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!