| July 17, 2008
County’s watermen’s commission takes on spiny dogfish
By SUSAN WEST
Spiny dogfish moved to the top spot on the list of issues the Dare County Commission for Working Watermen plans to address.
“Resolving this issue can bring some immediate relief to the
commercial fishing industry in the county,” said commission
member Dewey Hemilright when the group met July 8 to prioritize a list
of potential action items.
The commission wants to see 1.3 million pounds of the 8 million pound
East Coast spiny dogfish harvest quota for the upcoming fishing year
allocated specifically to North Carolina.
That request falls in line with landings from 1988 to 2001, when state landings averaged 15 percent of the total.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), the regional
body that manages dogfish, hasn’t assigned portions of the total
harvest quota to individual states, opting to parcel out the quota on a
seasonal and regional basis.
Since 2002 when the ASMFC management plan went into effect, North
Carolina has dropped from second to fifth place in Atlantic dogfish
Landings in other states have nearly filled the quota before dogfish even swim to the waters off North Carolina.
In January, Hatteras Island fish house owner Tilman Gray bought dogfish
for just four days before the harvest quota was filled and the fishery
The CWW approved a motion made by vice-chairman Jamie Reibel to draft a
resolution to Gov. Mike Easley requesting that the state ask for the
1.3 million pound quota at the August meeting of the ASMFC. The
CWW will also ask the Dare County Board of Commissioners to pass the
resolution when the board meets July 21.
Although state fisheries officials recognize that North Carolina
fishermen have drawn the short end of the stick under the ASMFC plan,
fishermen complain that officials have postponed seeking a remedy to
“For six years in a row, fishermen in other states have been
fishing while North Carolina fishermen haven’t,” Hemilright
“Where is our leadership? I have to wonder if they don’t want us to starve and go under,” he said.
Other commission members agreed that state officials haven’t been
forceful enough in pressing for solutions at a time when more and more
fishermen and fish houses are going out of business.
“This is an emergency situation,” said CWW member Mikey Daniels.
Daniels said a dogfish cutting and processing operation could be set up
in the state for the winter fishing season if the quota request is
He estimated that a 1.3 million pound quota could mean 10 weeks of work
for about 50 people in the winter months when the unemployment rate in
the county spikes.
“There’s a lot of economic hurting in this county right
now. Setting up one plant in this county is important,”
said Mike Johnson, county commissioner and chairman of the watermen
Other issues discussed at the meeting included striped bass quotas,
promotion of local seafood, and developing a public relations campaign
for the county fishing industry.
“We have to tell our own story. It’s clear that we
can’t rely on others to do that for us,” said Mikey Daniels.