Sunday, December 5, 2010

Money Driven NC Marine Fisheries Commission Assaults Depleted and Overfished Speckled Trout Stocks

In the most recent NCMFC meeting, the commission ignored the reports and recommendations of staff biologists, and voted to continue commercial harvest of Speckled Trout with little to no restrictions on commercial catch. Even though recreational fishermen were requesting their own daily limits be reduced to 2 fish based on DMF staff recommendations, the commission still kept recreational creels at 6 fish daily, with a size limit of 14 inches. Only 2 fish can exceed 24 inches.

The only reason the commission kept the recreational creel so high is because if they lowered it any more, then commercial harvest would need to be substantially curbed, and that was unacceptable to the commercially run commission. So, in an effort to placate a hand full of full time commercial gill net fishermen that target Speckled Trout in our coastal creeks in the winter months, our MFC has chosen to deplete a depleted fishery even further.

 Commissioner Mikey Daniels, wealthy fish dealer from Wanchese NC, openly criticized and railed on the DMF staff for bringing to light the sad condition of the Speckled Trout fishery. In a mindless rant, he said he didn't believe in "overfishing", and asked the lead biologist how she knew what fish were left in the water. Clearly he did not review the months of work that went into the stock status report, or he refused to acknowledge it, or both. Commissioner Daniels, do you see any need to have a biologist on staff? Do you believe in fisheries science at all?

Herein lies the problem with trusting sound fisheries management to folks who profit from the sale of fish. The health of their pocketbooks far outweighs the health of the fisheries!

Another stranger than fiction wrinkle is added to this debacle as well. In the last NC legislative session, a new law was passed that says any new fisheries management plans enacted would need to have at least a 50/50 chance of success. This means that the MFC would be breaking this law if they imposed any rules on a fishery plan that did not meet this requirement. The SST is depleted and overfished, and the MFC was faced with implementing rules to end the overfishing in 2 years. Since these fish dealers are addicted to the cash they make off the Speckled Trout in the winter months, they had to come up with a way to avoid breaking their own new law.

They came up with a way! They asked the Joint Legislative Commission on Seafood and Aquaculture to send a request to the NC Legislature EXEMPTING Speckled Trout from this law. Yes, you read that right! The number 1 targeted sportfish in our NC coastal waters is being exempted from protective measures because our corrupt, money hungry, commercial fishing MFC wants to keep selling this fish at all costs.

Just in case you didn't know this, they already did this to another trout in our coastal waters, the Gray Trout. Now all but eradicated, the Gray Trout can just barely breed enough stock to break even every year after the natural predators feed on them. Now our Speckled Trout must deal with an unnatural predator; our Governor appointed, commercially run, NC Marine Fisheries Commission!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

NC Marine Fisheries Commission Calls Special Meeting to Undo Previous Action to Protect Speckled Trout

The NC Marine Fisheries Commission met in Morehead City Monday, November 22 and undid one of the most positive actions they had taken to date to address overfishing on Spotted  Sea Trout. With total disregard for the public input they received at their November 4 meeting calling upon MFC to abide by the current Fisheries Management Plan law that requires implementation of management measures sufficient to end overfishing within 2 years, the Commission caved in to commercial interests to allow continued netting throughout the winter months.

The MFC had closed the commercial harvest of SST at their November 4 meeting from December 15 through February 28 to reduce fishing mortality from commercial fishing by 28%, which would have provided one half the reduction needed to eliminate overfishing within 2 years. After a clamorous uproar of protest from commercial interests, MFC amended the proposal to close commercial fishing for SST only on the weekends year around. However, the weekend closure does not require commercial fishermen to remove their gear from the water. So the gear remains in the water over the weekend year around to catch speckled sea trout that cannot be sold legally.

Recreational fishermen saw their limits reduced from 10 fish per day to 6 without a murmur of objection. Recreational fishermen have accepted the premise that we have to protect our brood stock to restore the fishery to levels that are sustainable and can support higher limits. This is a basic principle of resource management wasted upon the MFC. Professional fishery managers of the DMF presented strong data to justify the seasonal closure. Commercial interests on the MFC were very critical of the science displaying a lack of knowledge about fishery biology and insensitivity toward the welfare of the resource. The MFC replaced the considered recommendations of fishery managers with their own opinions based only in the argument that commercial fishermen need to catch SST during the winter to supplement their income at this time of year. Too bad about the trout!

Now the MFC is preparing to undermine the newly enacted state law designed to improve fishery management plans by exempting the speckled sea trout from the new law so that fishing restrictions will not be fully required until the next cycle of plan reviews, which is years away. Let us prepare for this fight in the new General Assembly. Enactment of management measures sufficient to end overfishing within 2 years is a necessary and reasonable proposition. We can make a difference if we all stick together to end this crazy propensity of the MFC to continue overfishing for the benefit of commercial interests.

How long can we let our marine fishery resource be sacrificed on the altar of expediency and exploitation for the personal gain of so few? We must accept the restrictions imposed today to ensure the healthy future for the speckled sea trout. Prospects for success are greater today than they were yesterday. Lets seize this opportunity and move forward for change.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bombing Ranges in Pamlico Sound: CFRG, Other Groups Request Complete Environmental Impact Statement

For years NC saltwater fishermen have shared the Pamlico Sound with our military. Now the military is making an effort to expand the bombing ranges while removing fishermen from areas that have been fished for years. Before we let this happen, we should at least understand the impact these bombing exercises are having on our wildlife populations, soils, and waters in these areas, in addition to the impacts on the fishermen themselves.

Please see the letter below from Todd Miller, Executive Director of the North Carolina Coastal Federation. This is important to all saltwater fishermen here in NC. Please take time and send an email requesting a full "Environmental Impact Statement" on these bombing sites before November 26 to:

Army Corps of Engineers
Attention: Richard Spencer
69 Darlington Ave.
Wilmington, NC 28403

Re: Closure of Traditional Use Areas and proposed intermittent expansion of BT-11 and BT-9

The North Carolina Coastal Federation has reviewed the proposals to expand activities in BT-11 and BT-9, and comments about these plans submitted to you by the NC Marine Fisheries Commission and the Alliance for Public Trust Waters, Inc. We have also examined the formal policies of the NC Coastal Resources Commission that are part of North Carolina’s federally approved Coastal Management Plan that relate to military activities in the coastal zone as well as the protection of public trust rights in coastal waters. Any activities undertaken by federal agencies should be consistent with the state’s federally approved plan.

Dating back to the mid 1980s, there have been issues raised by the State of North Carolina regarding its need to protect public trust rights around these ranges. In addition, state policy requires on going monitoring and reporting of potential environmental hazards associated with range activities. It appears that the public trust issues raised by the State over two decades ago have still not been resolved, and that routine reports to the Coastal Resources Commission of the results of monitoring activities have been episodic at best.

For these reasons, we agree with the comments submitted by both the Division of Marine Fisheries and the Alliance. There has been inadequate evaluation of the impacts of these proposed expansions to public trust rights, coastal habitat, and coastal water quality. We also request additional environmental review of these proposals. An Environmental Impact Statement should be prepared in accordance with requirements of NEPA. This will allow for full analysis of the impacts of these proposals in a way that fully includes the public.

Thank you for considering our comments.

Todd Miller, Executive Director
North Carolina Coastal Federation
3609 Highway 24 (Ocean)
Newport, North Carolina 28570

Friday, August 20, 2010

NC Marine Fisheries Commission Pursues Continued Destruction of Depleted Fish Stocks: Asks NC Legislators For Permission To Circumvent Law

In a move that shocked even some of the most hardened political observers in NC, the NC Marine Fisheries Commission has requested permission from the NC legislature to exclude Southern Flounder and Speckled Trout from a new law that would require the ending of overfishing in two years. Both Southern Flounder and Speckled Trout are depleted and overfished here in NC. The commercial fishing industry that controls the MFC here in NC has decided that they are above the law, and if the law will not allow them to overharvest fish, they will change the law!

In the letter above, the NCMFC asks the Joint Legislative Commission on Seafood and Aquaculture to agree with them that any Fisheries Management Plan that was completed before the new law requiring the ending of overfishing in 2 years be exempt from the law. What this conveniently means is that commercial fishermen can continue to overharvest Flounder and Speckled Trout because the FMP's for those 2 fish were completed before this law was enacted.

The problem is that all of the legislators that overwhelmingly voted to make this law this past session did so with the understanding that this law applied to ALL FMP's past and present, and would apply to all future modifications to the plans as well. Since Flounder is the big money fish here in NC, the commercial seats and their hand-picked recreational seats on the MFC decided once again to ignore the state of the fishery, and make the rules so they could make money at the expense of the depleted resource.

This blatant disregard for both the law and our marine resources is unacceptable.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

CFRG Addresses NC Marine Fisheries Commission: "The MFC is Obliged by Law to Take Corrective and Remedial Action"

The following statement was delivered to each of the NC Marine Fisheries Commissioners and was read aloud during the public comment period at the recent MFC meeting in Wilmington, NC on August 11, 2010;

The Coastal Fisheries Reform Group (CFRG) is an association of concerned sports fishermen who support sound, scientific management of our marine fisheries for the benefit of the marine resource and all who enjoy these valuable assets of NC. Several issues need to be brought to the attention of the MFC at this time. The MFC is the state agency given the responsibility and duty by law to manage NC’s fisheries in an effective and fair manner so that our resources will not be depleted and all our fishermen will have opportunities now and into the future. When a fishery becomes depleted from overfishing or from any adverse condition, the MFC is obliged by law to take corrective and remedial action as soon as possible to begin the process of eliminating overfishing and restoring the fishery to a sustainable level at targeted healthy levels of abundance and growth.

This summer we learned that our speckled sea trout (SST) fishery, the most popular, sought after fish in our coastal waters, is depleted from years of overfishing. The current fishing regulations, both recreational and commercial, are not sufficient to begin recovery of the SST. We call upon the MFC to immediately develop and implement restrictive rules on the harvest of SST. DMF staff has already done the research on fishing mortality from all sources and can recommend the rules required to begin recovery of the SST. These restrictions must be designed to reduce fishing mortality to eliminate overfishing within two years as now required by state law. Furthermore, the rules must have at least a 50% chance of success of eliminating overfishing within two years and of bringing the stock to a sustainable level within ten years.

The total fishing mortality reduction required to eliminate overfishing in two years should be divided between recreational and commercial fishing based upon the historical ratio of annual recreational harvest of SST to the commercial harvest. Recreational limits on size and creel and possible season closures are tools that can be used. Commercial harvest can be controlled by Total Allowable Catch limits or by season closures in primary nursery areas in the months of December through February. The data is available and the problem is documented. Rules need to be in effective this fall, preferably by October 1.

Now is the time to protect our valuable SST fishery and rebuild the population for the future. The SST is a robust fish with high reproductive capacity. A little sacrifice now will pay huge dividends for the future.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Speckled Trout; We Told You So! Latest Failure of NC Marine Fisheries Management

On July 1, 2010, a press release from the NC Division of Marine Fisheries announced that the current status of the Speckled Trout (Spotted Sea Trout) here in NC had been downgraded to "DEPLETED" and "OVERFISHED". It also stated that the "overfishing" had been occurring for years!

Let's flash-back now to just over a year ago to the Spring of 2009 when the Director of the NCDMF stood in Raleigh before a committee in the General Assembly and gave a "glowing" report of the NC situation on Speckled Trout. He said "There is no biological or scientific reason that Speckled Trout should be given "Game Fish" protection."

Being pushed by the commercial fishing interests and politicians that basically run our Marine Fisheries here in NC, the director did everything in his power to derail the "game fish bill" that was introduced last year that would have taken Red Drum and Speckled Trout into a realm of protection from commercial harvest and sale.

One of the director's arguments against HB 918 (the game fish bill) was that even though our sister state South Carolina has made Speckled Trout a "Game Fish", NC recreational anglers still caught more Speckled Trout total than South Carolina anglers did. On the surface, that sounds like a powerful argument doesn't it? But the details on those numbers were conveniently omitted.

In comparing NC to SC and the numbers on Speckled Trout, consider this;

South Carolina has banned “gill nets” in coastal waters, and has given “game fish” designation to Speckled Trout and Red Drum.

SC has around 100,000 issued saltwater licenses for fishing in its coastal waters. NC has over 500,000.

Even with five times as many saltwater recreational anglers pursuing the Speckled Trout, NC only caught a mere few thousand pounds more than SC anglers did during the time frame that the director mentioned. That means that per angler, SC is catching almost five times as much speckled trout per angler than NC is.

For some reason, this wasn't pointed out to the committee that day. Why wasn't it?

This fact proves that the Speckled Trout fishing in SC is five times better than it is here in NC, and would explain the following as well. NC issued about 1500 non-resident saltwater licenses to South Carolinians during this time frame, while SC issued over 10,000 non-resident saltwater licenses to North Carolinians during the same time frame!

Is it any wonder that North Carolinians are trekking to SC to fish for Speckled Trout? We are losing sport fishing revenues to not only South Carolina, but to Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Texas, and Louisiana as well!

Will the current oil spill in the gulf send more commercial fishing pressures our way?

North Carolina has 4,000,000 (four million) acres of coastal/joint waters, and 4,000 miles of shoreline. Those numbers dwarf the coastal waters of South Carolina! Yet, NC anglers just barely caught more Speckled Trout total than SC anglers did. Now we hear the real truth, NC Speckled Trout are depleted and overfished.

Could our director of Marine Fisheries have known this fish was in dire straits last year when he stood in front of our NC legislators and news reporters in Raleigh declaring there was no need for "game fish" protection?

The Speckled Trout is the number one targeted fish by saltwater anglers here in our state. Its future is of tremendous importance for both economic and recreational reasons. Historically this fish has only represented .4% (less than one half percent) of the commercial harvest revenues here in NC.

Something is desperately wrong here!

We ask the question now, is there any biological or scientific reason to offer "Game Fish" protection to our NC Speckled Trout?

Friday, June 25, 2010

New Restrictions on Gill Nets Not Working! NCDMF Director Shuts Down Core Sound Large Mesh Gill Net Fishery; Too Many Sea Turtles Entangled, 4 Killed

With the ink barely dry on the settlement with the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital, and with new gill net restrictions in place, the NC Division of Marine Fisheries shut down the large mesh gill net fishery in Core Sound today. This came as a result of too many sea turtle entanglements that resulted in the death of four sea turtles. Dr Louis Daniel issued a proclamation today declaring the season closed until September 1, 2010.

Why didn't the new restrictions work? Why didn't the shallower nets of only 15 meshes, with no floats, and shorter shots of only 100 yards not protect these endangered turtles? Why aren't these gill nets target specific as their proponents argue on their behalf?

The answer is simple, and all of us who live here on the NC Coast know it; gill nets are indiscriminate, underwater walls of death, and the only answer to stopping by-catch (by-kill) is the removal of gill nets from our coastal waters forever!

It is time for North Carolina to join South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas in the 21st century and end this archaic and inhumane method of fishing in our coastal waters! How much more can we tolerate? When will the citizens of NC stand up and say enough is enough.
How much longer can NC Senator Marc Basnight and his cronies protect this insanity?

Gill nets have no place in modern day commercial fishing! The time has come for their end here in North Carolina, period!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Game Fish Status for Speckled Trout and Red Drum in North Carolina!

The following game fish "primer" was developed in the Spring of 2009. These two fish are far too valuable to our NC economy as sport fish to not consider all the benefits that would be realized by removing them from commercial harvest and sale.

Since these two fish are the primary targets of recreational saltwater anglers here in NC, the very elimination of "user conflict" alone is reason enough alone to seriously consider game fish protection for both species. Just and fair compensation to commercial fishermen for determined time frames could be paid for with recreational saltwater license monies for years to come.

If commercial fishing interests here in NC would consider the benefits of removing the user conflict on these two fish with game fish designation, greater support from recreational fishermen for commercial fishing would be accomplished!

Game Fish Act Primer

Due to the recent events in which a petition for rule making was presented to the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission on behalf of the Spotted Sea Trout, and was rejected by the commission, and the fact that the Red Drum is our state fish and is in a state of “recovery”, we feel that we are obligated by our concerns to seek a more expeditious remedy on their behalf. Prompted by the welfare of the resource, we are subsequently forced to intervene through the avenue available to us through our North Carolina General Assembly by introducing a bill that would declare the Spotted Sea Trout and the Red Drum as Game Fish.

This act would prohibit the sale, purchase, transportation for sale, barter, or any other means of exporting for profit, the Spotted Sea Trout and the Red Drum. By enacting this statute, the status of these two fish would be protected for years to come and insure the viability of the fishery and the tremendous values that they posses both recreationally and economically to the State of North Carolina and its citizens.

Since the very first Game Laws were enacted in North Carolina in 1935, management of game animals has been an effort of the government to protect the natural resources through allocation of certain animals to certain user groups for the overall well being of certain species. This action was first seen in the early days of waterfowl hunting on the Pamlico Sound when commercial hunters slaughtered waterfowl by the tens of thousands. The wildlife agencies of that day determined that species survival along with economic impacts deemed it necessary to allocate the hunting of waterfowl to recreational hunters only. The concept was sound and has been very successful both biologically and economically.

Most of our Southern Coastal states have enacted similar or more stringent statutes in their coastal waters to protect both species of these fish. Texas was the first to act by declaring game fish status for both the Spotted Sea Trout and the Red Drum in 1981, in addition to banning all forms of gill netting in all coastal waters. Other states have followed suit with the same or more stringent acts, such as Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. The precedents set by our neighboring coastal states require us to examine the positive impacts on both the protection of the species, and the tremendous financial boons that have occurred as a result of these actions.

Due to the fact that the Spotted Sea Trout and the Red Drum can be pursued year round by recreational fishermen, the recovery of the fish and the tremendous economical boost as a result in these states has been undeniable. Because of its vast coastal water sounds and tributaries which are unique to the whole nation, North Carolina would soon establish itself as the premier sport fishery state for these two fish in the whole country. While saltwater recreational anglers generated $2.5 billion in sales to businesses here in NC in 2006, Florida’s anglers were generating over $15 billion in sales that same year! Much of their success is due to the stringent laws they have in place to protect these two fish.

Management issues regarding user conflict between competing groups have been eliminated as a result of these laws, enabling marine enforcement agencies to concentrate on more serious issues that they face. Survey programs in these states have shown increases in population abundance, spawning success, angler participation, angler catch rates, and mean size of fish landed. Increase in abundance here in North Carolina is of critical importance to insure the presence of sufficient stocks to survive severe freeze-related kills.

Texas credits one of the main reasons for the turnaround in their sport fisheries is the ability to control fishing mortality is more easily managed in a “sport rod and reel fishery” than in a “commercial net fishery”.

NC creel limits on the Spotted Sea Trout for recreational fishermen need to be reduced from 10 fish per day to 6 fish per day, in addition to raising the size limit from 12 inches to 14 inches, with only one fish to exceed 25 inches. This will reduce recreational pressure on the stocks and allow greater survival of mature fish for the spawning season. These restrictions would bring NC protective measures up to date with supporting studies, and more closely mirror successful restrictions in place by our coastal neighbors

In 2007 the NC commercial catch revenues on both of these species combined was $882,220.00 state wide. We realize that this number represents revenues that are spread out in our coastal towns to commercial fishermen and their families. We are offering to mitigate those losses of revenues with monies from our saltwater license sales fund for the next three years. This money can be distributed for the buy-back of licenses, gear, and overall lost income. Please keep in mind that our goals are not to stop commercial fishing here in North Carolina. Although many of our coastal neighbors have banned all nets completely from all coastal waters as part of their management plan for all fish, that is not what we are proposing.

Statistics will show that commercial fishing interests in our neighboring coastal states currently have thriving markets. Many of these states have developed significant commercial saltwater aquaculture operations that are producing Flounder, Shrimp, and Pompano to name a few, for commercial sale as a result of this allocation.

In closing, we feel that the time has come for North Carolina to grasp the real value of these two fish, and the tremendous financial impacts that this measure would multiply throughout our entire state-wide economy. Optimum yield has yet to be recognized from the Spotted Sea Trout and the Red Drum for all North Carolinians. We believe that day has finally arrived.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

NC Marine Fisheries Commission Settles Lawsuit With New Restrictions On Gill Nets; Small Step in Right Direction

Significant change has finally come to NC Marine Fisheries management resulting from a lawsuit filed in Federal Court. In an effort to hide the weakness that the courtroom offers to the stakeholders in our marine fisheries, the NC Marine Fisheries Commission conceded to severe restrictions on Large-mesh gill nets.

Conservation groups have taken notice that legal avenues may be the only avenue to effect serious reform in NC marine fisheries. Since the Marine Fisheries Commission is manipulated by NC Legislators that depend on commercial fishermen for re-election, and since they have enacted legislation to prevent any challenges to the current system, the courts will likely see more activity until the current system is abolished!

Get used to it boys, you asked for it!

The new restrictions will only be as effective as the DMF has ability or the stomach to enforce them. Why would that be a concern? Consider this. In the last ten years, not one single Sea Turtle was reported entangled by a commercial gill netter here in NC when the current permit strictly demands that they be reported.

Now that doesn't mean that turtles weren't entangled. As a matter of fact, quite a few were reported entangled when "observers" were accompanying commercial gill netters on their trips. But not one was ever reported on "unobserved" trips for the last 10 years! Amazing huh?

Observers are "turtle magnets!"

NC's Division of Marine Fisheries claims to have the best data and statistics in the USA. They brag about it, just ask them.

How could the most efficient data gathering agency in the whole country not be alarmed that no turtle entanglements were being reported unless there was an "observer" onboard for TEN YEARS? Maybe they just "missed" that fact, or worse, could they have been looking the other way intentionally?

Certainly one of our powerful politicians wouldn't direct folks to look the other way when his voter base is involved would he?

The citizens of North Carolina no longer trust our Marine Fisheries Commission, and the sooner we take the control of our marine fisheries away from commercial fishermen and their guard-dog legislators, the better!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

NCDMF/NCMFC Attorneys Move for Dismissal of Sea Turtle Lawsuit

In an all-out effort to keep the public from learning the ugly truth about NC gill nets, the attorneys defending the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries and the Marine Fisheries Commission have made a motion for "dismissal" of the lawsuit filed by the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital.

If gill nets are not responsible for the deaths of thousands of Sea Turtles, why wouldn't the NCDMF and the NCMFC want their day in court to prove otherwise? Why not once and for all show the state of NC and the whole USA how environmentally friendly gill nets really are, and how they are not wasteful, indiscriminate killing machines?

Obviously NC commercial fishermen have learned methods of gill net fishing that all the other states in the south never acquired! Since from NC to Texas, NC and MS are the only 2 states left that still allow the unbridled use of gill nets in coastal waters, NC must be either really smart or really stupid!

We don't believe that North Carolinians are stupid. Most of them just don't really understand what a gill net is, how does it work, and what's wrong with gill nets!

The CFRG is starting a campaign to answer those three questions; "What is a gill net, how does it work," and "what's wrong with gill nets?"

We have prepared a PowerPoint presentation that answers those questions, and will come to your event or meeting wherever you are in the state of NC to make the presentation. It is a powerful and in-depth expose' on the dirty secret of the NC commercial gill net fishery, and the political framework that has protected it for decades!

Please email us to schedule a presentation for your organization in the near future.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

NC Marine Fisheries Commission Votes to Snub ASMFC, Continue Slaughter of Collapsed Gray Trout Fishery for the Love of Money!

Once again our NC Marine resources suffer at the hands of our commercially run Marine Fisheries Commission. Under the guise of caring about wasted fish, the commission voted to "not comply" with the Atlantic States Fisheries Commission and reduce commercial harvest of Gray Trout to 100 pounds per day per vessel, and one fish per day for recreational fishermen.

The ASMFC could request the US Secretary of Commerce to step in and shut the Gray Trout fishery in NC completely down!

This is exactly what needs to happen to protect this beautiful sportfish! From 1978 to 1990, the commercial fishing fleet here in NC sold over 160 Million pounds of Gray Trout at an average of 32 cents per pound! Now, with no limits whatsoever, they have only harvested less than 200 thousand pounds in the last few years.

Fisheries biologist say the Gray Trout stocks are at an all time low, and what do our NC commercial fishermen want to do? They demand that they be allowed to go catch what is left of them! Even when all the states on the Atlantic Coast voted to do otherwise!

Not only can they make such horrific demands, since they are the "foxes guarding the hen house," they can make their own rules to play by and do as they wish with our fisheries!

This egregious display of blatant disregard for our marine resources gives not only North Carolinians reason for pause, but for our neighboring states on the Atlantic Coast as well.

If there were ever any doubts about the true nature and intent of our Marine Fisheries Commission, they have now all been erased!

It is high time that the current system of marine resource management be overturned and overhauled! Maybe the Feds will step in and help us get it done!

The CFRG sent the following email to every member of the ASMFC on March 26, 2010....

Dear ASMFC Member,

Once again, North Carolina’s Marine Fisheries Commission puts money and profit at a higher priority than the health of a depleted Weakfish fishery. In spite of the intense studies and debate that the ASMFC has engaged in on behalf of Weakfish, NC MFC has decided that they know better and will just thumb their noses at sound, biological fisheries management.

Is it any wonder? Does this really surprise any of you who understand that North Carolina Marine Fisheries are run by commercial fishermen that only understand the price of a fish sold, and not the value of a fish preserved? Many of us here in NC are growing weary of the constant battle to achieve sound fisheries management, and now we must turn to you for help!

Will you help us? Will you do what is right for the Weakfish before it is too late?

Please use the power that is given to you and demand that NC adhere to the Weakfish regulations that the ASMFC supports. If they refuse, please request that The Secretary of Commerce SHUT DOWN completely the NC Commercial and recreational Weakfish fishery until the stocks recover.

Concerned North Carolinians need you to step up and do the right thing, in light of the shameful actions of a politically run NC Marine Fisheries Commission!

Please let us know your feelings on this subject, and thank you for your service on behalf of our Atlantic States Fisheries!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Atlantic Sturgeon; Another Canary in the Coal Mine? Read Craig Holt's Opinion From NC Sportsman Magazine

Will Our Fisheries Ever be Managed For Fish?
By Craig Holt

Three decisions involving saltwater fisheries occurred during February. One was fairly-well publicized; two flew under the radar.

Each reveal the mindset of fisheries management in North Carolina.

Anglers may know about a Feb. 18 meeting in New Bern, when the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission held a public hearing regarding a proposal by Dr. Louis Daniel, director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries. Under pressure from the National Marine Fisheries Service to reduce accidental gill netting of sea turtles (and from an impending lawsuit by a turtle-protection group), Daniel offered a temporary May 15-Dec. 15 closure of sections of Pamlico, Core and Back sounds and the Cape Fear River to large-mesh gill nets.

Before an audience of mostly net fishermen, the MFC dropped Daniel’s idea and voted for a proposal tossed out by a commercial fish dealer that would allow gill-net use four days a week.

Earlier in the month, Daniel and N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission executive director Gordon Myers sent letters to NMFS Southeast region director Roy Crabtree. He wanted to know if the two agencies thought Atlantic sturgeon should be listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

They responded that Atlantic sturgeon shouldn’t have ESA protection and asked for further studies, even though a ban on sturgeon harvests has existed since 1991. Moreover, their responses to Crabtree contained contradictory statements:

“The DMF believes that there is evidence that management measures enacted by the state of North Carolina and the ASMFC are resulting in positive population trends.” (Daniel).

“Recent information from Albemarle and Pamlico sounds suggests that the Carolina DPS (distinct population segments) of Atlantic sturgeon has shown little improvement in size and age distribution since 1991.” (Myers).

We don’t know which conclusion is stranger.

DMF says sturgeon numbers are growing while WRC sees no improvement. Yet both agencies’ leaders don’t want ESA listing for a fish that can’t be caught legally because there are so few of them.

A source also has told us WRC rejected its own staff report that sturgeons should be listed.

After the Feb. 18 MFC vote in New Bern and the letters of Daniel and Myers to NMFS, one conclusion seems inevitable — gill-net use will continue in N.C. saltwater until it’s halted by outside forces.

Of course, commercial fishermen don’t deliberately target sea turtles or sturgeons, but sometimes their nets injure or kill these endangered or threatened species.

The major problem with nets in N.C. waters is timing — the DMF allows them to be set in spring to intercept fish headed for shallow water to spawn (killing fish before they can reproduce isn’t a great idea). Post-spawn-only gill netting could work (and result in more fish), but, as Feb. 18, proved, netters and the state agencies that regulate them won’t accept restrictions.

However, that may prove a dangerous path to follow.

Clearly, economic hardships are squeezing netters. But by refusing any restrictions or adjustments while demanding state agencies be similarly unbending, their lack of compromise eventually may force removal of all nets from N.C. waters.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sea Turtles; "The Canary in the Coal Mine"

In the "old days" coal miners would carry a "Canary" into the mines with them in a cage. If the canary stopped singing, the miners would know that the bird had perished from the invisible, odorless, lethal, Methane gas, and would evacuate the mine!

The NC Sea Turtles are the "Canary in the Coal Mine" for NC marine fisheries!!!

You need to look no further than the Division of Marine Fisheries own website to confirm this. See how the rest of our "fish stocks" are faring here.........

It is time to "evacuate" ourselves from a politically run marine fisheries system here in NC!

Far too long have a handful of coastal politicians stood guard over a mismanaged and corrupt marine fisheries system for the sake of money. Our coastal resources have been sacrificed on the altar of convenience and status-quo for monetary and political gain!

Yes, our Canary in the Coal Mine is dead. Where is the nearest exit?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

CCA NC Condemns North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission's Status Quo Decision; "Conflict of Interest" Questioned

CCA NC blasted the NC Marine Fisheries Commission for making management decisions based on politics, and ignoring blatant "conflict of interest" issues at the recent NC MFC meeting in New Bern, NC. Tarheel anglers have long recognized CCA NC as the authoritative voice for coastal recreational fishing, and the CFRG heartily agrees with and supports the CCA NC position and statement.

Read the entire statement at this link..

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Beasley Turtle Hospital Files Lawsuit in Federal Court Against NCDMF, NCMFC, Gill Nets

Topsail Island, N.C. – The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center has filed a lawsuit in federal court asking the State of North Carolina to stop authorizing gill net fishing in violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The lawsuit cites studies by the National Marine Fisheries Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the North Carolina Department of Marine Fisheries that have found gill net fishing in North Carolina waters results in the injury and death of sea turtles protected by the ESA. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

The suit alleges that defendants North Carolina Department of Marine Fisheries (DMF), North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission, and DMF Director Dr. Louis Daniel have issued permits and licenses that “have resulted in the illegal take of estimated thousands of protected sea turtles over the previous decades, and continue to result in the illegal take of protected sea turtles today.”

See entire press release here..

See court venue, case number, presiding Federal Judge here......

Saturday, February 20, 2010

ORV Use on Cape Hatteras National Seashore: “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People”

“For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People”

Our National Park System was born over 138 years ago as an effort to set aside pristine areas here in the US for the purpose of providing our citizens the opportunity of hands-on enjoyment of nature’s beauty. Today there are 376 National Parks that encompass 83 million acres of the most beautiful and awe inspiring landscapes the planet Earth has to offer.

This property has been bought and paid for, maintained and protected with monies generated from taxes and revenues collected from our US citizenry. We believe, and rightfully so, that this same citizenry should be allowed to enjoy these properties in a responsible manner.

Authorized on August 17, 1937, The Cape Hatteras National Seashore has historically been a destination for both vacationers and recreational fishermen from all across not only our nation, but the whole world as well. Comprising 31,263 acres, Cape Hatteras stretches north to south across three islands: Bodie, Hatteras, and Ocracoke.

The islands are linked by NC 12, which is the only major route through the park. From the north, NC 158 accesses the Outer Banks at Kitty Hawk, and then intersects NC 12 at the park's northern entrance below Nags Head. US 64 comes in from the west at Roanoke Island, and also intersects NC 12 at the park's northern entrance. State-operated toll ferries access the park's southern entrance at Ocracoke Island from Cedar Island or Swan Quarter. Its lands include 5,834-acre Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, administered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Recreational fishermen should be allowed access to areas that historically have been traveled by ORV transportation. This can be accomplished in a way that holds the highest regard for both conservation and protection to the coastal environment. The NC Recreational fisherman is the best friend and advocate that the Cape Hatteras National Seashore enjoys. Maintaining this relationship should be of utmost priority to all concerned, including the National Park Service and the recreational fishermen.

Considering the fact that human interaction with the property held in public trust by our national parks is the “life blood” that provides both revenues and protection for a robust, healthy management and protection system, every effort must be made to continue this access by our citizenry to this Seashore!

The 5,834 acres in the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge combined with nearby numerous “spoil islands,” create tremendous areas of nesting habitat for both shore birds and wading birds. The fact that Pea Island NWR is set aside exclusively to protect shore birds, wading birds, waterfowl, wildlife, and nesting environments, and all human activity is tightly restricted, makes it even more important to maintain controlled fisherman access to the other beach areas where surf fishing has been historically practiced.

In this regard, the CFRG supports all efforts and energies to restoring reasonable and environmentally friendly ORV access to areas that historically have provided access to recreational fishermen on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dick Hamilton, Retired NCWRC Chief and CFRG Co-founder Named "Sportsman of The Year"

Dick Hamilton has been named the 2009 "Sportsman of The Year"by NC Sportsman Magazine. In addition to his 37 years with the NCWRC, the magazine noted Dick's involvement with the Camo Coalition, (the NC division of the Wildlife Federation,) and his efforts in creating the CFRG and guiding the group through its first year of engaging NC coastal fisheries issues.
The NC SPORTSMAN story about Dick's award and lifelong accomplishments can be read at the following link........

Monday, January 25, 2010

Will North Carolina Ever Stop This?

Enlarge this photo to see the gill net marks on the Dolphin
How much longer will NC tolerate this? How much longer will NC coastal politicians condone and protect this? Why don't you ask them? How much longer will the US government look the other way?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

REDFISH CAN'T JUMP; Premier Goes on the Road to Raleigh NC, Feb 24th at The Pour House

Captain Seth Vernon (Double Haul Guide Service) of Wilmington NC and friends have produced a fabulous documentary about North Carolina's State Fish, the Red Drum, and fishing dynamics surrounding this beautiful sportfish. The film opened to a packed house in Wilmington, then went on to packed house showings in Charlotte last week.

The Raleigh NC Premier will occur on Feb 24th at The Pour House Music Hall, 224 Blount St. The doors open at 7:30 PM, Music by Jason Andre and friends starts at 8, and the movie starts at 8:30. A second showing will follow at 9:30.

An interview about the movie can be read online on FLY FISHING MAGAZINE at the following link.....

Please see the "trailer" for the film at the link below.........

To see an in-depth look at production of the film, visit the website at.......

Visit Captain Seth Vernon's website at ........