February 16, 2018 Surprises and New Commercial Fishing
Requirements surface at MFC Meeting
By JOY CRIST
surprise motions were passed at the February 14-15 North Carolina
Marine Fisheries Commission’s (MFC) meeting in Wrightsville Beach.
The MFC voted on Thursday morning by a 5-4 vote to redefine the
qualifications for a commercial fishing license with criteria that had
not been previously discussed. Then on Thursday afternoon, a motion by
commission member Janet Rose to reach out to Governor Roy Cooper to
potentially replace the members of the nine-member commission also
passed in a 5-4 vote.
Commercial Fishing Requirements Pass
The big issue at the heart of the quarterly meeting was the proposal to
redefine the qualifications for obtaining a commercial fishing license
in North Carolina, which first surfaced in late 2017.
In a November meeting of the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission
in Kitty Hawk, member Chuck Laughridge made a motion for the commission
to “develop a definition of a commercial fisherman.” An ad hoc
committee of three commission members later met to hammer out the
proposed standards, and the ensuing recommendations were open to public
comment in January and February 2018.
Several hundred people also attended the meeting in person, and dozens
commented during the public comment period on Wednesday that was
designed to address the proposal created by the three-member ad hoc
“It wasn’t just commercial fishermen who were commenting,” said an
attendee from Avon. “There were people from fish houses, local
businesses, and even recreational fishermen who said ‘this doesn’t
effect our license, but we believe in the commercial fishing industry.’”
The proposal received criticism from community members across the
board. Division of Marine Fisheries liaison Nancy Fish noted that out
of roughly 150 comments received on the committee’s recommendation,
about 136 opposed the submitted definition and the remaining comments
either supported or didn’t have a position.
The public comment period occurred on Wednesday evening, with the
expectation that the MFC would discuss and vote on the existing
proposed criteria that had been defined for several months.
But a new document was presented by Pete Kornegay of Camden, N.C., who
is a retired fisheries biologist and who was recently appointed to the
scientist seat of the MFC. The document listed a new list of
requirements for a commercial fishing license, which had not been
previously shared with the entire commission or the public.
Per the Outer Banks Voice, Commission attorney Philip Reynolds noted at
the meeting that the issues contained in the document were different
from what the three-member committee had been tasked with.
“These issues are different from the committee’s charge,” said Reynolds. “You can’t require effort from the past.”
Kornegay said that he had discussed the plan with Chuck Laughridge and made a motion to adopt that was seconded by Laughridge.
The ensuing motion was passed in a 5-4 vote. The five yes votes came
from Commissioners Cameron Boltes, Mark Gorges, James Kornegay, Chuck
Laughridge and Rick Smith. The no votes were cast by Brad Koury, Janet
Rose, Alison Willis and Sammy Corbett.
The changes include the following. (Approval is still needed by the
North Carolina General Assembly for the new criteria to take effect.)
“They ended up approving a resolution totally
independent of what we went to the meeting to offer opinions on,” said
Hatteras resident Capt. Ernie Foster, who attended the Wrightsville
Beach meeting. “It was a stacked deck to begin with, but people drove
as far as six hours from Hatteras to get there and have their voice
“They listened to us, and then they came [Thursday]
morning, and decided that they would scrap it all in favor of a
different resolution,” he said. “It was absolutely disgusting.”
- Develop a new commercial fishing license based
on criteria to qualify current commercial license holders. Current
license holders must demonstrate a minimal level of participation in
the fishery as reported by landings (1,000 pounds of seafood products)
or effort (15 trips) through the DMF trip ticket program during any two out of five continuous calendar years.
- Only allow license transfers or assignments to
members of the immediate family or corporation of a licensed commercial
- Create a Crew license for individuals to
apprentice with commercial fishermen for three years after which time
they would be eligible to purchase a standard commercial fishing
license. The annual fee for the Crew license would be $100.
- Cap the pool at 100 and establish a new pool
to receive licenses that are not renewed each year. Any non-renewed
licenses would be transferred into the new pool and used to fill new
commercial fishing license demand for qualified applicants. Inactive
licenses may be reactivated for a fee.
- Inactive Standard Commercial Fishing Licenses
that do not have requirements set forth by the legislature would go
back into a special pool and these licenses may be reissued to the
original holder without going through the Eligibility Pool.
- Create a Heritage Standard Commercial Fishing
License that families may want to maintain that are inactive that may
be maintained for $100 per year and may be reissued one time to a
family member without going through the Eligibility Pool or any of the
requirements listed above. If reissue is not wanted, a one-time fee of
$100 will retire that license number.
- Graduation or completion of work at community
colleges offering a commercial fishing program will be recognized as
having served an apprenticeship eligible for an Eligibility Pool
“I have watched the commercial fishing industry languish for numerous
reasons – regulation being a big one. And certainly on the Outer Banks,
we need all the economic diversification that we can get,” he said.
“The reason for sticking it to the commercial fishermen is without merit.”
Motion to Change Members of the Commission Passes
At the end of the two-day meeting, another surprise occurred when
commissioner Janet Rose of Currituck, a representative of the
commercial fishing industry, presented a motion to send a letter asking
Gov. Roy Cooper “to examine the current membership of this commission
and, if need be, make changes to
ensure this commission functions as intended.”
The move was in response to the make-up of the commission itself. On
Wednesday, Jerry Schill, director of Government Relations for the N.C.
Fisheries Association, noted the imbalance and shared data during the
public comment session that the board has been one-sided for roughly 30
years, adding that the current commission was especially imbalanced.
“You should all resign immediately and allow Gov. Cooper another shot
at it,” Schill said. “Or allow the General Assembly to fix what the
governor has messed up.”
The imbalance cited stems from recreational members who hold designated
seats, as well as at-large seats that were originally meant for
consumers or general members of the public.
The motion to reach out to Gov. Cooper was seconded by member Cameron
Boltes, a recreational commission member from Washington, N.C., and was
passed by a 5-4 vote. The yes votes included Rose, commercial members
Corbett and Willis, Boltes, and a commission member in an at-large
seat, Mark Gorges.