited to the area it was spotted in; however, when it comes to state laws local fishermen's hands are tied.
"All of the fish we catch are feeding the public, and we really need what little bit we have left to survive," King said.
The NC Division of Marine Fisheries said if they reach their total number of sea turtle interactions again, they could shut down gill net fishing for next summer.