Closings at Cape Hatteras cause great hardship

March 24, 2012

Spring fishing is off to a good start. Flounder have been caught out of Indian River Bay and from the surf. Rockfish were taken from the inlet and the beach as well as by trollers working just off the oceanfront. Tog fishing was not as good as most anglers would like, but that could change before the season closes.

Freshwater fishing is also good. Bass, crappie, white perch and pickerel have been caught in good numbers and size. Do remember the herring season is closed, and possession of these fish is a crime.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Public access to Cape Hatteras National Seashore has become even more difficult as the National Park Service closed more beaches against human intrusion. The latest closures are marked by signs instructing people to walk only on the sand below the high-tide mark. This will make it a bit difficult to take the family up to the beach for a day of fun. Picnic baskets and beach towels are going to be a bit damp.

Even more ridiculous is the killing of native wildlife in what I consider a completely stupid effort to protect nesting birds. According to an editorial in the Island Free Press by Irene Nolan, in 2011 the National Park Service set 7,476 traps and caught 117 raccoons, 37 opossums, 26 minks, 33 nutria, 41 feral cats, eight coyotes and one red fox. All of these animals were killed except for the cats that were turned over to the SPCA. The traps also caught clapper rails, boat-tail grackles, Eastern cottontail rabbits, American crows and otters. These animals were released alive.

I have to question the logic of killing 263 animals to protect a few nesting birds.

Most of these critters are native to the area and if a bird cannot exist in a natural environment, then it should be allowed to either move to a more suitable location or go extinct. People should not be the judge of which animals are more important than others. That is what nature is for.

The Defenders of Wildlife, one of the groups that sued the National Park Service and brought about all the beach closures, does not seem to have any problem with killing wildlife, since they along with their cohorts the National Audubon Society have done nothing to stop the slaughter. I wonder how many Audubon members are aware of this situation and that their dues money is supporting a group that only protects birds to the detriment of all other species?

In the case of piping plovers, the poster bird for enviromorons, they have changed their nesting locations and are doing well in other locales. This is why an executive order has been issued to examine all populations of a species before listing it as endangered.

If the animal has a healthy population in one area and not so hot in another, the smaller population will not be the cause for endangered listing.

The Cape Hatteras National Seashore was created to protect the beach from development and keep open access for all people.

Unfortunately, a management plan for the area was allowed to wither on the vine for many years before a federal judge discovered there was no plan and ordered one to be created and implemented as soon as possible. That is when Audubon, Defenders of Wildlife and other anti-access groups sent in their lawyers to make sure the management plan kept as many people out of the park as possible. Using the Endangered Species Act as a base, they have been very successful.

The economy of the Outer Banks is very dependent on tourism, and without beach access, the tourists will not visit. The loss of revenue will cause great economic distress for people who live there, but this is of no concern to the enviromorons. I have yet to meet one of these people who had any economic interest in the area their actions were going to impact.

The solution to this problem is very difficult, if not impossible. So long as the Endangered Species Act can be used to close public land and water to the public, the enviromorons will use it to their advantage. I see no help from Congress since they created the problem.

The only hope is someone or some group can hire lawyers that are better than the lawyers from the various anti-access groups and find a judge that will place an injunction on the beach closures. Until then, the Outer Banks and the native animals will have to suffer.

  • Eric Burnley is a Delaware native who has fished and hunted the state from an early age.  Since 1978 he has written countless articles about hunting and fishing in Delaware and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast.  He has been the regional editor for Salt Water Sportsman, Field and Stream, Outdoor Life and the Fisherman Magazine.  He was the founding editor of the Mid-Atlantic Fisherman magazine.  Eric is the author of three books; Surf Fishing the Atlantic Coast, The Ultimate Guide to Striped Bass Fishing and Fishing Saltwater Baits.  He and his wife Barbara live near Milton, Delaware. Eric can be reached at