Here is the editorial from the Carteret County News- Times re: HB 893, The Gamefish Bill. This thing is so full of half truths, holes and plain untruths that I thought it would be interesting to dissect it piece by piece. My comments are in parentheses with a short summation at the bottom. Here goes:
As of yesterday, N.C. House Bill 983, the “2013 Fisheries Economic Development Act,” a misnomer and an oxymoron, had passed its first reading last Thursday and was referred to the Committee on Job Development. HB-983 is simply a rewrite of a similar bill introduced in the 2011 General Assembly session, which died in committee. Which should happen to HB-983. Like the earlier version, HB- 983 seeks to grant “Game Fish Status” to red drum, striped bass and speckled trout. And like its predecessor, it was introduced by House members who live upstate in inland counties at the request of the N.C. Chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) under the guise of conservation. Which is false. If passed, HB-983 would allow ONLY recreational fishermen— those who fish for fun on a boat or on the beach— to catch those fish. All others across the state, citizens and tourists alike, who enjoy eating these fish, would be denied and deprived because these fish could not be sold in seafood markets or served in restaurants. Only recreational fishermen — those affluent enough to fish for fun — would be allowed to catch and eat red drum, striped bass and speckled trout. And fish for fun is what they do! To paraphrase Michael Street, who retired from the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries in 2008 and wrote a letter about the CCA’s designs in 2011, HB-983 “will not provide more fish for our citizens to use. Only a healthy and productive coastal environment can do that.
(This whole first paragraph is a mess. What does “Which is false.” even mean here? Also, nobody is going to be deprived of their enjoyment of eating striped bass, specks ad reds because they don’t even get served in the restaurants around here. They get sent to NY. Red Drum have been served on menus around here about 3 times in the past year. Unless there is an illegal market, which they swear up and down there isn’t. )
“Allocating a given fish stock (whether the entire species or a limited group inhabiting a specific sound or river) to a single user group makes no biological
sense,” said Mr. Street. “If done, it would be strictly a form of social engineering, not fisheries management.” Mr. Street also said under the
Fisheries Reform Act of 1997, governing coastal fisheries in the state, there is a ceiling on the potential number of individual Standard Commercial Fishing licenses available, about 8,500, but there is no limit on the potential number of recreational fishermen who may seek licenses to fish. The fish in the sea are a public resource. But the game fish bill would make three species the exclusive domain of those among us who have the time and the money to buy and operate their own boats and catch these fish.Knowing there are enough fish for everyone — and there are — the CCA still believes these fish — along with other species it will undoubtedly try to have classified as game fish in the future — belong solely to and for the pleasure of recreational fishermen — and forget the rest of us. That includes commercial fishermen who provide fish for consumers who don’t own a boat and don’t have the equipment or knowledge to catch fish in the surf.
(Again the same cockneyed argument that noboyd would be able to catch them. “The exclusive domain”…somehow the only people that can go angling are extremely wealthy. So all the people who bought fishing licenses last year are rich “fat cats” from Raleigh. This argument is hackneyed and a blatant attempt at sensationalization. Also…dumb)
The Division of Marine Fisheries opposes HB-983,the game fish bill. “Carefully controlling commercial harvests, says Capt. Ernie Foster, owner of the Albatross Fleet at Hatteras, the DMF manages the state’s resources for
the benefit of everyone. Both commercial fishermen and the fish houses that buy their fish keep detailed records. (North Carolina has the best data collection on the East Coast.) The commercial numbers are accurate. But because of the sheer volume of recreational fishermen, the numbers for recreational fishermen are not. Statistics, says the DMF, show that recreational fishermen harvest 70% of the proposed “game fish,” leaving 30% to commercial fishermen who provide them to consumers across the state. The disparity, along with the inequality of the CCA demand, is terribly obvious.
(This is actually kind of serious because I am sure it is true that the people at the DMF oppose this bill. Just like they oppose anything that doesn’t allow gill netters to catch as many fish as they want. There are people that work at the DMF who actually come from gill netting families. Talk about the fox guarding the hen house. Also, saying that recrational anglers catch 70% of the fish is just plain wrong. They just pulled that number out of thin air. In actuality the harvest of striped bass in the Neuse and Pamlico River basins is more like 80-20 in favor of the commercial netters in what is supposed to be a “bycatch only non directed fishery”.)
The CCA is wrong saying HB-983 would boost tourism. It would not! Tourists come to the coast to enjoy the beach and eat seafood. By killing commercial fishing, HB-983 wouldn’t allow consumer to eat a lot of fish they now enjoy in restaurants, which would be economically indefensible. Opposing the game fish bill, Rep. Paul Tine, D-Dare, said it ties dredging, compensation to some fishing industries and fisheries observer program funding to making three species of fish only available to recreational fishermen. “Dredging and fisheries management support needs to be a priority for the state all the time, not as a condition of giving up the right to fish certain species,” he said. “We should not be in the business of picking winners and losers by decreeing from Raleigh who can access these fish.”
(Here we go, this is a big one too. So many people are bypassing North Carolina entirely due to the well known situation of our fisheries here. I myself have told people from the midwest and northeast to go to SC, FL, TX or LA rather than come here because the numbers of fish I see has been constantly decreasing every year. Also the whole thing about tourists coming here to eat seafood, yes that’s true, they eat flounder, grouper, mahimahi, shrimp and a whole host of other fish but almost never do they get trout, stripers or redfish. So again …. no.)
HB-983 would be a job killer, sidelining commercial fishermen and closing countless fish houses and seafood dealers across the state. Commercial fishermen employ crews, creating jobs. If fish they were allowed to catch and sell were restricted, thousands of seafood dealers, along with hundreds of equipment manufacturers, repair and maintenance contractors would be thrown out of work, unemployed and North Carolina consumers who don’t fish recreationally for fun, would be denied locally harvested seafood. It behooves all of us to contact our legislators and let them know we oppose this consumer- denying, job-killing bill.
(…”countless seafood dealers”, there aren’t even enough to bother counting, that’s what they mean by countless. There are only 41 people who made more than $5,000 selling these three species. They could make more than that in a month if they switched over to charter fishing when the numbers come flying back after they stop netting the heck out of them. The total economic benefit to our coastal communities in direct and non direct spending would be over $93,000,00. Let me toss that number out again…93 MILLION DOLLARS! So there’s that.)
To sum all this up, this is the main problem with trying to get this bill passed, local opposition to it is very misleading and most people around here either don’t know or don’t really care all that much. So they read an editorial like this and they are all “Oh, that sounds bad. I must contact my local legislator and voice my concern.” The local legislators are all on record as being opposed. The change will have to come from outside this area. It’s always been that way. Hopefully this will finally get kicked in before it’s too late to actually save anything and we end up like the New England cod fishery.