Conflict returns to Cape Hatteras over nesting birds

CAPE HATTERAS, N.C. — The season's first American oystercatchers hatched on a fenced-off stretch of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore just before Memorial Day weekend, when thousands of sportsmen flock to the Outer Banks to fish.

The most popular fishing spots, such as Cape Point and the Bodie Island spit, are largely off limits because threatened piping plovers and other declining shorebirds prefer to nest on sand flats overwashed by waves.

The closures are causing a clash between the birds that breed here and fishermen who want free access to drive on the beach, which they say is necessary to haul gear. A legal settlement approved by a federal court last month requires that stretches of the seashore be off limits to recreation during bird breeding season, which starts in March.

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