May 29, 2013
UPDATE: Gamefish bill is dead in state legislature
BY CATHERINE KOZAK
controversial gamefish bill that would have made three species of
wild-caught fish unavailable to watermen and consumers in North
Carolina was killed late Wednesday, making it the fourth time a
gamefish measure has perished in the state.
“It is officially dead,” said Rep. Paul Tine, a Kitty Hawk Democrat. “It will not run.”
said that the news was relayed to him by the bill’s primary sponsor,
Rep. Tom Murry, R-Wake, who had just left a late-day Republican caucus.
The bill, HB 983, proposed to ban commercial catch of speckled
trout, red drum and estuarine striped bass. The species would be
reserved strictly for recreational anglers and could not be sold in
fish markets and restaurants.
Tine said he believes the bill
lost whatever wind it had in its sails when legislators saw the outrage
from commercial fishermen, as well as the concern from chefs, fishing
communities, local-catch advocates, and even tourism groups.
“We had very good numbers in opposition to the bill,” he said.
the majority of Democrats opposed to the bill, combined with a number
of Republicans against the measure, Tine said, the caucus decided that
the bill did not have the traction it needed to pass.
Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina, a non-profit
recreational fishing group, has been pushing the bill. The group
contends that a small percentage of the three fish are caught by
commercial watermen, and they would be more economically important to
the state as recreational catch.
But opponents say that the
fish are critical to the livelihood of watermen and are also well liked
by consumers and tourists looking for local fresh fish.
The bottom line, Tine said, is that the fish are a public resource, and one group should not be favored over the other.
“It’s an unfair bill,” he said. “Right now, both sides can have a shot at it. There was no reason to pick winners and losers.”
Tine said that is very unlikely that the bill could be slipped through
with some other bill, opponents are not ready to give up their
“It’s a temporary victory,” said Karen Willis
Amspacher, a board member of North Carolina Catch. “But it’s not the
end of the discussion.
“We are very concerned it will be added to another bill. That’s always a threat.”
who is from Harkers Island, said that gamefish status was anathema not
just to the commercial fishing interests in the state, but also to
“foodies” and a growing number of people who value access to healthy
As one of many “cheerleaders” who helped
rally the troops to oppose the bill, Amspacher is well aware that the
CCA and its supporters also do not give up easily.
“We’ll keep watch,” she said, “every step of the way.”