Proposed merger of agencies raises fears of fishermen
Though the turnout was low, emotions ran high.
20 people showed up Thursday night for a public meeting intended to
find out what people think about reorganizing the two state agencies
that manage fish and wildlife populations.
Other meetings were held over the past two weeks in Raleigh and Manteo.
It’s all part of a study mandated in a bill passed last session by the
N.C. General Assembly.
leaders say they want to save money, and merging the state’s Division
of Marine Fisheries and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is one
possibility they will consider. The division manages all commercial and
recreational fisheries in the coastal waters, while the commission
regulates freshwater fish and administers hunting, trapping and boating
a bad, bad idea,” Ron McPherson, a charter boat captain in Atlantic
Beach, told agency representatives at the meeting. “The merger won’t
save anyone a dime.”
say no, no, no,” Bertie Potter, who owns a fish house in Hobucken, said
rather emphatically. “Commercial fishermen are hurting and this is our
“This will be the end of commercial fishing,” said Sandra Gaskill, a commercial fisherwoman from Stacy in Carteret County.
Other comments followed the same the drift. None of the five speakers had anything good to say about the merger idea.
did the Marine Fisheries Commission, an appointed body that sets
saltwater fishing regulations and policies. It voted 8-1 last week to
oppose any merger. The lone dissenter doesn’t want to see the agencies
combined but supports moving marine fisheries intact to the N.C.
Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said Rob Bizzell, the
other eight commissioners, including myself, can’t see how either the
resource or our state will be better served by changing our agency’s
assignment,” Bizell said in the Carteret County News-Times. “We have
the scientists in place, the enforcement in place and there’s a cost
involved in restructuring that would be hard to justify.”
marine fisheries division has a long history as a separate agency
of state government. The division can trace its roots back to 1822,
when the legislature imposed gear restrictions on oyster harvests. That
was later followed by separate fish and shellfish commissions, which
were combined in 1915 to form a commercial regulatory body. In 1965,
the scope of the commission was expanded to include regulatory
authority over recreational fishing activities in coastal
division now does a lot more, including inspecting fish houses. Louis
Daniel, the division’s director, warned earlier this year against
shifting that responsibility. There are more than 700 fish dealers in
the state, he said, and keeping track of the catch means constant
contact with them.
“We have a tremendous amount of interactions with fish dealers,” he said at a commission meeting in June.
from the dealers, he said, is the state’s main method of managing fish
quotas, which is essential to complying with Atlantic fisheries
regulations and quotas.
“It has the potential to have extraordinary consequences to our industry,” he said.
Gaskill and Pam Morris, a commercial fisherwoman from Harkers Island, fear that a merger would destroy the industry.
get the shaft,” Gaskill said after Thursday’s meeting. “The reason for
all of this is to get the commercial fisherman out of the water. They
don’t want us in the creeks; they don’t want us in the rivers; they
don’t want us in the sounds.”
fisherman, Morris said, view the potential merger with great
suspicion. The idea is being driven by inland legislators, who
have no particular knowledge of the industry or empathy with those who
work in it, she said. They are more sympathetic to recreational
fishermen, she said, and more comfortable with the Wildlife Resources
“This is all being done under the guise of saving a dollar, but that’s not what this is all about,” she said.
recreational fishing groups have for years lobbied the state to follow
the lead of other Southern states and ban gill nets, a common type of
commercial fishing gear, from inshore waters, Gaskill noted.
“They want the nets out of the water,” Gaskill added. “That means, we’ll be out of the water, too.”
The fisheries division and the wildlife commission must submit their report to the legislature by Oct. 1.
is the deadline for public comments on the reorganization. Submit
comments online or mail them to S821 Comments, 1701 Mail Service
Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1701.
story is provided courtesy of Coastal Review Online, the coastal news
and features service of the N.C. Coastal Federation. You can read other
stories about the N.C. coast at www.nccoast.org.)