Sunday, June 9, 2013

Republican Caucus Secretly Kills Game Fish Again

Caucus Tells Recreational Fishermen They Have No Say in How Salt Water Fish Are Managed

In 2009, then Senator Mark Basnight and his confidant Representative Tim Spear, both Democrats aligned with commercial fishing interests, killed game fish without a vote.

Governor Bev Perdue killed it in 2011 when Republicans traded game fish to override her veto of the budget with two dissident Coastal Democrats, one of them being Tim Spear.

Here we are in 2013 and the Republican Caucus, operating in secret and without warning, killed HB 983, the Fisheries Economic Development Act, commonly called the game fish bill, a week ago under the guise of it being a local issue.

The Republican Caucus in the House essentially has told the more than 500,000 recreational salt water fishermen in the state, that they have no vote, no say in how the salt water fishery is managed. A few coastal Representatives, again with ties to the commercial fishing sector, have decided for all of the state’s recreational fishermen that the commercial fishing industry will manage the fish.

We all know how well that has worked out for our fish in the past. Reminds us of the line in the song, “Hello to the new boss, same as the old boss.”   


Not a Local Issue

Anyone with a grain of sense realizes that this issue has the potential to benefit the entire State. Over 500,000 licensed recreational salt water anglers live across the state from Manteo to Murphy.

Maybe we should let coastal residents pay for hurricane damage to coastal roads, pay for beach nourishment and channel dredging, ferry boats, and so on. No, we recognize that all citizens must help one another in these public matters.

If these issues are not local issues, then game fish is not a local issue.

Fish are Valuable as Recreational Fish

 Only three commercial fishermen caught, sold, and reported selling over $10,000 worth of estuarine striped bass, speckled sea trout, and red drum in any combination. These three fish constitute less than one percent of the total annual commercial catch and account for only about $3 million annually and 28 jobs according to the 2012 figures from the Division of Marine Fisheries.

The recreational value of the three fish is $131 million for the same period and supports 1.267 jobs. This appears to be a no brainer. Anyone who cannot see the imbalance here is a no brainer. Over 30 species of finfish in inshore waters are open to commercial fishing; not one fish is managed as a game fish.

If game fish had been enacted into law, the commercial sector still would be harvesting over 99 percent of the fish they are harvesting now. Even without the three game fish!

The management of fisheries for commercial harvest creates a persistent drag on the population that over time always depletes the population and requires emergency and drastic action to save the fishery. We were too late in the case of the gray trout, the sturgeon, the river herring and we are just beginning to see recovery in the red drum, striped bass, and flounder. Extraordinary measures by recreational fishermen have led the way toward recovery with commercial fishermen complaining about government interference all the way.

A fool and His Votes Are Soon Parted

Leading Republicans told us to elect them and they would run our state like a business and allocate our valuable resources of all kinds for the highest and best use of all citizens. We were told “You get Republicans elected and we will pass game fish.“ Really.

We elected Republicans to Office as Governor, Speaker of the House, and President Pro Temp of the Senate. Killing game fish in this way is not consistent with your promises and will not sit kindly with the majority of over 500,000 licensed recreational fishermen as they cast their votes in the next election. Do you want to lose all you have gained over a few fish? It could happen!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


The Coastal Fisheries Reform Group (CFRG) supports the Camo Coalition in its efforts to eliminate or at least mitigate the budget cuts proposed in the NC Legislature.  Anyone wanting to help can click on the link below and send a message.]

You can also contact you NC House and Senate member, which can be found on the NC Legislature web site.  You can also visit for more information. 
Senate Budget Slashes Wildlife Appropriation
The Senate has released its 2013 – 2014 budget proposal and it has passed through the Senate Appropriations Committee.  The cuts to the Wildlife Resources Commission budget are staggering and, if enacted, will cut long-standing and important programs of the agency significantly.  In previous years the General Assembly has appropriated about $18 million to the Commission to provide services and infrastructure to manage and protect the fish and wildlife resources of the state.  This year, the proposal is to appropriate only $9 million to the agency for these activities.  This is a cut of about 49%.  Hunters and fishermen in NC will certainly miss the fish and wildlife programs and services supported by these cut funds.

The Senate will vote on the budget tomorrow, Wednesday, May 22, 2013. The budget has to be voted on in two separate days, so this cut may be addressed and funds restored on Thursday, May 23, 2013 also.  You still have time to provide important input to your Senator to correct this misguided cut.

The fish and wildlife management programs and infrastructure of the Wildlife Resources
Commissions contribute significantly to the state and local economies.  The programs of the agency impact the state in all areas and have been created over the years with receipts collected from hunting and fishing license sales and other receipts from agency programs. Appropriations to the WRC are typically used to support the programs of the agency that benefit all the citizens of the state.

The Senate budget cut is accompanied with the implied suggestion that the Commission use the Wildlife Endowment Fund (WEF) to make up the difference.  The WEF was created to provide a supplemental source of funding to improve fish and wildlife programs and not to replace traditional sources of financial support from the General Assembly.  The WEF has been utilized over the years to keep our fish and wildlife programs efficient and current with such projects as fish hatchery improvement, improvements to law enforcement, and game lands purchases.  We need to keep this valuable asset to continue improving our fish and wildlife programs and not be required to expend these trust funds for routine operations.

Click TAKE ACTION to send a message to your Senator today and ask him or her to restore the modest appropriation to the WRC budget to avoid significant reduction in services so important to the hunters and fishermen of NC.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

GAME FISH INTRODUCED IN NC HOUSE long last the North Carolina legislature will vote on a game fish bill.  HB 983 was introduced in the House on Wednesday, April 17, and when it passes will be sent to the Senate for action there.

There is a twist this year.  Because of the importance of the legislation to the state's economy, the bill is entitled 2013 Fisheries Economic Development ActNOTE:  You can visit the NC House of Representatives web site and type in the bill number and read its full contents.

The North Carolina Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) has been sponsoring the legislation for the past three years.  The push for a game fish bill was begun four years ago by the Coastal Fisheries Reform Group (CFRG), but that bill was blocked at the committee level by opponents.  The following year, the CCA took over as the primary sponsor of the bill, but the effort failed to see the bill introduced once again.  Last year, the bill was not introduced because of a threatened veto by then Governor Bev Perdue.

This year, however, the bill will receive a vote.  If passed, no longer will the commercial sale of wild caught red drum, spotted sea trout and estuarine striped bass be permitted in North Carolina.  Ocean stripers can still be harvested from the beach out to three miles commercially, but that catch is controlled by a quota system.  In federal waters from three miles and beyond, stripers cannot be harvested.

Only red drum or specs imported or farm raised can be sold in the state.  Restaurants can sell stripers legally taken from the beach out to three miles.  Stripers from inshore cannot be sold in the North Carolina once this bill is passed.

The bill is much more inclusive than just game fish status.  It contains provisions for increasing fishing license fees that will bring in much needed revenue to the Division of Marine Resources.  It also contains provisions to financially assist commercial fishermen who can prove they have been adversely affected by the bill.

In addition, the bill provides revenue for dredging of some of North Carolina's inlets, valuable avenues for passage to not only commercial vessels, but recreational fishing boats.  Many of these inlets are in dire need of dredging since the federal monies previously used for this purpose have dried up.  HB 983 does not involve increasing boat registration fees.

In all other states that have either instituted game fish and/or an outright net ban, economic activity has increased.  Why?  Because as the fish populations, namely red drum and specs to our south, have increased, recreational fishing pressure has increased.  Fishermen spend lots and lots of money in pursuit of their favorite recreation.  We all know about that.

This has been proven in Texas, Louisiana, Florida and South Carolina.  Within the past month, the State of Georgia also designated the red drum a game fish.  North Carolina joins Mississippi as the only states from NC to Texas without game fish status for drum and specs.

You can visit the CCA's web site at and learn of the economic benefits of the legislation.  These economic statistics have largely been compiled from the records of the NC Division of Marine Fisheries.

The CFRG urges all North Carolina residents to contact their NC House Representative and Senator.  Ask them to vote for the bill.  These members can be obtained by visiting At that site click on either House or Senate, then on member lists.

Please be courteous and respectful to these elected officials.

With your assistance, we can finally see some improvements in our fishery.  And we can help improve our state's economy.

Thanks and good fishing.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

On March 14, 2013, the North Carolina Division of Water Quality will hold a meeting to seek public comment on a limestone quarry that is proposed for construction in the watershed of Blounts Creek, a tributary of the Pamlico River in Beaufort County. The Coastal Fisheries Reform Group urges individuals concerned about water quality and particularly those who fish to attend this meeting and speak out in opposition to this planned quarry for the following reasons:
1. The quarry will pump 9 million gallons of water per day from the aquifer in order to wash rocks. Our aquifers have gotten dangerously low and the removal of this much water on a permanent daily basis will be detrimental.
2. The quarry will dispose of its 9 million gallons of wash water every day by dumping it into feeder streams that lead into the headwaters of Blounts Creek and ultimately into the Pamlico River. This will cause a major ecological change in this area due to both the alteration of pH and the influx of fresh water. The Pamlico River is already challenged by the infusion of fresh water from the phosphate mine a short distance downstream from Blounts Creek.
Many species of important estuarine fish, including striped bass, speckled sea trout, and red drum, spawn and are nurtured in the sheltered waters of Blounts Creek. These fish spend much of their life cycle in Blounts Creek and surrounding estuarine and fresh waters. Blounts Creek is a productive and popular fishing and recreational area. The huge influx of waste water from the aquifer every day will change the fragile and productive ecology of Blounts Creek and surrounding waters. Another important factor to consider is the very low turnover rate of water in Blounts Creek due to its narrow opening into the Pamlico River. This fact increases the adverse impact of the large freshwater influx from the proposed quarry and any toxic spill from the quarry will be devastating as it concentrates in the bay. The adverse affects of spills will be virtually impossible to remediate.
It is imperative that anyone who is interested in the health of Blounts Creek attend this meeting to speak or send written comments to: NC Division of Water Quality, Wetlands and Storm Water Branch, 1650 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1650. Attn: Cyndi Karoly.
email --
Meeting time and location: Thursday March 14, 2013, beginning at 7:00 pm at the Beaufort County Community College, Building 8-Auditorium, 5337 Highway 264 East, Washington, NC 27889. Doors will open at 6:00 pm for speaker registration and sign-in.
For more information go to:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission will meet this week and discuss the establishment of a"hook and line" commercial fishery for striped bass in North Carolina coastal waters inside the three mile limit.  Outside the three mile remains under the jurisdiction of the federal government.

The CFRG sent the following position on the proposal for inclusion in the public record.  You will note we are advocating the establishment of a "rod and reel" fishery.  Hook and line could result in long lines being used to catch stripers, something we are opposed to.

CFRG Position on Rod and Reel Commercial Fishing for Striped Bass

The CFRG favors the proposal before the Marine Fisheries Commission for consideration to adopt a "rod and reel" commercial fishery for striped bass. We believe the following requirements should be met when adopting new regulations.

1. The rod and reel should be allowed as an approved commercial gear for taking striped bass in the Atlantic Ocean.

2. The rod and reel should replace the currently allowable method of trawling for striped bass in the Atlantic Ocean.

3. The current commercial striped bass quota for trawling in the Atlantic Ocean should be transferred to rod and reel.

4. Only those persons holding a Standard Commercial Fishing License who also held a special striped bass ocean

fishing permit at some point during the last three years should be eligible to use rod and reel as commercial gear for striped bass harvest in the Atlantic Ocean.

5. Strict daily limits for taking and possessing striped bass with rod and reel should be adopted based upon recommendations of fishery biologists of DMF and strictly enforced. The season quota should replace the current quota for trawling and be set by Division of Marine Fisheries biologists in conjunction with any federal requirements for harvesting these fish, with a goal of maintaining healthy and sustainable populations of striped bass.

6. The present fees of licenses and permits for commercial harvesting and sale of striped bass are too low and should be increased to at least pay the cost of administering this special fishery. Striped bass are a valuable state resource for North Carolina and should be treated as such by increasing fees for all applicable licenses and permits.

Joe Albea

Coastal Fisheries Reform Group