North Carolina’s Fishing Decline……..A Case of Denial or Private Agendas?
As we stay on our path to saving our precious North Carolina fishing resources, we continue to look for all the reasons we have gotten here. I believe that we should be firmly aware of all aspects of the causes and sources of the problem and who is actually responsible. Once we have those blanks filled in, we can then press toward solutions and who the parties are that will have the care custody and control of making sure these solutions happen in a timely manner. Having the answers to these important questions is key to fixing the right problems rather than distracting the majority of both commercial and recreational fisherman from the actual factors that have created the seriousness that we are now faced with today. It appears that the North Carolina State agencies that are tasked with the responsibility of managing our coastal fisheries bring multiple issues to the table. Her are a few that we know:
- North Carolina allows trawling within the bays, sounds and rivers. This seems odd since other states including neighboring South Carolina and Virginia, dictate no trawling in bays and estuaries. Those states currently enjoy healthy fishing resources largely due to those regulations. These large sounds and estuaries are the breeding areas for countless species important to the fishing food chain for recreational and commercial fishing for North Carolina. The trawler process both disturbs, and many times destroys the sound’s bottom by the dragging of tickler chains and other gear. This process kills juvenile fish as well which poses a significant negative impact to the aquaculture that lives there.
- Non-North Carolina commercial fisherman are currently fishing the state’s waters by being allowed to fish under the licenses of North Carolina fishermen.
- North Carolina allows the use of commercial gear and “take” limits by fisherman that are not actually engaged in the act of commercial fishing. This is done by simply applying for a commercial license.
- North Carolina has ignored the conservation and resource management practices and strategies of every state on the east coast of the United States, therefore we rank last in most fishing resource statistics while failing to change its flawed policies and actions.
- North Carolina has unsuccessfully enforced the laws addressing violators that:
- Offload their catch multiple times in a single day to circumvent catch limits.
- Violating fish markets that fabricate catch tickets which allows fishermen to exceed the catch limits of specific species.
- Investigate and enforce the laws that protect the fishery from the use of commercial gear by fishermen that are not actually commercial operations.
The significant reduction in the North Carolina’s fishery has resulted in a total closure of the flounder fishing, for likely a year for the recreational fisherman, while only allowing commercial fishermen to fish for flounder at limited times. With flounder being the state’s primary species for both commercial and recreational anglers, this proves to be a clear indication of the severity of the state’s fishing resource problem. Currently the North Carolina Marine Fisheries has shown no plans to make any changes in their mindset or approach of the decline of fishing stocks. Based on recent comments by the governor’s office and Director of North Carolina Marine Fisheries there are no plans to address and correct the problems that have brought the state to this dangerous point. Attempts by conservation advocate groups like The North Carolina Wildlife Federation have found the state less than responsive, if responsive at all. The North Carolina Wildlife Federation recently submitted a resolution to Governor Roy Cooper that recommend a massive management consolidation. Under their plan, the Marine Fisheries Commission, a board appointed by the governor and Division of Marine Fisheries, that enforces rules day to day along the North Carolina coast. This would be consolidated into the state Wildlife Resources Commission. The Wildlife Federation blamed “permissive regulations of the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission” for decreased fish stocks along the coast. It said the Division of Marine Fisheries has been underfunded and that its similarity to Wildlife Resources creates “areas of duplication, redundancy, uncertainty and inefficiency.”
The North Carolina Wildlife Federation resolution was presented to Governor Roy Cooper’s office last week with Ford Porter of the governor’s office being noncommittal on its prospects according to a post on Raleigh’s WRAL website. Any change would mean General Assembly action that would result in a delay until sometime next year. According to the WRAL post, the Division of Marine Fisheries Director Stephen Murphey, commented that the resolution is “just the latest attempt” to manage fisheries outside of the regular process. He said the federation put two petitions for rule making before the Marine Fisheries Commission recently, and neither went through. Murphey said his agency will do whatever the General Assembly says to do, but the merger doesn’t make sense to him.
From these statements, it is apparent that Governor Cooper no longer sees the North Carolina Coastal fishery as the same concern that he touted prior to his election in 2016. What was part of his platform, now does not even register a concern or comment from the governor. Below is a link that clearly spells out his promise to the voters and fishermen of North Carolina that is now been forgotten.
Division of Marine Fisheries Director, Stephen Murphey’s comments are only based on his concerns of changes within the agency that he manages rather than the worst fishery decline in the history of North Carolina. The regular process that he speaks of has resulted in that very decline. At this time, I see and hear no one in the state government even willing to acknowledge that a problem exist or plans to reverse this significant decline. The Biggest question here is why? What is motivating our state government to be unresponsive to the problem and the people of this great state?
Please rest assured that Coastal Carolina Magazine will continue to bring you information on this important issue. At the same time, we will continue to work with those groups involved in the quick and permanent recovery of North Carolina’s fishing resources. Please understand that while we cannot always divulge the details of our efforts or those efforts of others, work is still ongoing. You can help by communicating with your North Carolina State Representative and communicate your concerns in writing. We’ll keep you informed.