What happened on SEAFOOD LOBBY DAY

Trip to Raleigh with NC Fisheries Association
Purpose…
Defeat HB-867
Save NC commercial fishing industry
Save NC seafood for North Carolinians who do not catch shrimp, crabs, or fish

Yesterday, members of CCTA’s State Legislative Action Committee (Gladys and Ed Suessle, Mary Griswold, Ron Cherry, and Hal and Raynor James) went to Raleigh with the North Carolina Fisheries Association to lobby in favor of a healthy commercial fishing industry and fresh, healthy, North Carolina wild caught seafood for all North Carolinians including those of us who have never caught a fish, shrimp, or crab.

The focus was on killing a bill designed to kill the commercial fishing industry.  HB-867, Coastal Fisheries Conservation / Economic Development, if passed, would do a lot of things.  None of them is good.

Let’s start at the end.  The bill provides for recurring funds to buy back commercial fishing licenses from fishermen who are put out of business.

It rewrites the NC Fisheries Reform Act of 1997 without any public input.

It changes the definition of “overfishing” from something simple and clear to a bunch of nebulous, shadowy words that invite draconian interpretation.

It throws out the Fishery Commission’s 5 advisory committees which were designed to have a balance of commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen, and scientists.  The 5 committees (built around different areas of expertise and geographic areas) are to be replaced with a single 20 member advisory committee chosen without regard to members’ expertise (or lack thereof) or experience fishing (or lack thereof).

What do you think of that?  Sounds like a formula for disaster to me.

The bill is in the House’s Wildlife Resources Committee.  As long as it stays there, it cannot be passed.  Jerry Schill (NC Fisheries Association’s legislative person), Brent Fulcher (Association’s President), Representative Michael Speciale, Representative Larry Pittman, Senator Bill Cook, and others spoke to the gathered citizen-lobbyists when we first arrived.  We were given a list that contained the names and office numbers of the 15 members of the Wildlife Committee.  We were asked to visit those offices, speak to the representatives or to their legislative assistants, and to explain why we do not want the bill to pass.  We were asked to tell our stories.  To be calm, clear, direct, and polite.

We were asked to visit the visitors’ gallery for a short session of the Senate at 10:30 a.m. and a longer session of the House at 2:00 p.m.

Our group systematically visited the offices of committee members floor by floor in the Legislative Building, then trudged over to the Legislative Office Building and did the same thing there.  We had visited the offices of all 15 members and had frank discussions with them or their legislative assistants by noon.

Sometimes our group and another group of our citizen-lobbyists would be in a representative’s office at the same time.  In those situations, we took turns talking. 

On one such occasion, we shared an office visit with a clean-cut young fisherman and his 3 shiny haired, bright eyed, well behaved children.  The father explained earnestly to the representative we were visiting that he wanted to be able to earn a living for his family and pass a good way of living and earning an income on to his children.  He said he is already teaching his children how to fish, and unlike many children today, they already have a strong work ethic.  Wow!  That blew me away and brought tears to my eyes.  This man gave up a day’s earnings to come and plead his case, and he did it with a calm, natural dignity that I admired very much.

It is a real tragedy that the likes of HB-867 was ever proposed.  The sponsors of the bill, and the people who egged them on should be ashamed.  The bill should die in committee and never be heard from again.

Respectfully submitted,

Raynor James

CCTA’s State Legislative Action Committee Chairman

2 Responses to What happened on SEAFOOD LOBBY DAY

  1. ROBERT MCCARN says:

    I AM VERY DISAPPOINTED AT THE ONE SIDE APPROACH TO THIS BILL. THERE ARE VERY STRONG ARGUMENTS AND DETAIL IN THE ACTUAL LEGISLATION THAT WOULD GREAT BENEFIT COMMERCIAL FISHING. THE CCTA IS NOT LOOKING AT BOTH SIDES ONLY THE OPINION OF JERRY SCHILL AND OTHERS THAT APPROACH THIS PROBLEM FROM THE APPROACH THAT COMMERCIAL FISHING SHOULD BE TOTALLY LEFT TO THEIR INHERITED AND TRADITIONAL APPROACH. AT THE MEAN TIME FISH STOCKS ARE DECLINING AND ARE IN SOME CASES BECOMING EXTINCT. NC FISH ARE OWNED BY ALL THE PEOPLE ON NC….NOT FOR JUST THE BENEFIT OF THE COMMERCIAL FISHERMAN. WHY DON’T YOU INCLUDE INFORMATION FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THIS ISSUE?

    • Raynor James says:

      Those “strong arguments” you mention don’t seem to be based on facts, but you are of course free to have a contrarian opinion. For example, some fish which are said to be declining have simply moved their habitat as water temperatures have changed, and commercial fishermen are in no way responsible for that. Also, more people enjoy seafood as a result of commercial fishing activities than enjoy them by catching them themselves, so the “availability to all NC citizens” argument doesn’t work either.

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