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Groups Launch Fisheries Water Quality Effort

This report has been updated

A yearlong effort to improve water quality for fisheries communities is getting off the ground.

Coastal Carolina Riverwatch and North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission are partnering on the Water Quality for Fisheries, or WQ4F, Program, that aims to address water quality concerns.

Coastal Carolina Riverwatch, home to the Crystal Coast Waterkeeper and White Oak New-Riverkeeper Alliance programs, serves 320 miles of rivers and streams, 140,104 acres of estuaries and 129 miles of coastline on the central coast.

“In response to water quality concerns voiced by NC fishing communities, CCRW’s board and staff worked with local fisheries contacts to design this project. The project is focused on building stakeholder and public support for water quality efforts in North Carolina. Our goal is to improve water quality for fisheries, the waters and the people of North Carolina,” Lisa Rider, executive director of Coastal Carolina Riverwatch, said in a statement.

The program aims to bring together an inclusive industry working group with representatives from commercial, recreational, for-hire and subsistence fishing industries. A series of meetings will cover gaps in water quality efforts as well as create outreach strategies to benefit sustainable fisheries, organizers said.

“This important project will help us determine the effects of water quality on our valuable NC fisheries. We will be reaching out to all of those involved in fisheries to understand their perspectives and concerns. Our primary goal is to ensure that our coastal waters will feed our children and grandchildren healthy seafood for generations to come,” said Rick Kearney, Coastal Carolina Riverwatch board president.

Fisheries communities will help develop collaborative objectives for the program to address water quality improvements and research to identify fisheries community priorities among water quality concerns will take place, according to organizers.

Based on these survey results, water quality research and feedback, a series of short films and commercials will be made to increase public understanding of water quality issues affecting state fisheries. These public service announcements for the Water Quality for Fisheries project will inform coastal community motivated to protect clean water, according to program leaders.

“We are excited to be embarking on this program with the commercial, recreational, for-hire, and subsistence communities. NC’s fisheries are so important to our local economy and water quality improvements are of a high priority for those that work on the water. To be productive today, and in the future, we have to maintain the highest level of water quality. This program will gain insight from the very people who utilize our waters as a way of living,” said Larry Baldwin, Crystal Coast Waterkeeper.

This project is being supported by commercial license fees and approved for funding by the Marine Fisheries Commission. The commission prioritized funding water quality improvement projects during the development of the Division of Marine Fisheries request-for-proposal process in 2020.

For more information, or to join the fishing industry stakeholder group, contact Baldwin at LarryB@coastalcarolinariverwatch.org

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Staff Report

The story was compiled by staff members of Coastal Review Online.