Cape Hatteras Could be Back Open to Fishermen Soon

Alexandria, VA Legislation that will restore reasonable public access to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area in North Carolina, one of the premier surf fishing locations in the United States, has passed the Senate and is expected to be signed into law.

The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) applauds the passage of the Preserving Public Access to Cape Hatteras Beaches Act, which seeks to modify a management plan that unnecessarily restricts public access to the national seashore area. The measure was one of 44 public lands provisions included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015, which passed the U.S. Senate on December 12.

“After many years of working with local organizations, businesses and government officials to seek relief to the National Park Service’s overly restrictive closures, we are gratified that Congress recognized the problem and set in motion a plan to restore reasonable public access in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area,” said ASA’s Ocean Resource Policy Director Mike Leonard. “While this is just the beginning of the review process, this legislation should provide for some tangible changes for the community and the millions of visitors who come to the area each year.”

Off-road vehicle (ORV) access to the seashore is essential for surf fishing from the beaches, as well as for many other recreational activities. In December 2010, the National Park Service approved an ORV management plan that closed extensive areas of the seashore to the public and severely limited ORV access to provide protections for shorebirds and other wildlife.

Leonard noted, “The final ORV plan, which went into effect in February 2012, had a devastating impact on the local economy, which is largely dependent upon tourism and recreation.”

“After spending the last several years seeing and experiencing the negative impacts that the ORV rule has had on our community, it’s encouraging to know that we have an opportunity for change,” said Bob Eakes, president of Red Drum Tackle Shop, Inc., Buxton, N.C., and an ASA Government Affairs committee member. “Everyone here recognizes the importance of the area’s wildlife, but a more reasonable management approach needs to be found that better balances public access to our public beaches while still helping to ensure conservation of our wildlife resources.”

The Preserving Public Access to Cape Hatteras Beaches Act requires the Secretary of the Interior to review and modify the final ORV rule to better accommodate public access, including: minimizing the size and duration of closures based on peer-reviewed science; allowing access corridors around closed areas; accommodating night-time driving; and constructing new vehicle access sites.

The full text of the Preserving Public Access to Cape Hatteras Beaches Act can be found here. More information about Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area access issues can be found on ASA’s website