North Carolina can make powerful strides in its fisheries management if a new bill is passed granting much-needed gamefish status to red drum, speckled trout and striped bass. Although these species make up less than 2% of the state’s commercial harvest their value to the recreational fishery, state businesses, and tourism are enormous.
In the last twenty years state after state has protected these particular fish from commercial netting and overharvest. NC, however, has bucked that trend and stood alone while watching our stocks of these vital fish shipped to out of state fish markets, despite their relative unimportance to commercial fishing and their utmost importance to a healthy recreational industry.
House Bill 353 seeks to finally end the mismanagement of these species, while at the same time providing payments to the small number of commercial fishermen affected by this bill. That will allow comms to seamlessly transition to different and more lucrative fish species which hold less recreational vitality.
If gamefish status is approved red drum, speckled trout and striped bass will be taken by hook and line only. In the last year we have seen that the state Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) is simply unable to manage these species for any commercial harvest at all, as despite their low importance in the scheme of NC’s commercial market the damaging inshore netting of speckled trout and the wasteful killing of big striped bass have not been stopped by the MFC…in fact they have been encouraged. The only way to properly protect these fish is for the legislature to pass this important bill.
NC Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) is supporting the bill, and the primary sponsors are Representatives Darrell McCormick (R – Iredell, Surry, Yadkin), Rick Glazier (D – Cumberland), Dan Ingle (R – Alamance), and Ruth Samuelson (R – Mecklenburg).
CCA estimates that the economic impact of passing gamefish status for these species (after you factor in licenses, travel, boat sales, fishing tackle and bait, hotels, and a host of other things a solid rec fishery brings to an area) is 150 times that which is currently provided the state by allowing the current commercial harvest.
They are exactly right. This bill will protect commercial fishermen while at the same time giving the state a much-needed economic boost. It will also reduce user-conflict between recs and comms, and usher in a new era in NC where fishermen responsibly regulate their own take thus reducing the chances that the federal government or outside environmental groups will come in and attempt to do it for us.
Most important of all, it will ensure our children and grandchildren will have access to the fishing and recreational resources that have made this state great.
Please ask your local legislator to vote YES on the NC Gamefish Bill HB 353!