NC Fisheries Association has filed a lawsuit
against the Marine Fisheries Commission for violating open meeting laws
and an overall lack of transparency and openness.
In February 2016, North Carolina State Auditor,
Beth Wood, issued findings in connection with an audit of the Division
of Marine Fisheries. The audit findings included, “there have been open
meetings laws violated by several members of the commission.” Also
included in the auditor’s findings were four separate email chains
dated January 14, 2015, September 8, 2015, July 20, 2015 and February
10, 2015 that occurred between Marine Fisheries Commission Members. In
each instance, the Commission’s legal counsel, Philip Reynolds, stopped
the email communication and reminded the commission members about open
The North Carolina Fisheries Association notified
regulators and legislators about the auditor’s findings in 2016.
Although warned, NCFA alleges that the Marine Fisheries Commission
continued violating the open meetings laws culminating with the most
recent meeting in Wrightsville Beach, NC in February of 2018. The
result was a 5-4 vote recommending the General Assembly change the
criteria for commercial fishing licenses. The close vote came after
overwhelming opposition to any changes and with all three commercial
fishermen commissioners voting against the measure.
“Open meeting violations by the Marine Fisheries
Commission have been an ongoing problem that is well known to many in
state government including regulators and legislators. While many
complain about it, nothing has been done to stop it. Anyone that
believes in an open and transparent process, should applaud the action
we’ve taken. It’s sad that we have to resort to such measures,” said
Glenn Skinner, NC Fisheries Association Executive Director.
NC Fisheries Association (NCFA) is a non-profit organization promoting sustainable fisheries Since 1952.
Commercial fishermen established the NCFA to
serve fishing families by protecting their heritage and promoting
seafood. To achieve this, NCFA actively lobbies local, state, and
federal policymakers on behalf of the industry and engages in many
outreach and education projects.