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08 May

North Carolina’s Fishing Decline……Where We Go From Here

Like most plans that are either not thought out properly or are the product of an impulse reaction, generally suffers poor results or can even create bigger problems. The recent actions of the North Carolina Marine Fisheries seem to be on that path at this time. The recent restrictions on Flounder fishing has and will continue to create bigger problems for the declining fishery. With the removal of Flounder fishing for the recreational fisherman and significant reduction for the commercial fisherman, anglers are turning to other species for their catch. This can only prove to have a negative impact on species like the Speckled Trout and Redfish. The additional pressure can only result in lowering stocks and has the potential of greatly reducing the minimum catch of commercial and recreational anglers. While causing significant problems for the recreational fisherman, it may cause bigger issues for the commercial fishermen, such as smaller fish being taken for commercial sale. This could potentially drive the price of species like Trout downward. Overall, the declining Flounder stocks can result in a “snowball effect” on the entire saltwater fishery by causing all anglers to jump from one species to another and creating a significant depletion of all saltwater stocks.

This danger is driven by a number of factors. It first lies with the management structure of the North Carolina Marine Fisheries. Currently the state’s saltwater fishery is controlled by a Fisheries Management Plan. This plan takes years to develop. Once created, it has to be taken before the NC legislature for approval. This process can take from several months to even years to enact, while the ever constant changes in the fishery occur. So, when the latest plan is enacted, it’s already out dated and changes in amendments can many times take additional months or years to pass. Recently, commission members that responded to the current fishing resource issues stated that they will wait for the next Fisheries Management Plan to consider any changes. So, any positive strategy to reverse the fishing stock decline remains clogged in the political vortex we know as the NC Legislature. At the same time, the Governor or North Carolina’s office remains silent and refuses to respond to phone calls from citizens and conservation groups regarding the current issues and lack of adequate action.

It’s estimated that North Carolina has 600,000 to 1,000,000 recreational fishermen (depending on the data source). We have an estimated 4,000 commercial fisherman as well. Each of these anglers depend on the State of North Carolina to properly manage this precious resource. It’s now a resource that is declining due to government mismanagement and political interference. If our state remains on this track, the recreational fisherman will have little to fish for and the commercial fishing industry will shrink to barely an existence. And the problem is already and will continue to impact other industries like  tourism, boat sales and manufacturing, fishing lure sales and manufacturing along with all the other groups that depend on our fishing resource.

Another factor that drive this growing problem is the antiquated regulations that remain on the books today. Also, the state is ignoring the impact of out of state commercial fishing firms. A problem that hurts our recreational fishermen as well as the livelihoods of our state’s commercial fishermen. Regulations on the use of certain gear by individuals that are not actually commercial fisherman, but instead are using commercial gear for personal use, continues to be a problem. Improving the policing of both commercial and recreational fishermen that use multiple fish off-loads per day to evade the limit regulations would be a huge help.

These comments only scratch the surface of the problems that have created an issue of this proportion. It’s my intention to continue to learn more about the many issues that brought North Carolina’s once great fishing resource to this state. As I learn more, I will be passing that information on to you, the recreational and commercial fisherman. In the days to come, we will also be doing the following:

  • Gathering information on potential solutions to those responsible for North Carolina’s fishery for consideration of reversing this problem.
  • Polling you, the recreational fisherman, to gather your position on various issues that will be passed on to our state officials to make them aware of the level of support for changes to North Carolina’s fishery management.
  • Request a meeting with top level government officials to share the concerns of the North Carolina recreational and commercial fisherman based on polling results and other feedback that we receive.
  • Seek a commitment from North Carolina government offices to reevaluate the current resource management process and seek a more responsive and effective approach.

Please contact me with your questions or comments at tim@coastalcarolinafisherman.com

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