Eight CCTA members drove to Wilmington this past Wednesday to participate in the NC Fisheries Commission’s meeting to consider whether or not to approve the NC Wildlife Federation’s draconian petition for rulemaking relative to commercial shrimping. Kim and Glenn Fink, Katherine Wyatt, Gladys Suessle, and Hal and Raynor James each spoke against the petition, and Marilyn Fink and Ed Suessle were in the amen corner.
There were about two to three hundred people in attendance. Contrast that with the thousand or so people who attended the public meeting on the same subject held by the 5 advisory committees (which each voted to recommend against the petition) to the Fisheries Commission in New Bern last month. I asked one of the commercial fishermen why there were not more in attendance and was told that the location is too far and too expensive for many.
While there were more speakers in favor of the petition than in the New Bern meeting, the preponderance of speakers were against the petition.
As you’re probably aware, The County Compass newspaper has run a series of articles on the petition, how commercial shrimping works, and the science that undermines the “logic” of the petition. (We took copies of the paper to the meeting, and they were snatched up rapidly.)
Also, a professor at ECU, Joe Luscavich, again told about the thesis written by his graduate student, Rebecca Deeile. This thesis has been peer reviewed and published, and it actually touts some commercial shrimping activity as being beneficial to the health of marine life. (The entire thesis had previously been submitted to the Commission.)
The petition largely centers on the pretense of wanting to reduce fin fish by-catch.
You’ll remember that the General Assembly set up the Fisheries Commission with the intention that it handle fisheries management in a way that balanced the interests of all North Carolinians based on science and fairness. In addition to science being represented, sports fishermen and commercial fishermen were to be equally represented on the Commission. Also, there were 2 members-at-large.
As a result, fisheries management plans were established for each species.
The 2015 management plan for shrimp authorized the study of by-catch reduction devices and set a target goal of a 40% reduction in fin fish by-catch to be achieved by the end of 2017.
Commercial shrimpers cooperated, and in the first year of studying and testing gear, a 39.7% reduction was achieved.
It doesn’t stop there. In 2016, while testing several different types of gear, reductions ranged from 46% to 55%.
People involved in the gear testing have been speaking confidently about achieving by-catch reductions of as much as 60% by the end of 2017. Commercial shrimpers have made amazing strides in fin fish by-catch reductions, and they appear to be on the cusp of making even more!
How are they being rewarded?
Our CCTA members returned to Wilmington on Thursday to hear the Fisheries Commission’s decision. Would they accept or reject the petition?
They accepted the petition. The vote was 5 in favor, 3 against, and 1 abstention.
We sat through two days of tedious meetings for this travesty? Watermen and their supporters stood and left the meeting. In the hallway, there were tears and anger. How could this have happened? What is fair about this?
Politics, that’s how.
Before he left office, Governor Pat McCrory appointed 2 people to the member-at-large seats who are in the sports fishermen/nutty extreme conservationists’ camp, and they provided 2 of the votes to accept. (As a personal aside, I voted for Governor McCrory, and I was sorry to see him lose, but how did his conscience allow him to do this?)
If the items in the petition are implemented, we can say good-bye to North Carolina shrimp in seafood markets and restaurants. We will be forced to buy foreign seafood, much of which is raised in polluted waters, if we are to have any. That’s what will happen to North Carolina consumers, and it’s bad, but what will happen to North Carolina watermen and their families? They’ll lose their livelihoods and their way of life. That’s what. Fair???
There is hope however. The process to implement the petition is long (a year or more) and convoluted. There are points at which it can still be chucked out. We need to follow it and work against it.
Also, in the last short session, Senator Bill Cook introduced a bill that would eliminate the 2 at-large seats on the Fisheries Commission. We need to ask him to dust off that bill and resubmit it.
Also, our CCTA public meeting this coming Tuesday (2-21-17) will feature 2 speakers on the pros and cons of this issue. Jerry Shill, president of the North Carolina Fisheries Association, will represent commercial fishermen. Donald Willis, Vice President of Coastal Conservation Association, will represent recreational fishermen and whacko, extreme environmentalists. (Yes, I know. I’ve already made up my mind, but I promise to be polite as CCTA members always are.)
Please come to the meeting, invite your representatives in the General Assembly to come, listen, ask questions, and help me figure out how we can help right this wrong.
Raynor James, Chairman
CCTA’s State Legislative Action Committee
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