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The Concerns About the Coastal Fisheries Conservation and Economic Development Act

Friday 12 May 2017 at 11:34 pm.

It’s that time of year again, when the outcome of legislation that affects our lives on the Outer Banks lies in the hands of lawmakers in Raleigh, who are rushing to pass bills so they can go home. Most of us don’t pay much attention to the legislative process. Even if we do, we wait until the churning stops, and see what we gained, and what we lost.  

Right now, the Coastal Fisheries Conservation and Economic Development Act is sitting in the legislative version of a dark corner, maybe waiting to die. It’s not dead yet, but it’s a good bet that commercial fishermen hope it’s doomed.  

“There is no one that I know of who’s read it who are not worried about it,” says Jeff Oden, a commercial long-liner from Hatteras.

House Bill 867, which is sponsored by Rep. Larry Yarborough, R-Person; Rep. John Bell IV, Wayne; Rep. Ted Davis Jr., R-New Hanover and Rep. Jay Adams, R-Catawba, would switch the focus of fisheries management from sustainability to conservation. But, according to Outer Banks Catch, it would take away watermen’s input into fisheries issues by eliminating the advisory committees required under the 1997 Fisheries Reform Act.  It would also allow the state Marine Fisheries Commission to alone make changes to fisheries management plans.

The bill has the support of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce and NC Sound Economy, a nonprofit group that describes itself as “an expanding coalition of fishermen, business leaders and concerned citizens who seek to end the unproductive fights over a shrinking publicly owned economic resource.” 

That sounds familiar.

“It’s essentially a CCA bill,” Oden says, referring to the Coastal Conservation Association, a recreational anglers nonprofit which has the same mission as NC Sound Economy. “It’s pretty obvious where it’s all heading. It’s going to go down the same path as the shrimp petition.”

In a controversial decision, the MRC earlier this year approved a petition to limit shrimp trawling, overruling five advisory committees that recommended against it.

Part of the controversy with trawling is over the issue with bycatch – fish caught while targeting another species - but Oden says the reason it’s a commercial fishing problem is because no one keeps track of it with recreational fishing.

“To them, it’s just catch and release,” he says. “They like to ignore the fact that there’s mortality.”

Fishermen say this recent bill is generated from the same anti-commercial fishing lobbying groups, which blame commercial fishing for decreases in fish stocks. By extension, commercial fishermen are condemned for using gear like trawl and gill nets.

“I call it the ‘so-called conservation bill,’ says Dewey Hemilright, a commercial fisherman from Kitty Hawk. “I’m not for the bill because I just know the makers of the bill and the backers of it . . . if they’re always anti-commercial fishing, there’s probably nothing good in it.”

The biggest problem with the proposed bill, says Glenn Skinner, the executive director of the North Carolina Fisheries Association, is that too much power would be handed to the Marine Fisheries Commission, which some believe has tilted in favor of recreational fishing.

“It more or less takes the checks and balances out of the system and gives the full authority to those nine members,” he says.

Skinner says he believes the bill is meant to prevent stakeholders like the Fisheries Association from challenging the commission in court, such as the lawsuit the association filed over southern flounder.

If it becomes law, he says, the bill would also allow reviews of fisheries plans every two years with new commission appointments, without the benefit of sound science.

“I just don’t see how you can possibly get good management that way,” Skinner says.

But maybe the Coastal Conservation Fisheries bill will never see the light of day – at least this year. People will just have to wait and see.

four comments

Bud

The government is using every agency it has to ‘police’ us out of our livelihood and heritage.

Bud - 13-05-’17 14:20
hatterasman

Bud, “the government is using every agency it has to ‘police’ us out of our livelihood and heritage.” is just a nonsense statement.

in this article a group of people, not “government,” who happen to be recreational fisherman, are using their clout to advance their interests over those of commercial fisherman. your issue is with recreational fishermen. you walk by these fishermen every day, and they look just like human beings like you are. you may not agree with their goals, and you may be upset that they have more clout than you do with the legislature, but the idea that it is some amorphous anodyne “government” affecting commercial fishing is ridiculous and ignorant. get smart man. if you dont like this bill, you have to stand up for yourself and what you want and get your own legislators to support commercial fishing so you win instead of losing. did you think use of public waters was an endowed right? fishing rights have always been political.

then some recreational fisherman can write a dumb post like “government is taking away my rights.” geez.

hatterasman - 19-05-’17 08:48
Casey

Something needs to be done. I saw a truck yesterday loaded with bluefish and mullet just wasting away in the sun. Big bluefish probably 10lb fish just piled up. I’m sure they hauled them somewhere to be used for crab bait or sold for cat food. So probably a ton of fish selling for $50.

Casey - 19-05-’17 15:22
Eric Harmon

@Casey. You really exposed your ignorance regarding commercial fishing practices with your statement that was completely unrelated to the article. What difference does it make how this renewable resource is used, as long as it’s used. People feed their cats, crabbers use bait to catch more highly prized food. That’s how it works. Are you saying we shout ban people from having cats as pets? Regardless, I worked in this industry for many years. Those fish are headed to New York to feed thousands of people who deserve to be here just as much as your. uneducated butt. Next time you decide to comment on something, do some research and gain some knowledge first. Then you won’t end up looking like a dumbass.

Eric Harmon - 30-10-’17 00:39




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