subchapter 03i – general rules
section .0100 – general rules
15A NCAC 03I .0101 DEFINITIONS
All definitions set out in G.S. 113, Subchapter IV and the following additional terms apply to this Chapter:
(1) Enforcement and management terms:
(a) Commercial Quota. Total quantity of fish allocated for harvest by commercial fishing operations.
(b) Educational Institution. A college, university, or community college accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education; an Environmental Education Center certified by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs; or a zoo or aquarium certified by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
(c) Internal Coastal Waters or Internal Waters. All Coastal Fishing Waters except the Atlantic Ocean.
(d) Length of finfish.
(i) Curved fork length. A length determined by measuring along a line tracing the contour of the body from the tip of the upper jaw to the middle of the fork in the caudal (tail) fin.
(ii) Fork length. A length determined by measuring along a straight line the distance from the tip of the snout with the mouth closed to the middle of the fork in the caudal (tail) fin, except that fork length for billfish is measured from the tip of the lower jaw to the middle of the fork of the caudal (tail) fin.
(iii) Pectoral fin curved fork length. A length of a beheaded fish from the dorsal insertion of the pectoral fin to the fork of the tail measured along the contour of the body in a line that runs along the top of the pectoral fin and the top of the caudal keel.
(iv) Total length. A length determined by measuring along a straight line the distance from the tip of the snout with the mouth closed to the tip of the compressed caudal (tail) fin.
(e) Recreational Possession Limit. Restrictions on size, quantity, season, time period, area, means, and methods where take or possession is for a recreational purpose.
(f) Recreational Quota. Total quantity of fish allocated for harvest for a recreational purpose.
(g) Regular Closed Oyster Season. March 31 through October 15, unless amended by the Fisheries Director through proclamation authority.
(h) Scientific Institution. One of the following entities:
(i) An educational institution as defined in this Item;
(ii) A state or federal agency charged with the management of marine or estuarine resources; or
(iii) A professional organization or secondary school working under the direction of, or in compliance with mandates from, the entities listed in Subitems (h)(i) and (ii) of this Item.
(i) Seed Oyster Management Area. An open harvest area that, by reason of poor growth characteristics, predation rates, overcrowding or other factors, experiences poor utilization of oyster populations for direct harvest and sale to licensed dealers and is designated by the Marine Fisheries Commission as a source of seed for public and private oyster culture.
(2) Fishing Activities:
(a) Aquaculture operation. An operation that produces artificially propagated stocks of marine or estuarine resources or obtains such stocks from permitted sources for the purpose of rearing in a controlled environment. A controlled environment provides and maintains throughout the rearing process one or more of the following:
(ii) predator protection;
(iv) temperature controls; or
(v) water circulation,
utilizing technology not found in the natural environment.
(b) Attended. Being in a vessel, in the water or on the shore, and immediately available to work the gear and be within 100 yards of any gear in use by that person at all times. Attended does not include being in a building or structure.
(c) Blue Crab Shedding. The process whereby a blue crab emerges soft from its former hard exoskeleton. A shedding operation is any operation that holds peeler crabs in a controlled environment. A controlled environment provides and maintains throughout the shedding process one or more of the following:
(ii) predator protection;
(iv) temperature controls; or
(v) water circulation, utilizing technology not found in the natural environment. A shedding operation does not include transporting pink or red-line peeler crabs to a permitted shedding operation.
(d) Depuration. Purification or the removal of adulteration from live oysters, clams, or mussels by any natural or artificially controlled means.
(e) Long Haul Operations. Fishing a seine towed between two vessels.
(f) Peeler Crab. A blue crab that has a soft shell developing under a hard shell and having a white, pink, or red-line or rim on the outer edge of the back fin or flipper.
(g) Possess. Any actual or constructive holding whether under claim of ownership or not.
(h) Recreational Purpose. A fishing activity that is not a commercial fishing operation as defined in G.S. 113-168.
(i) Shellfish marketing from leases and franchises. The harvest of oysters, clams, scallops, or mussels from privately held shellfish bottoms and lawful sale of those shellfish to the public at large or to a licensed shellfish dealer.
(j) Shellfish planting effort on leases and franchises. The process of obtaining authorized cultch materials, seed shellfish, and polluted shellfish stocks and the placement of those materials on privately held shellfish bottoms for increased shellfish production.
(k) Shellfish production on leases and franchises:
(i) The culture of oysters, clams, scallops, or mussels on shellfish leases and franchises from a sublegal harvest size to a marketable size.
(ii) The transplanting (relay) of oysters, clams, scallops, or mussels from areas closed due to pollution to shellfish leases and franchises in open waters and the natural cleansing of those shellfish.
(l) Swipe Net Operations. Fishing a seine towed by one vessel.
(m) Transport. Ship, carry, or cause to be carried or moved by public or private carrier by land, sea, or air.
(n) Use. Employ, set, operate, or permit to be operated or employed.
(a) Bunt Net. The last encircling net of a long haul or swipe net operation constructed of small mesh webbing. The bunt net is used to form a pen or pound from which the catch is dipped or bailed.
(b) Channel Net. A net used to take shrimp that is anchored or attached to the bottom at both ends or with one end anchored or attached to the bottom and the other end attached to a vessel.
(c) Commercial Fishing Equipment or Gear. All fishing equipment used in Coastal Fishing Waters except:
(i) Cast nets;
(ii) Collapsible crab traps, a trap used for taking crabs with the largest open dimension no larger than 18 inches and that by design is collapsed at all times when in the water, except when it is being retrieved from or lowered to the bottom;
(iii) Dip nets or scoops having a handle not more than eight feet in length and a hoop or frame to which the net is attached not exceeding 60 inches along the perimeter;
(iv) Gigs or other pointed implements that are propelled by hand, whether or not the implement remains in the hand;
(v) Hand operated rakes no more than 12 inches wide and weighing no more than six pounds and hand operated tongs;
(vi) Hook-and-line and bait-and-line equipment other than multiple-hook or multiple-bait trotline;
(vii) Landing nets used to assist in taking fish when the initial and primary method of taking is by the use of hook and line;
(viii) Minnow traps when no more than two are in use;
(ix) Seines less than 30 feet in length;
(x) Spears, Hawaiian slings, or similar devices that propel pointed implements by mechanical means, including elastic tubing or bands, pressurized gas, or similar means.
(d) Corkline. The support structure a net is attached to that is nearest to the water surface when in use. Corkline length is measured from the outer most mesh knot at one end of the corkline following along the line to the outer most mesh knot at the opposite end of the corkline.
(e) Dredge. A device towed by engine power consisting of a frame, tooth bar or smooth bar, and catchbag used in the harvest of oysters, clams, crabs, scallops, or conchs.
(f) Fixed or stationary net. A net anchored or staked to the bottom, or some structure attached to the bottom, at both ends of the net.
(g) Fyke Net. An entrapment net supported by a series of internal or external hoops or frames, with one or more lead or leaders that guide fish to the net mouth. The net has one or more internal funnel-shaped openings with tapered ends directed inward from the mouth, through which fish enter the enclosure. The portion of the net designed to hold or trap fish is completely enclosed in mesh or webbing, except for the openings for fish passage into or out of the net (funnel area).
(h) Gill Net. A net set vertically in the water to capture fish by entanglement of the gills in its mesh as a result of net design, construction, mesh length, webbing diameter, or method in which it is used.
(i) Headrope. The support structure for the mesh or webbing of a trawl that is nearest to the water surface when in use. Headrope length is measured from the outer most mesh knot at one end of the headrope following along the line to the outer most mesh knot at the opposite end of the headrope.
(j) Hoop Net. An entrapment net supported by a series of internal or external hoops or frames. The net has one or more internal funnel-shaped openings with tapered ends directed inward from the mouth, through which fish enter the enclosure. The portion of the net designed to hold or trap the fish is completely enclosed in mesh or webbing, except for the openings for fish passage into or out of the net (funnel area).
(k) Lead. A mesh or webbing structure consisting of nylon, monofilament, plastic, wire, or similar material set vertically in the water and held in place by stakes or anchors to guide fish into an enclosure. Lead length is measured from the outer most end of the lead along the top or bottom line, whichever is longer, to the opposite end of the lead.
(l) Mechanical methods for clamming. Dredges, hydraulic clam dredges, stick rakes, and other rakes when towed by engine power, patent tongs, kicking with propellers or deflector plates with or without trawls, and any other method that utilizes mechanical means to harvest clams.
(m) Mechanical methods for oystering. Dredges, patent tongs, stick rakes, and other rakes when towed by engine power, and any other method that utilizes mechanical means to harvest oysters.
(n) Mesh Length. The distance from the inside of one knot to the outside of the opposite knot, when the net is stretched hand-tight in a manner that closes the mesh opening.
(o) Pound Net Set. A fish trap consisting of a holding pen, one or more enclosures, lead or leaders, and stakes or anchors used to support the trap. The holding pen, enclosures, and lead(s) are not conical, nor are they supported by hoops or frames.
(p) Purse Gill Nets. Any gill net used to encircle fish when the net is closed by the use of a purse line through rings located along the top or bottom line or elsewhere on such net.
(q) Seine. A net set vertically in the water and pulled by hand or power to capture fish by encirclement and confining fish within itself or against another net, the shore or bank as a result of net design, construction, mesh length, webbing diameter, or method in which it is used.
(4) Fish habitat areas. The estuarine and marine areas that support juvenile and adult populations of fish species, as well as forage species utilized in the food chain. Fish habitats as used in this definition, are vital for portions of the entire life cycle, including the early growth and development of fish species. Fish habitats in all Coastal Fishing Waters, as determined through marine and estuarine survey sampling, include:
(a) Anadromous fish nursery areas. Those areas in the riverine and estuarine systems utilized by post-larval and later juvenile anadromous fish.
(b) Anadromous fish spawning areas. Those areas where evidence of spawning of anadromous fish has been documented in Division sampling records through direct observation of spawning, capture of running ripe females, or capture of eggs or early larvae.
(i) Fire corals and hydrocorals (Class Hydrozoa);
(ii) Stony corals and black corals (Class Anthozoa, Subclass Scleractinia); or
(iii) Octocorals; Gorgonian corals (Class Anthozoa, Subclass Octocorallia), which include sea fans (Gorgonia sp.), sea whips (Leptogorgia sp. and Lophogorgia sp.), and sea pansies (Renilla sp.).
(d) Intertidal Oyster Bed. A formation, regardless of size or shape, formed of shell and live oysters of varying density.
(e) Live rock. Living marine organisms or an assemblage thereof attached to a hard substrate, excluding mollusk shells, but including dead coral or rock. Living marine organisms associated with hard bottoms, banks, reefs, and live rock include:
(i) Coralline algae (Division Rhodophyta);
(ii) Acetabularia sp., mermaid's fan and cups (Udotea sp.), watercress (Halimeda sp.), green feather, green grape algae (Caulerpa sp.) (Division Chlorophyta);
(iii) Sargassum sp., Dictyopteris sp., Zonaria sp. (Division Phaeophyta);
(iv) Sponges (Phylum Porifera);
(v) Hard and soft corals, sea anemones (Phylum Cnidaria), including fire corals (Class Hydrozoa), and Gorgonians, whip corals, sea pansies, anemones, Solengastrea (Class Anthozoa);
(vi) Bryozoans (Phylum Bryozoa);
(vii) Tube worms (Phylum Annelida), fan worms (Sabellidae), feather duster and Christmas treeworms (Serpulidae), and sand castle worms (Sabellaridae);
(viii) Mussel banks (Phylum Mollusca: Gastropoda); and
(ix) Acorn barnacles (Arthropoda: Crustacea: Semibalanus sp.).
(f) Nursery areas. Areas that for reasons such as food, cover, bottom type, salinity, temperature, and other factors, young finfish and crustaceans spend the major portion of their initial growing season. Primary nursery areas are those areas in the estuarine system where initial post-larval development takes place. These are areas where populations are uniformly early juveniles. Secondary nursery areas are those areas in the estuarine system where later juvenile development takes place. Populations are composed of developing sub-adults of similar size that have migrated from an upstream primary nursery area to the secondary nursery area located in the middle portion of the estuarine system.
(g) Shellfish producing habitats. Historic or existing areas that shellfish, such as clams, oysters, scallops, mussels, and whelks use to reproduce and survive because of such favorable conditions as bottom type, salinity, currents, cover, and cultch. Included are those shellfish producing areas closed to shellfish harvest due to pollution.
(h) Strategic Habitat Areas. Locations of individual fish habitats or systems of habitats that provide exceptional habitat functions or that are particularly at risk due to imminent threats, vulnerability, or rarity.
(i) Submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) habitat. Submerged lands that:
(i) are vegetated with one or more species of submerged aquatic vegetation including bushy pondweed or southern naiad (Najas guadalupensis), coontail (Ceratophyllum demersum), eelgrass (Zostera marina), horned pondweed (Zannichellia palustris), naiads (Najas spp.), redhead grass (Potamogeton perfoliatus), sago pondweed (Stuckenia pectinata, formerly Potamogeton pectinatus), shoalgrass (Halodule wrightii), slender pondweed (Potamogeton pusillus), water stargrass (Heteranthera dubia), water starwort (Callitriche heterophylla), waterweeds (Elodea spp.), widgeongrass (Ruppia maritima), and wild celery (Vallisneria americana). These areas may be identified by the presence of above-ground leaves, below-ground rhizomes, or reproductive structures associated with one or more SAV species and include the sediment within these areas; or
(ii) have been vegetated by one or more of the species identified in Sub-item (4)(i)(i) of this Rule within the past 10 annual growing seasons and that meet the average physical requirements of water depth (six feet or less), average light availability (secchi depth of one foot or more), and limited wave exposure that characterize the environment suitable for growth of SAV. The past presence of SAV may be demonstrated by aerial photography, SAV survey, map, or other documentation. An extension of the past 10 annual growing seasons criteria may be considered when average environmental conditions are altered by drought, rainfall, or storm force winds.
This habitat occurs in both subtidal and intertidal zones and may occur in isolated patches or cover extensive areas. In defining SAV habitat, the Marine Fisheries Commission recognizes the Aquatic Weed Control Act of 1991 (G.S. 113A-220 et. seq.) and does not intend the submerged aquatic vegetation definition, or this Rule or Rules 03K .0304 and .0404, to apply to or conflict with the non-development control activities authorized by that Act.
(5) Licenses, permits, leases and franchises, and record keeping:
(a) Assignment. Temporary transferal to another person of privileges under a license for which assignment is permitted. The person assigning the license delegates the privileges permitted under the license to be exercised by the assignee, but retains the power to revoke the assignment at any time, and is still the responsible party for the license.
(b) Designee. Any person who is under the direct control of the permittee or who is employed by or under contract to the permittee for the purposes authorized by the permit.
(c) For Hire Vessel. As defined by G.S. 113-174, when the vessel is fishing in state waters or when the vessel originates from or returns to a North Carolina port.
(d) Holder. A person who has been lawfully issued in his or her name a license, permit, franchise, lease, or assignment.
(i) For commercial fishing operations, when fish reach the shore or a structure connected to the shore.
(ii) For purposes of trip tickets, when fish reach a licensed seafood dealer, or where the fisherman is the dealer, when fish reach the shore or a structure connected to the shore.
(iii) For recreational fishing operations, when fish are retained in possession by the fisherman.
(f) Licensee. Any person holding a valid license from the Department to take or deal in marine fisheries resources.
(g) Logbook. Paper forms provided by the Division and electronic data files generated from software provided by the Division for the reporting of fisheries statistics by persons engaged in commercial or recreational fishing or for-hire operators.
(h) Master. Captain of a vessel or one who commands and has control, authority, or power over a vessel.
(i) New fish dealer. Any fish dealer making application for a fish dealer license who did not possess a valid dealer license for the previous license year in that name. For purposes of license issuance, adding new categories to an existing fish dealers license does not constitute a new dealer.
(j) Office of the Division. Physical locations of the Division conducting license and permit transactions in Wilmington, Washington, Morehead City, Roanoke Island, and Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Other businesses or entities designated by the Secretary to issue Recreational Commercial Gear Licenses or Coastal Recreational Fishing Licenses are not considered Offices of the Division.
(k) Responsible party. Person who coordinates, supervises, or otherwise directs operations of a business entity, such as a corporate officer or executive level supervisor of business operations, and the person responsible for use of the issued license in compliance with applicable statutes and rules.
(l) Tournament Organizer. The person who coordinates, supervises, or otherwise directs a recreational fishing tournament and is the holder of the Recreational Fishing Tournament License.
(m) Transaction. Act of doing business such that fish are sold, offered for sale, exchanged, bartered, distributed, or landed.
(n) Transfer. Permanent transferal to another person of privileges under a license for which transfer is permitted. The person transferring the license retains no rights or interest under the license transferred.
(o) Trip Ticket. Paper forms provided by the Division and electronic data files generated from software provided by the Division for the reporting of fisheries statistics by licensed fish dealers.
History Note: Authority G.S. 113‑134; 113-174; 143B‑289.52;
Eff. January 1, 1991;
Amended Eff. March 1, 1995; March 1, 1994; October 1, 1993; July 1, 1993;
Recodified from 15A NCAC 03I .0001 Eff. December 17, 1996;
Amended Eff. April 1, 1999; August 1, 1998; April 1, 1997;
Temporary Amendment Eff. May 1, 2000; August 1, 1999; July 1, 1999;
Amended Eff. August 1, 2000;
Temporary Amendment Eff. August 1, 2000;
Amended Eff. May 1, 2015; April 1, 2014; April 1, 2011; April 1, 2009; October 1, 2008; December 1, 2007; December 1, 2006; September 1, 2005; April 1, 2003; April 1, 2001.