WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today U.S. Congressman Walter B. Jones (NC-3) joined Dare, Carteret and Hyde counties in opposing a proposal by the U.S. Departments of Interior and Commerce to include Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout National Seashores in a National System of Marine Protected Areas (MPA). The seashores were two of 32 sites nominated by the federal agencies for inclusion in the national system through a notice in the Federal Register earlier this year. In a letter sent to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke today, Congressman Jones reiterated the counties’ concern that a national system designation may result in further restrictions on access to places in and around the seashores that have traditionally been open to the public.
The text of Congressman Jones’ letter follows below:
“I am writing to join the Eastern North Carolina counties of Carteret, Dare and Hyde in opposing the nomination of Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout National Seashores for inclusion in the National System of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) as proposed in Federal Register Document E9-31406 published on January 7, 2010.
These counties are concerned about the lack of clarity provided by the agencies regarding how these designations might impact public access to places in and around the seashores that have always been open. For example, many existing Marine Protected Areas include no-take reserves where all extractive uses are prohibited. There is great concern that the agencies may use these designations to “back door” expansion of No Fishing, No Take and No Access rules to the seashores. I can assure you that such action would be vehemently opposed by North Carolina fishermen and anglers, as it would run counter to the reasons these public recreation areas were established in the first place.
I would also like to point out that the waters in and around Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras are not without protection. A multitude of state and federal laws already govern management of public activities there. Further regulation through a National MPA System would be unnecessary and an economic burden on local residents already hurt by the recession.
As you know, the support of gateway communities is critical to the success of our national park units. However, recent actions to reduce public access to Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout threaten to erode that support among the Eastern North Carolina communities that host the seashores. I would urge you not to do further harm to those relationships by overriding the stated opposition of these communities on this issue.
Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.”