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23 Feb

Shrinking Saltwater Fishery Issue….More Than Just Catching Fish!

December 28, 2023

Over the past several years, the concerns have been increasing about the shrinking of saltwater fishery. It appears the hottest spot along the east coast of the United States is North Carolina. For years the state’s fishery has been shrinking. This problem has resulted in a finger-pointing contest between commercial fishermen and recreational anglers. However, the problem seems to be a challenge with nearly every state along the East Coast. While the focus is largely on the number of anglers and their abuses and the fishing tactics of the commercial fishermen, other indirect factors do come into play that are often under considered while others are just downright overlooked.

One example is the improvements in fishing gear in the past 20 years. During those years, the fishing industry has developed significantly improved bait options that weren’t around in the past. This includes life-like plastics with phenomenal scents that can even be more deadly than live bait itself. The same is true for hard baits that look more like a work of art than a fishing lure. In addition to lures, today’s fishing electronics are something that could have come out of a Star Wars movie. The ability to determine the type of fish by looking at the fish finder has been a significant game changer to all types of saltwater fishing. These innovations have made the saltwater fisherman far more effective when it comes to finding and catching their target species. As a result, these changes have had an impact on all anglers as well as the health of the fisheries that they fish in.

A significant change in recent years has been the migration of the northern United States population to the southern states. This transition brought anglers south, thus increasing the pressure on the southern coastal saltwater fishing resource. Another factor is the increase in immigrants that many times fish without the required fishing license, making it impossible to determine the additional impact on the saltwater fishery. It also makes it nearly impossible to determine a correct stock assessment.


We are also affected by the growing human population and with that, we add another problem of pollution that impacts the waters like the Intracoastal Water Way and other estuaries. Meaning, that the run-off from construction, lawn fertilization, and street runoff, just to name a few, result in numerous negative impacts on the inshore fishery. A problem that will only get worse before it gets better.

While the focus continues to be primarily on the commercial and recreational fishermen and the finger-pointing becomes more intense, we should remember that other factors are causing this problem as well. Let’s not forget that. While improved fishing gear is a great thing, it is a factor to consider in the scheme of things. A higher level of focus in areas such as greater pollution control, or greater fishing license enforcement, which not only limits unlawful fishing but potentially increase the funding to recover and rebuild our precious saltwater fishery.

We have more than one issue to address.

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