In our efforts to secure additional artificial reef sites, a number of events have taken place since the last status report. These events are very positive and significant in creating new fishing habitat in the Oregon Inlet area.
In early March, a meeting was held with members of the Outer Banks Angler Club, charter boat captains, and commercial fishermen to determine potential sites for artificial reefs. The following people attended that meeting: James Craddock, commercial fishing trawler; Jamie Wescott, commercial fishing netter; Hank Beasley, commercial fisherman and charter boat captain; Duke Spencer, charter boat captain; Bobby Smith, charter boat captain; Devin Cage, charter boat captain; Pace Mimms, recreational fisherman and President of the Outer Banks Anglers Club; Alan Jones, recreational fisherman and Vice President of the Outer Banks Anglers Club; Gordon Galligan, recreational fisherman and Project Coordinator of the Oregon Inlet Artificial Reef Committee; and Dick Parker, Chairman of the Oregon Inlet Artificial Reef Committee.
It was the unanimous conclusion of the above named that any new site be located south of the inlet due to warmer water and higher concentrations of fish. This area, in addition to holding fish, is not within Model D of the proposed Monitor National Marine Sanctuary expansion project. The three current AR sites, north of the inlet, all lie within the proposed sanctuary, which could prove to be problematic.
The three new sites that were submitted to the Division of Marine Fisheries for consideration are situated about 12 miles south of the sea buoy. Two of the sites are within the three mile State territorial waters and one is a little further out in deeper water. These particular locations were chosen, in part, due to their rough bottom structure which prohibits commercial fishing. Finding such sites was a primary goal.
The diving community has requested a proposed site closer to the inlet and in more shallow water. As a result, an additional proposal has been made in the event a suitable location can be found that does not conflict with commercial fishing.
The exact site proposals are tentative and subject to public hearings, in addition to scrutiny by the Division of Marine Fisheries. We are in the beginning stages of this process and nothing is set in stone.
Jason Peters, Artificial Reef Coordinator with DMF, has indicated the next step in the process is to have technicians in his office inspect and possibly dive on these sites to check out the bottom structure. That work may be completed by the end of April.
With regards to other matters of interest, The Outer Banks Anglers Club has recently filed for tax exemption with the IRS. Although this process may be somewhat time consuming, we feel confident our request will be approved. In the meantime, while our application is pending, the IRS allows us to treat our club as exempt from federal income tax. We will therefore be seeking personal contributions in order to further our efforts of obtaining funding through Coastal Recreational Fishing License (CRFL) grants.
We are looking for a grant writer at the present time and hope to have someone on board in the near future.