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25 May

Reversing North Carolina’s Fishery Decline….It Can Be Done With A Change Of Mindset…. Part 3 of 3

While this is the last of a 3-part series, please understand that there are many more issues that saltwater anglers, both recreational and commercial are facing that are having an impact. The recreational fishing segment generates over 5 billion dollars in revenues for North Carolina. Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds make up over 3,000 square miles of home to countless fish species. It’s the nation’s second largest estuary in the lower 48 states, only behind Chesapeake Bay. Combine this with numerous coastal rivers, the intercoastal waterway, and coastal fishing, it makes North Carolina one of the potentially greatest saltwater fishing areas in the US.

However, in the past 26 years since North Carolina’s General Assembly passed the Fisheries Reform Act, key species have declined an average of 74%. The species include Atlantic Croaker, King Mackerel, Striped Mullet, Spot, Southern Flounder, and Bluefish. Species such as Southern Flounder are considered to be near extinction, while others are not far behind.

It’s time to change our thinking about North Carolina’s saltwater fishing resource. It’s time to change how we approach the problem by turning what is a problem today into what can be an amazing resurrection and a potentially huge success for recreational and commercial anglers alike. It’s time to finally recognize North Carolina’s coastal waters are the greatest fish breeding grounds in America. It’s time to realize that we have not yet scratched the surface of what the state’s aquaculture can and should produce. So rather than facing the problem by pointing fingers at each other, we need to look at the opportunities that positive changes would bring. Changes such as:

  • Create learning opportunities for commercial fishermen to improve their fishing tactics to be more effective and profitable.
  • Recruit fishing boat builders to North Carolina to develop and sell commercial fishing boats that are more efficient than the older boats often times used today. We want to make North Carolina’s commercial fishing industry more profitable, as well as bringing new industry to the state.
  • Cease trawling in the estuaries and move the operations to the coast for offshore trawling. I realize this is a significant change, but it can yield huge gains by protecting the massive breading areas in the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds. This step alone could potentially increase the commercial flounder catch along with others in the billions per year.
  • Increase the number of on-water enforcement officers that would be able to effectively protect the 3,000+ miles of the fishing area against both commercial and recreational violators.
  • Establish a series of hatcheries to quickly restore the declining fish stocks.
  • Transfer a segment of the management of North Carolina’s saltwater fishery to the private sector. This would bring a greater level of knowledge and a broader scope of the latest innovations in fishery management. It could potentially provide a buffer from significant political controls. A private segment of management would also be driven by their level of success rather than operating as a governmental agency.


We have to move from a position of working to stop the decline and move to a position of building by realizing and pursuing the potential growth of our state’s fishery and all the benefits that come with it. This means increased revenues for commercial fishermen and fewer restrictions for recreational fishermen. It means a significant increase in the already 5 billion dollars by the recreational fishing industry as well as North Carolina’s tourism industry.

We have to move away from the failing ways of the past. We need to join hands with the business private sector for their knowledge and expertise. Most of all, we have to embrace change. The ways of the past can only carry us so far. Let’s stop working to survive and begin a campaign to work toward thriving by setting the bar higher.

We can do this North Carolina…..More to Come.

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