LETTER: Proposed fishing law draws mixed response

May. 10, 2013 @ 04:59 AM

To the Editor:

Legislation introduced in the N.C. House several weeks ago has saltwater recreational anglers cheering while in-shore commercial fishermen are booing the solons in Raleigh.

This jubilation or anger, depending on which group is talking, was created by HB 983 — which would give game fish status to speckled trout, red drum and estuarine striped bass. This designation would prohibit catching these fish by net and selling them for consumption. The thinking by the Coastal Conservation Association, which is the force behind the legislation, is that the designation will create a significant economic growth component for our state. The game fish designation in no way affects recreational (rod and reel) size and creel limit.

This is more than just a bill for saltwater anglers. It is not an exaggeration to say that hotels, restaurants, boat dealers, tackle stores, convenience stores and many other retail businesses benefit from recreational angling.

These three species are the most prized targets of in-shore anglers from North Carolina down to Florida and over to Texas; fishermen spend billions of dollars annually chasing these fish. Those states have much better stocks of speckled trout and red drum because North Carolina is the only state among them that doesn’t protect these species in some way, such as a game fish designation. ...

One interesting fact in this argument between recreational and commercial fishermen is that the fisheries are in decline. Statistics from the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries indicate few commercial fishermen work full time in the industry. ...

There is an emotional side of this argument. Just like most North Carolinians have a positive, although maybe old-fashioned view of farmers, commercial fishermen are seen as rugged individualists battling the sea and encroaching on development to scrape out a meager living.

It is true that without commercial fishermen, we wouldn’t enjoy eating wild fish, but this fishery is a tiny exception to that logical argument. Only nine-tenths of one percent of the state’s commercial harvest is made up of these three species. ...

The legislation does offer compensation for three years to commercial fishermen who lose income from the game fish designation. The money comes from increased fees that recreational fishermen will pay for saltwater licenses. ...

The bill has been assigned to the House Commerce and Job Development Committee. Go to www.ncleg.net to find members of the committee and let them know your opinion.

Rip Woodin

Rocky Mount

CCA-NC board member