January 23, 2008

Resignation leaves Marine Fisheries Commission short one member


With the resignation of Jim Leutze earlier this month, the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission will most likely be short one member at its January 23 – 25 meeting in Carolina Beach.

“It’s highly doubtful that a new commissioner will be appointed prior to the upcoming meeting,” said Sara Allen, director of Boards and Commissions for Governor Mike Easley.

Allen said that the Governor had not selected a replacement for Leutze who held an at-large seat on the nine-member regulatory commission.

She added that appointees must complete financial and potential bias disclosure statements that are reviewed by the Board of Ethics before appointments become official.

“So even if the Governor was ready to move on making this appointment, there probably isn’t enough time to proceed through the ethics process,” Allen said.

Leutze, chancellor emeritus for the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, was appointed to the Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) in June, 2006.

He held one of the two at-large seats requiring general knowledge of fisheries on the board.  Appointees to the seven other commission seats must meet more specific requirements, such as experience in commercial or recreational fishing or marine science. 

His replacement on the MFC must be a resident of the coastal region and will serve until June, 2009, unless reappointed by the governor.

Leutze said that his decision to resign was prompted largely by constraints on the amount of time he was able to dedicate to fisheries issues.

“I realized I didn’t have enough time to attend all the meetings and read all the material in order to fulfill my obligation to the state in this position,” he said.

Leutze said he also felt uncomfortable making judgments on some issues.

“I didn’t have the scientific or technical background to always sort out the best answer.  There were many times when we discussed things I know little about - green sticks, how to use them, whether the spiny dogfish quota should be increased, why there’s no dogfish market,” he said.

“So I found that I had to rely on what (Division of Marine Fisheries) staff said, and while I have confidence in the staff, I still felt uncomfortable making judgments,” he continued.

Leutze said he kept focused on two broad goals during his time on the MFC.

 He wanted to try to find the middle ground in controversial issues that deeply divide commercial and recreational fishermen.

“I still hope that is possible, although to be honest I didn’t see lots of middle ground,” he said.

He also wanted to help usher in a system for limiting access to commercial fisheries.

“I believe that’s the future for the fishing industry,” said Leutze.

Leutze said he was surprised that commercial fishermen haven’t embraced the concept.

“I think the idea probably runs counter to the democratic spirit of fishermen,” he added.

The MFC meeting in Carolina beach will be the first for commissioner Jess Hawkins who was appointed to the at-large seat held previously by Barbara Garrity-Blake, a cultural anthropologist specializing in the study of fishing communities who served eight years on the commission. 

Hawkins worked for the NC Division of Marine Fisheries for 30 years, serving as liaison between the division and the MFC before his retirement.

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