Sunday, November 22, 2009

North Carolina Sportsman Magazine Op-Ed On Gill Nets Tells it Like it Is!

The problem of more wisely managing N.C. saltwater resources may require a Gordian Knot solution. And it could happen soon.

Students of Greek legend will remember the Gordian knot story — a king (Gordius) hitched his wagon to the temple of Zeus with an intricate knot, one so intricately entwined no citizen could unloose it. Zeus, it was said, declared anyone who could untie the knot eventually would rule all Asia. For years no one could loosen the puzzling knot.

Enter Alexander the Great. He, legend says, simply drew his sword and hacked the knot asunder — and went on to conquer Asia.

For years saltwater anglers have tried to solve the knotty bureaucracy of the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission and N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries in order to get the agencies to alter policies critics claim harm fisheries, tourism and, ultimately, the state’s economy.

Why? The evidence seems clear. We’ve been bombarded for years with photos of red drum illegally left to rot in nets, sea birds entangled in monofilament and sea turtles caught in the stuff.

The Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina and the Coastal Fisheries Reform Group have cajoled, petitioned and pleaded with DMF to do something (anything) to protect and conserve saltwater sportfish species from death by nets.

The DMF, it must be noted, is tasked by law (1997 Fisheries Reform Act) with managing coastal fishes for recreational and commercial use. DMF directors quickly refer to their dual responsibilities when it comes to their reluctance to change policies to please recreational anglers (1.2 million) instead of approximately 5,000 licensed commercial anglers.

Meanwhile, reds keep getting caught, creeks are wrapped up in nets preventing access by hook-and-line anglers to spotted sea trout and red drum, ducks and shorebirds become entangled, and endangered/threatened sea turtles keep dying in nylon-encased caskets.

Raleigh’s legislative leadership kills attempts to curtail netting (a bill to give red drum and spotted seatrout gamefish status and protect them from nets never got out of committee this past session. Neither did a bill to protect menhaden from factory ships based in another state).

The DMF’s advisory committees are, to put it mildly, a joke. Intended to offer a facade of fairness, helpful committee ideas never are implemented by a MFC that almost always favors netting.

An advisory committee member told us last week if a proposal would help specks or reds by curtailing netting, a commercial member will say: “We don’t have any data to support that” or “(the proposal) might work down south but not up here.” And the idea dies.

In short, nothing changes when it comes to state-managed saltwater resources. So the next step is, logically, federal intervention.

And that’s what the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center plans to do. It will sue DMF and MFC in federal court if, by Dec. 18, 2009, DMF doesn’t remove gill nets from N.C. waters . The last time a 4th District Court judge got involved in such an issue, surf anglers were banned from driving ORVs at OBX beaches because of six birds.

Will the same judge be inclined to wield his Gordian knot sword to DMF/MFC policy to save thousands of sea turtles? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Legal Notice of Pending Lawsuit Given to NMFS; NCDMF, NCMFC Given Sixty Days to Respond

Topsail Island, North Carolina, October 20, 2009

The Coastal Fisheries Reform Group supports action taken today to halt the incidental killing and injuring of sea turtles by gill nets.

The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, of Topsail Beach, North Carolina, has given the National Marine Fisheries Service notice that it will pursue legal remedies in Federal Court against the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries and the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission. The notice is a prerequisite to any formal legal proceedings based upon the Endangered Species Act, and pertains to the unlawful take of endangered and threatened sea turtles along the entire North Carolina coast. The notice requests that all “gill nets” be removed from all North Carolina coastal waters. If no remedy is found within sixty days then the Beasley Center can file formal legal proceedings.

The sixty day Notice of Intent was filed with all three agencies today.

THE COASTAL FISHERIES REFORM GROUP fully supports this action in light of the “Collateral Damage” created daily by gill nets in NC coastal waters. Sea turtles are endangered, but the carnage and waste of unwanted fish, waterfowl, mammals, and endangered Sturgeon impacted by destructive and indiscriminate gill nets must come to an end now.

North Carolina has almost three million acres of coastal and joint waters and four thousand miles of coastline. It’s high time that North Carolina joins our other southern coastal states in the removal of the destructive gill nets from all NC Coastal waters. From here to Mexico the only states that still allow this archaic practice of gill netting in coastal waters are North Carolina and Mississippi. We have world class universities within two hour’s drive from our coastal waters, yet up until this point science has been stopped at our coastal water’s edge for political considerations.

See the actual notice at this link......

Monday, September 7, 2009

Recreational Fisherman Comes to the Rescue!

Many Threatened and Endangered Species Sea Turtles die a slow and tortuous death everyday in NC gill nets! North Carolina Recreational fishermen are continually doing what they can to free these beautiful creatures from these underwater "walls of death"!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

NMFS Report: Loggerhead Turtles at Risk of Extinction; NC Coastal Waters Play Major Role

WASHINGTON – It's a scene that scientists say is all too common: A commercial fishing boat pulls in a net full of shrimp or tuna and finds a loggerhead sea turtle mixed in with the catch.

Biologists like Matthew Godfrey say one or two such takings can happen every day among fishing fleets off the Southeast coast. Those numbers can add up to thousands annually for a turtle species that has traveled the oceans for 200 million years but now faces a growing array of threats.

Godfrey is among the authors of the latest federal report on loggerheads that says most groups of the ancient reptile are at risk of extinction — in large part due to increased commercial fishing.

The study, released last month, predicted broad population declines across the globe in the coming years, including in a nesting area along the southeastern United States that is one of the world's largest.

"Unfortunately, a lot of times the target fish habitat and the turtle habitat overlap," said Godfrey, of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. "The turtles are air breathers, so they need to get to the surface, but if they're tangled up in the net, they can't get to the surface, and they essentially drown."

Loggerheads have been listed as a threatened species since 1978. This latest report puts new pressure on the government to upgrade their status to endangered and further restrict commercial fisheries.

But even the increased awareness that an endangered listing would bring might not save the turtles, which migrate thousands of miles through the sea.

Meaningful protections require broad global cooperation given the turtles' far-flung travels. Fishing operators already are chafing under regulations aimed at protecting the animals, and further restrictions could draw strong opposition and fresh concerns about hurting coastal economies.

"These trends are very difficult to reverse. It's like turning a big battleship," said Blair Witherington, a research scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission who helped write the report. "We really ought to be doing it now."

The report was commissioned by the National Marine Fisheries Service as a result of petitions from environmental groups, who say the government is moving too slowly to protect loggerheads and have sued to force stronger actions. Many of the study's authors work for the federal agencies that will decide whether to change its status to endangered.

For the first time, the study called for dividing loggerhead populations into nine distinct global populations, a potentially key recommendation that would allow each to be studied and protected as a separate species.

It said seven of those nine populations are in danger of extinction, including two along U.S. coasts: the major population in the Atlantic Ocean, which has nesting concentrated along the coasts of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, and a smaller population that migrates through Pacific waters off the West Coast and Hawaii.

Aside from fishing, the report said other major threats include coastal development that disrupts nesting, such as erosion-control barriers and other structures that prevent mothers from nesting and bright lights that can disorient hatchlings. The animals and their eggs are also still hunted for consumption in some parts of the world, the report said, and will probably be threatened by changing sea levels from climate change, which could wash away nesting habitats.

The U.S. and other countries already have adopted a number of protections, but the report said their effectiveness has been incomplete.

Since the mid-1990s, shrimp trawlers have been required to use gear that allows turtles to escape, for example. But the National Marine Fisheries Service has estimated that nearly 650 turtles a year are still killed by shrimpers in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

In April, federal regulators restricted the use of long fishing lines for catching red grouper off Florida's western coast after studies showed that as many as 800 loggerheads were caught by the lines every 18 months. The temporary ban, from mid-May to mid-October — when sea turtles feed in the warm Gulf waters — angered fishing operators, who said it could kill their business.

"I don't know what else they could expect us to do," said Woody Moore, a commercial fisherman out of Jacksonville, Fla., who said he thinks the dangers posed by fishing fleets are exaggerated.
"I've never in my life caught a dead one," he said. "And I've been fishing 30 years."

Elizabeth Griffin, fisheries campaign manager at Oceana, an advocacy group that has sued the government to protect loggerheads more aggressively, acknowledged that significant steps have been taken but said the turtles remain largely unprotected in the water.

She said the United States, which hosts about 90 percent of loggerhead nesting off the Atlantic Ocean, should heed its own scientists' advice. "We're a key player in preventing loggerheads from going extinct in the Atlantic so we really need to be a leader on this issue," Griffin said.

Therese Conant, deputy director of the Fisheries Service's endangered species division and another of the report's authors, said the government would probably issue a proposed decision in February on whether to change the turtles' status.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

NC Gill Nets Capturing Sea Turtles Draws Federal Intervention, Permit #1528 Questionable

In a letter dated July 7, 2009 to NCDMF Director Louis Daniel, Dr. Roy Crabtree of the National Marine Fisheries Service, a division of NOAA, expressed serious concerns about the catching and killing of Sea Turtles by gill nets here in North Carolina. All Sea Turtles in North Carolina Coastal waters are protected by the Endangered Species Act. The NCDMF obtained a permit in 2005 from the NMFS which allows the "incidental capture" of over 200 Sea Turtles per year in the Pamilco Sound by gill-net fishermen. This permit, #1528 is due to expire on December 31, 2010.
The concern was raised when during a period from June 17th thru June 25th of this year, NMFS Observers accompanied commercial net fishermen on five trips. On four of those trips, eleven Sea Turtles were discovered entangled in the gill-nets. Four of the Sea Turtles were dead.

Dr. Crabtree expressed the NMFS concerns in the letter as follows; "We do not have sufficient information to extrapolate the observed takes into total estimated takes for that time period. However, eleven Sea Turtles in five trips is indicative of a high level of take and a problem that needs to be addressed promptly."

We suspect the reason for the concern is that many more Sea Turtles are being entangled and killed in gill-nets than are being reported. The small window of "takes" observed by the NMFS confirms what those of us who live on the coast here in NC have known all along. Gill-nets are indiscriminate underwater "Walls of Death"!

This whole episode begs the question; Just how many Sea Turtles and other animals both fish, birds, and mammals are killed in our coastal waters every year by these gill-nets that are never reported? Dr. Crabtree points out very clearly in his letter that both the State and the gill- net fishermen can be prosecuted for violating the Endangered Species Act.

Part of the "Conditions of the Permit" contained in Section IV, A #6, part B reads as follows;

"For sea turtles that are injured, lethargic, or
dead, fishermen must contact the NCDMF Marine
Patrol and transfer the turtle to an NCDMF patrol
vessel, if one is located in the GNRA. If no NCDMF
patrol vessel is in the vicinity, fishermen must
transport the turtle to the U.S. Coast Guard
Station at Oregon Inlet or Hatteras Inlet and turn
the turtle over to Coast Guard personnel."

Here are questions we would like answered by the NCDMF; How many Sea Turtles have been killed in gill-nets since the permit was issued in 2005? How many of these Sea Turtles were reported and delivered to DMF personnel or Coast Guard personnel in accordance with the Permit as described above by commercial fishermen in the last four years?

The general public of not only North Carolina has a right to know, but the nation as a whole is entitled to the same! North Carolina is endowed with the sacred trust of our nation for the protection of all marine life for all citizens. The belief that our coastal fisheries should be managed for the few at the expense of all citizens is a short sighted position that is wrought with a history of political garbage that will soon be exposed for what it is!

We have only seen the tip of the iceberg concerning the sordid truth behind the destructive practice of gill-nets! Perhaps this is the beginning of the end of an ugly chapter of heritage and history here in North Carolina!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Merger of MFC and WRC; Common Sense and Fiscal Responsibility Demand Action!

Jim Holshouser and Jim Martin both commissioned efficiency studies when they were elected Governor in an attempt to improve the way state government delivered services. One of the conclusions of both studies was that the WRC and MFC should be merged to save significant funds and to improve efficiency. When the salt water fishing license was enacted in 2006, the law mandated that the WRC give written approval to all proposals from MFC to expend money from the Marine Resources Trust Fund and the Marine Resources Endowment Fund. Most coastal states have merged Marine and Fresh Water Fish and Wildlife agencies. The reasons are powerful and obvious:

1. Fiscal Savings – by merging the two agencies, an economy of scale would be realized that would eliminate duplication of programs and services that are quite similar in most regards, thereby saving millions of dollars every year and presenting a new image of efficiency to the general public. Just a few of the duplicated programs are:

a. Enforcement of boating laws and coastal recreational fishing license requirements. We now have vessels of each agency on the water together but neither agency enforces the other’s rules, thus creating confusion to the public and inefficiency.

b. Each agency currently has its own air force, including pilots and aircraft. Great efficiency would be realized by combining the two air forces into one.

c. Each agency presently has its own communications system, in many cases each has a radio repeater on the same tower and the state pays two rental fees for the use of the tower. Consolidating the two communication systems would result in better purchasing and maintenance bargaining power with vendors, and would streamline the interface with the general public. Now there are two communications centers, one in Morehead City and one in Raleigh. One entire center could be eliminated and the cost of several radio operator positions could be saved

d. MFC has no grass roots and outreach section to get the important message out to their constituents, MFC has no magazine. WRC has both functioning at high levels of output and effectiveness.

e. Both agencies have well developed Administrative Sections to handle Personnel, budget, inventory, warehousing, fulfillment, purchasing, accounts payable, federal financial assistance, information technology and other administrative responsibilities. Great efficiency and savings can be realized by combining these identical functions.

f. Both agencies have several and elaborate facilities on the coast which could be shared, thereby creating economy and efficiency. For instance oyster shells for reef creation could be readily stored on WRC gamelands, avoiding the cost of renting or buying land on which to store oyster shells.

g. The fishery research and management work of the two agencies are almost identical except for the salinity of the water and the difference in fish species. The procedures and requirements are almost identical. Great efficiency and savings can be realized by combining and sharing the laboratories, equipment, and technicians required to do this work.

h. Coordination and interaction with other agencies inside and outside state government and with the several conservation organizations and general public would be improved by consolidation and the interface with all these entities would be simplified.

i. Both the MFC and WRC have large boards that are expensive and cumbersome. Many would say that these Commissions are too large to be responsive and efficient. A single Commission of 9 members could readily handle the responsibilities of marine and fish and wildlife programs in NC. Such consolidation would streamline many processes that currently require participation and action by each board separately. Plus one Commission could operate in shorter time frames and less expensively.

j. The administrative staffs of both agencies could be streamlined thus freeing up positions to serve in research, habitat protection and management, and law enforcement.
These are just a few of the many savings and improvements that can be accomplished by combining WRC and MFC / DMF.

How can this merger be accomplished?

* Both agencies, WRC and MFC / DMF, are part of the Executive Branch of government, so the Governor would have to endorse the change. The Governor could recommend to the General Assembly in 2009 that the two agencies be combined. The actual combination would then be done by amending the statutes that apply.

* Due to the complicated interplay of laws and rules as they now exist, the NCGA may well see merit in appointing a Study Commission to develop plans for merger to be reported in bill format to the 2010 Short Session of the NCGA (May 2010.) The Study Commission would represent the two agencies, the Governor, the NCGA, and constituencies in some workable and fair format. The Study should be charged in the legislation to conduct certain reviews to determine the savings and improvements to be realized and the Study should also have a required Public Review and Input aspect to its work.

It is quite feasible that the applicable laws could be changed by October 1, 2010 and that the merger could be accomplished by July 1, 2012. The result would be a less expensive, more efficient, more responsive, more effective program to administer the fish and wildlife and marine resources of NC and to provide equitable access to these resources for livelihoods and recreation to all within the ability of the resources to support such activities.

In light of recent and historical actions by the MFC, and the absolute necessity for the NC Government to "tighten its belt", this merger just makes plain common sense!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Candidate Perdue's Answers to RFA Questionaire on Recreational Fishing

RFA-NC Fisheries Questionnaire, (Recreational Fishing Alliance, NC Chapter)
The following questions were addressed to NC Gubernatorial Candidates, Mayor Pat McCrory and Lt. Governor Beverly Perdue:

The following are "Candidate Perdue's" answers to the following questions.....

1) Given the known ecological importance of our near shore, inshore and estuarine bottom habitat and the problem of by-catch of non-target species from the use of trawls and gill nets, would you support programs to reduce use of gear that is shown to destroy inshore fishery habitat or that results in unacceptable by-catch of non-target fish or juvenile stages of aquatic life?

Our inshore habitat is our aquatic nursery so I would support programs to reduce use of gear that is shown to destroy inshore fishery habitat or that results in unacceptable by-catch of non-target fish or juvenile stages of aquatic life. We must be good stewards of our juvenile fish, allowing them to grow and reproduce so they will be of use to our commercial and recreational fishermen.

2) Would you help secure funding for a program within the State of North Carolina to develop and maintain the use of large scale oyster, clam and fin fish hatcheries for stock enhancement and aquaculture, which would reduce pressure on wild-fish stocks and augment rebuilding of certain fisheries, while creating jobs for troubled commercial fishermen?

Our commercial fishermen are facing new regulations from the state and federal authorities that do not allow them to conduct business as they historically have. Plus, with the increase in fuel prices and the reduction in the number of fish houses due to development, they are faced with monumental challenges for survival. These fishermen have the knowledge of the fisheries that will greatly reduce the learning curve for them to enter aquatic farming. I believe our state should provide incentives for them to become part of this type of venture, both on a resource and financial level.

3) Would you make appointments to the Marine Fisheries Commission and to the Joint
Legislative Committee on Seafood and Aquaculture based upon the public interest and
qualifications of the candidates to benefit the state as a whole, rather than to represent special interest or as favors to political supporters ?

As I am sure you know, the Governor appoints all nine members of the Marine Fisheries Commission, and also appoints its Chairman. I will expect and demand that those I appoint to serve without any agenda and preconceived notion on how things should be. I will demand that they listen to an issue, share what knowledge they have, and formulate a decision that is best for the resource. I am sure, too, that you know the Governor appoints 4 of the 15 members of the Seafood and Aquaculture Committee. These four will have an interest in the resource and serve in an unbiased, opened minded matter that best serves the resource.

4) Would you support using funds generated through the sale of the Coastal Recreational
Fishing License to promote recreational fishing opportunities including programs for the aggressive development of inshore and near-shore artificial reefs and programs to create and restore marine aquatic habitats?


5) As Governor, you would have the ability to open and amend the Fisheries Reform Act, which has not been updated since its passage over ten years ago... Would you open a review of this act?

If there is a clear and present need to open this, or any act, for review, I would do so.

6) As an immediate act of "good faith” would you grant the North Carolina State Fish, the Red Drum, game fish status, which would eliminate sale of Red Drum in North Carolina?

This is an idea that I would consider.

7) North Carolina’s commercial and recreational fishermen are an important part of our states’ history, economy and way of life. Will you support research to develop and implement "sustainable harvest methods” and "fishery habitat creation and restoration” techniques, to include involvement of the people who...

A) Know the water and fish the best;
B) Have the experience and equipment to conduct work in our sounds and rivers;
C) Need new employment in the face of escalating operational costs, depleted fish
Stocks, and tumbling fish markets... COMMERCIAL FISHERMEN?

I believe that A and B are best done through the Division of Marine fisheries. They have the knowledge and support to best care for the future of all fisheries.

I personally have a lot of concern for the plight of the commercial fishermen. High gas prices and low seafood prices have put them in a financial bind. And, historically, when a lot of these fishermen were not fishing, they were working in construction. And we all know what has happened to the housing market. I will support initiatives through our community college system that would help retrain, those wanting to be retrained, into a new vocation.

8) Do you think a voluntary “commercial fishing license buy-out” based upon a commercial
fisherman’s past involvement in commercial fishing activities and the level of income derived from commercial fishing has merit and should be considered, in a fashion similar to the “tobacco farmer buy-out” ?

I never say no to any concept without first fully exploring it. But I do have a problem with a “buy out” that is associated with a public trust resource. The first thing we need to do is to define what a “commercial fishermen” is. Then we can better look at the full impact of this concept.

As of this date, Governor Perdue has totally ignored two attempts by the CFRG to request her position on our NC Fishery issues of concern, and her position on H918. Perhaps "Candidate Perdue" and "Governor Perdue" have different opinions?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

NC Marine Fisheries Commission "Inaction" is in Fact an "Action"

At the May meeting of the NC Marine Fisheries Commission, the true political bias favoring the Commercial Fishing Sector and its interests were on full display as usual. When Commissioner Rob Bizzell made a motion to raise the minimum size for a legal Speckled Trout from 12 inches to 15 inches, there was not even a "second" to the motion! Not even a second to open the idea for debate or a vote!

Then a motion was made to raise that same size limit to 14 inches and there was a second, and it did not pass but was voted on to "discuss" among AC members and for them to get back to the commission with their suggestions. Now here we finally see the true colors of our MFC. The commercial seats know that if recreational anglers are willing to raise the size limit on themselves, and to also decrease the daily limit from 10 to 6 on themselves, then the commercial fishermen will be required to participate in some form to decrease the fishing pressure, and they want nothing to do with that!

Commissioner Mann clarified that a no-harvest provision for recreational fishing in Primary Nursery Areas would still allow a catch and release fishery. Commissioner Styron said if the MFC was going to allow catch and release fishing in the closed Primary Nursery Areas that is favoring one segment of the fishery over the other. Commissioner Beresoff said it would be hard to enforce, and he would prefer to make primary nursery areas sanctuaries. If these conflicts are that bad, close the areas to all fishermen.

Motion by Rob Bizzell to direct the regional advisory committees and the Finfish Advisory Committee to consider:

*No commercial or recreational harvest of spotted seatrout in Primary Nursery Areas from the New River and its tributaries northward;

*Harvest in Primary Nursery Areas by gill nets Monday – Thursday only, by recreational fishermen Friday – Sunday only, and no commercial or recreational harvest from Nov. 1 – March 1 annually;

*100 percent attendance of all gill nets in the Neuse, Newport, White Oak and New rivers and their tributaries;

*Limiting the amount of gill net used by individuals and/or geographic areas;

*Addressing conflicts in specific areas identified by the DMF based on reports; and any combination of the above.

Seconded by Rusty Russ – motion fails, two in favor and five opposed.

As the NC Marine Fisheries Commission continues to languish in its intentional indecisiveness and political posturing, another argument arises that certainly needs serious consideration. Why continue pandering to a system that obviously is not working and is politically designed for paralysis by analysis? Let's do away with the MFC and move the DMF to where it should be, and that is under the direction of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. Joint enforcement? Think of the millions of dollars that would be saved, and possibly, just possibly, our fisheries biologists and the management folks at the DMF could manage our fisheries based on true science, and politics would have to become the last consideration in all management decisions! That's the way it ought to be!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

CFRG Suggests MFC Revisit Petition Requests as Interim Rules for Spotted Sea Trout

In January the CFRG presented a "Petition for Rule Making" to the NCMFC encouraging measures to reduce fishing pressures on the Spotted Sea Trout (SST) from both recreational and commercial fishermen. We would propose that the MFC consider the merits of the petition even though some technicality in the document was present, but never identified. Regardless, we encourage the MFC to consider the following common sense ideas as "interim" rules to protect the Spotted Sea Trout.

We believed then and now that the recreational creel limit should be reduced from ten (10) fish per day to six (6), and additional protective measures by increasing the minimum legal size from twelve (12) inches to fifteen (15) inches. We also recommend allowing the harvest of only one fish that would exceed 25 inches in length. These three measures combined will result in at least a forty percent reduction of recreational harvest, but could be much greater with the unknown effect of reduction with the increase in size limit, and the one "slot" fish allotment. We believe a fifty to sixty percent reduction in recreational harvest could easily result.

We also believe that the enforcement of these interim rules along with better patrols both day and night to prevent netting for these fish in "Inland" creeks are also necessary steps in reduction of overfishing. The issue of Strike Netting and night-time gigging of Spotted Sea Trout in Primary and Secondary Nursery areas and winter sanctuary creeks is a justifiable topic for concern and we would also recommend the ending of these harvest methods in these designated areas during Winter months until the MFC can conclude its current Spotted Sea Trout Fishery Management Plan.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

ESPN OUTDOORS Supports Game Fish Status For Speckled Trout and Red Drum

May 12, 2009

To Whom It May Concern:

The editorial staffs of ESPN Outdoors, including and ESPN Saltwater Series Magazine have been following with special interest recent developments in the controversy over gill netting and the proposal to award game fish status to Red Drum and Spotted Sea Trout in North Carolina.

Recent articles on the Web site,, “Enmeshed in controversy: Untangling the truth about North Carolina’s gill nets” and “Specks in nets,” were news articles intended to present both sides of the controversy. They do not represent the views or opinions of the staff and leadership of ESPN Outdoors and must not be construed as “taking sides” in the debate.

As a multimedia organization that serves America’s outdoor sportsmen, we support initiatives that increase recreational fishing opportunities. In the saltwater arena, we have observed the successes of similar restrictions on commercial harvest of saltwater sportfish in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, South Carolina and other states where redfish and speckled trout populations have rebounded thanks to responsible resource management.

We believe it is in the best interests of our readers and viewers as well as outdoor sportsmen and their families, to set aside Red Drum and Spotted Sea Trout for recreational anglers by according game fish status to these outstanding sportfish.

Dave Precht
Senior Director
BASS/ESPN Outdoors

Post Office Box 10,000 • Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830

Monday, February 16, 2009

NC Commercial Landings of Red Drum Comprise 97% of Atlantic Coast States Harvest in 2007 According to ASMFC Study

The following is copied directly from the ASMFC website,, and can be found in its entirety in the report entitled;
(Sciaenops ocellatus)

III. Status of the Fishery
Few commercial landings of red drum have been recorded in states north of Maryland (Table 2).Coastwide commercial landings show no particular temporal trends, ranging from approximately 55,000 to 422,000 pounds annually over the last 48 years (Figure 1). The greatest harvest was taken in 1980, and the lowest in 2004. In 2007, coastwide commercial harvest increased from 171,823 pounds in 2006 to 249,747 pounds, the majority (97.4%) from North Carolina (Table 2). Landings in Virginia (6,372 lbs), Georgia (<500>

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

NC Saltwater Recreational Anglers Pump 2.5 Billion Into State Economy!

Below is an email that we recieved from Scott Steinback, Co-Author of the study with NOAA. These are powerful numbers that cannot be ignored!.............

From: Scott Steinback []
Sent: Tuesday, February 03, 2009 9:26 AM

To: Dean Phillips

Subject: Re: Saltwater rec fishermen financial impacts

Hi Dean,

From your message, it sounded like you had a copy of the angler expenditure/impact report we recently released. All of the numbers you're looking for are contained in that report. If you don't have a copy of the report let me know and I can send you one. Here is an electronic link to the report ( In the report you'll see that we estimate marine anglers fishing in North Carolina in 2006 spent a total of $2.03 billion (the 5th highest total across the 23 coastal states). The $2.03 billion in expenditures generated $2.5 billion in total sales to businesses located in North Carolina, provided $780.8 million in personal income to workers in North Carolina, and supported 23,782 jobs in the state.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

CFRG presents urgent documents to the NCDMF Commission

On January 21st, 2009, the CFRG presented the following documents to the North Carolina Department of Marine Fisheries Commission at their meeting in Carolina Beach. Each commissioner was presented with an original draft of both documents. The CFRG felt that the combined issues of the vulnerability of the Speckled Trout in the coastal and inland creeks, along with the increased pressure from strike-netting demanded immediate action by the commission.

Coastal Fisheries Reform Group January 21, 2009

Topics of Concern

Enforcement – The consensus opinion of all fishery managers is that sound regulations can only be effective and lead to targeted conservation results if these regulations are enforced in a certain, fair, and vigorous manner. To accomplish effective law enforcement the following factors have to be employed:

1) Authority – Marine Patrol Officers need additional law enforcement authority, which requires conveyance by NCGA based upon the recommendation and support of Governor Perdue.
a) Joint enforcement authority with National Marine Fisheries Service will help protect fisheries resources in NC waters and will make NC eligible for federal monies to support related enforcement work.
b) Full enforcement authority over any state crime committed in the presence of a Marine Patrol Officer while on duty and involved in enforcing laws under basic subject matter jurisdiction will protect these officers from frivolous law suits and make them more efficient in efforts to protect the resource and the public. Wildlife Enforcement Officers already have this authority and it has proven successful.
2) Interstate Compact – NC needs to become eligible to join interstate compacts to make punishment of non-residents who violate conservation laws apply in all states that are members of the compact. This provision already exists for wildlife violations and needs to be expanded to marine fishery violations.
3) Penalties – NC needs to increase penalties for conviction of crimes against the marine fisheries resource to include stiff fines, loss of license for certain serious offenses that damage the resource (both sport and commercial licenses), and other appropriate disincentives to violations.
4) Number of Officers – The number of Marine Patrol Officers needs to be increased from the current level of 59 positions to at least 70 (which would be 3 per coastal county) to give stronger enforcement presence along the NC coast. Plus, these officers need to be well trained, well equipped, and well supported.
5) Budget – Governor Perdue and the Secretary of DENR need to present a budget for DMF that reflects these improvements in law enforcement. The Perdue administration should strongly support this budget for FY 2010-11 in the next session of the NCGA.

Saltwater Fishing License Revenues – About one half million sport fishermen are buying the new salt water fishing license. The Marine Resources Fund has generated about $8 million in its first two years. The following considerations are important to the efficient and appropriate use of this money:

1) Allocation of Funds – Under current law the funds from sale of the salt water fishing license can only be spent with approval of both the WRC and the MFC based upon the recommendation of the Director of DMF. This is a very inefficient way to allocate important funds for restoration and management of marine resources. The process needs to be streamlined so that MFC makes these allocation decisions subject to some accountability and reporting requirements which include justification of the allocation and some measure of success to public via the Governor and General Assembly.
2) Eligibility of Activities – License funds should only be spent to support the highest level priorities with the greatest potential for improving marine fisheries resources for the public. They should not be spent to support peripheral projects with borderline prospects for improving management and efficient conservation of marine fisheries resources. Generally grants should be restricted to recognized public agencies, institutions, and organizations with successful and proven track records of research and resource management. It should be a rare exception that a grant is approved for an individual or a nonpublic entity. Law enforcement should be an approved use for salt water fishing license funds. Without enforcement, no license system or conservation measure will be successful.

Science Based Rules – The recognized basis for successful protection and management of fisheries resources is that rules to govern taking of fisheries must originate from the best available, sound, scientifically based techniques and processes advanced by fisheries trained managers and scientists. The following factors apply:

1) Seasons/Limits (Recreational & Commercial) – Rules to allow taking fisheries in certain places, at certain times, in prescribed numbers, and with sustainable gear that are within the capacity of the fishery to support harvest and without significant damage to the habitat of the fishery are essential.
2) Habitat – No gear should be allowed in rules for taking fisheries that destroys fishery habitat or results in a by-catch of non-target species that threatens sustainability of any species.
3) Gear Management – Nets and trawls should not be allowed by rules at any time or place that is not proven to be compatible with sustainable fisheries management by competent studies conducted by DMF. Sensitive, essential areas and times of the life cycle must be avoided for commercial and sport fishing when evidence shows that such taking may endanger the sustainability of the fishery. Reefs (both artificial and natural), nursery areas, feeding and resting sanctuaries, and other areas of unique importance to fisheries should be identified as sensitive areas and appropriate protective measures developed and implemented. Every fish species should be considered for size and creel limits based upon their life cycle requirements; and, appropriate creel and size limits should be established when findings indicate restrictions will improve sustainability of the fishery. Generally, trawling should be restricted to areas and during times when this activity will not harm the fishery or its habitat.
4) Game Fish Status – Certain species of fish are so vulnerable to commercial gear or economic exploitation and other incentives for taking and have such a high esthetical and economic value as sport fisheries that they should be declared “game” fish and sale prohibited. A system to evaluate the advisability of declaring a species to be a “game” fish that involves a complete analysis of the pluses and minuses of such action should be developed and applied to candidate species, especially the red drum, our State Fish.

New Legislation – Select legislation is needed in the 2009-10 Session of the NCGA to correct some prevalent problems in the administration of the marine fisheries program. Among changes that need to be addressed are:

1) Fisherman Harassment - A new law, analogous to the current law prohibiting harassment of hunters contained in G.S. 113- 295, to prohibit harassment of any commercial or sport fisherman lawfully engaged in any legal act of taking fisheries resources in any public waters of the State.