Wednesday, September 14, 2011

NC Legislature Takes up Game Fish Bill and Other Critical Marine Fisheries Issues

Co-chair, Darrell McCormick

Renewing the hopes of NC saltwater anglers, the NC legislature today created a joint study committee of seven senators and seven representatives that will be co-chaired by Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown from Jacksonville and Representative Darrell McCormick from Winston Salem, and charged with studying NC Marine Fisheries issues including the subject of game fish. HB353, the coastal game fish bill was introduced but never voted on by the legislature this past session even though unofficial vote tallies showed a veto-proof count of supporters in both chambers.

The study committee will operate under the following guidelines:

The house members are; Darryl McCormick, Co-chair, Dan Ingle, Ruth Samuelson, Danny McComas, Tim Spear, Pat McElraft and Bryan Holloway.
The Senate members are: Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown, Co-chair, Jean Preston, Stan White, Thom Goolsby, Bill Rabon, Don East, and Tommy Tucker.
Study issues related to marine fisheries. Specifically, the subcommittee may study the following:
1. The potential impact to both the State's fisheries resources and the State's economy related to the designation of Red Drum (Sciaenops Ocellatus), Spotted Sea Trout (Cynoscion Nebulosus), and Striped Bass (deleted word e Saxatillis) as coastal game fish.
2. Changes to the appointment process and qualification for membership on the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission.
3. Creation of a hook and line commercial fishery.
4. Elimination of the trawl boat fishery in North Carolina.
5. Entering into reciprocal agreements with other jurisdictions with regard to the conservation of marine and estuarine resources; and regulating placement of nets and other sports or commercial fishing apparatus in coastal fishing waters with regard to navigational and recreational safety as well as from a conservation standpoint.
6. Entering into agreements regarding the delegation of law enforcement powers from the National Marine Fisheries Service over matters within the jurisdiction of the Service.
7. Potential modification of the Fisheries Reform Act of 1997.
8. Whether Marine Fisheries should be a division of the Coastal Resources Commission or the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.
9. Other findings that promote the allocation of the State's resources to the optimum use.
While NC saltwater anglers were infuriated when HB353 died in committee, it appears now that along with other significant issues, it can be resurrected in this committee, and can in fact be brought back to the legislature in the coming session for consideration and an ultimate vote. Either way, what has never happened up to this point is now apparently about to happen, and that is an open and honest discussion and consideration of all the facts that support the long overdue concept of game fish status for Speckled Trout, Red Drum, and Striped Bass in NC Coastal waters!

The committee will be meeting Jan-April on the second Thursday of each month in the Legislative Building. The next meeting will be open to Public Comment and is scheduled for Feb 2, 1-4 pm in the auditorium of the Legislative building at 16 West Jones Street Raleigh, NC. Please be in attendance and show your support for these issues especially the Gamefish Bill.
Please take time to email the members of the committee and urge them to move forward with game fish status for these three valuable sportfish! Their email links are as follows;
Senate Majority Leader and Co-chair, Harry Brown,
Senator Don East,
Senator Thom Goolsby,
Senator Bill Rabon,
Senator Tommy Tucker,
Senator Jean Preston,
Senator Stan White,
Representative and Co-chair, Darrell McCormick,
Representative Dan Ingle,
Representative Ruth Samuelson,
Representative Danny McComas,
Representative Bryan Holloway,
Representative Pat McElraft,
Representative Tim Spear,