been the daughter of a commercial fisherman, granddaughter of a fish
dealer, wife to a fisherman, employee in the Marine Fisheries
Commission office and commercial fisheries advocate.
past decade of my life has been largely consumed by fish politics,
and there are few people who have seen these issues through as many
lenses as myself. I understand why folks on all sides are
frustrated. The Fisheries Reform Act was intended to make fisheries
management effective, predictable and fair. Instead, it got bogged
down in bureaucracy and politics. That’s when stakeholders began
looking for shortcuts.
year, we saw the result of such shortcuts when our southern flounder
fishery was taken hostage by a misuse of the fishery management plan
supplement process. Months later, we face an assault on the shrimp
fishery via an end run around that plan by way of a petition for
Marine Fisheries Commission, a nine-member board which sets the
state’s fisheries policies, adopted an amendment to the Shrimp
Fishery Management Plan early in 2015. That plan was developed with
the input of scientists and stakeholders over two years of public
debate and addresses many of the management issues contained in the
petition. Simply put, the Wildlife Federation was not satisfied with
the outcome and decided to pursue its agenda by abusing the process
prescribed by law.
we are to have a credible, science-based fisheries management
strategy in our state this sidestepping around the process must end.
It is easy to target commercial fishermen as “the problem.” They
are highly visible and fish for larger volumes of fish. However, we
need to remember the number of recreational fishermen far exceed that
of commercial fishermen and continues to grow exponentially. Couple
that increase in effort on the recreational side with degraded water
quality, diminished habitat and climate change and you are seeing the
fact, I believe climate change is at the heart of the matter. Fish
traditionally found in North Carolina are moving to cooler or deeper
waters. When I was still being toted around a fish house, my daddy
fished for summer flounder off Cape Lookout in fall. Thirty years
later, he finds them off New Jersey. Recreational fishermen may no
longer be able to find the croaker and spot they desire, not because
of commercial fishing pressure, but warming waters.
New York Times published Erica Goode’s article, “Fish
Seek Cooler Waters, Leaving Some Fishermen’s Nets Empty”
very recently (Dec. 30, 2016) addressing this very problem.
Fisheries management must adapt to the changing environment to give
us a more accurate read on the situation.
with its problems, North Carolina is still a model for fisheries
management. Special interest groups spend a lot of money and
political capital persuading policymakers this is not the case. I
know, as one who has spent a lot of time learning and navigating the
process, the Fisheries Reform Act is a sound piece of legislation
that will work, if allowed. It’s time for bureaucrats to
streamline the process, managers to investigate the effects of
climate change on these issues, and stakeholders to engage the
process rather than subvert it.
the end of the day, it’s all about the citizens of this state.
That’s our shrimp in the sounds, and they are the best in the
world. We enjoy access to a safe, healthy, sustainable seafood and
there’s no reason we should not continue to do so.
tell the Marine Fisheries Commission to reject the Wildlife
Federation’s petition for rulemaking at the public meeting in
person 12:30 p.m., Jan. 17 at the New Bern Riverfront Convention
Center in New Bern, N.C.
Note: The commission is expected to act on the petition during its
business meeting, Feb. 15-16 at the Hilton Riverside in Wilmington.
If you cannot attend the meetings, you can send public comment via
email to [email protected] until January 20th.
Salter lives in Williston in Downeast Carteret County. )