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.