August 14, 2018Marine Fisheries Panel in Disarray Ahead of Quarterly Meeting
By SANDY SEMANS ROSS
The Outer Banks Voice
as the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission convenes on Wednesday for its
quarterly meeting in Raleigh, there has been a complete turnover of the
panel’s commercial fishing members.
By statute, the nine-member board must include three members
representing the commercial industry. Sammie Corbett and Alison Willis,
both of whom have served since 2014, submitted their resignations
Mike Blanton of Elizabeth City was to be sworn-in at the start of the
two-day session at the DoubleTree by Hilton Brownstone University Hotel.
The commission is appointed by the governor to implement policies and
rules for the management of finfish and shellfish in the sounds,
coastal rivers and Atlantic Ocean. The board also has oversight of the
N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries.
Both the N.C. Fisheries Association and N.C. Watermen United sent
letters Tuesday to state officials asking that no action be taken on
any issues that affect the commercial industry until there is full
N.C. Watermen United is a consortium of recreational, charter and
commercial fishing members, while the N.C. Fisheries Association
represents the commercial industry.
A commercial fisherman who works primarily on the Albemarle Sound,
Blanton was appointed last month by Gov. Roy Cooper to replace Janet
Rose of Currituck after her term expired.
Blanton also serves as the proxy for the N.C. General Assembly’s
appointee, Rep. Bob Steinburg (R-Chowan), to the Atlantic States Marine
Corbett, a crabber and a dealer who represented the southern region of
the state, had served as the chairman of the full body until last
month. His term on the board was through 2020.
Willis has occupied the seat for a commercial fisherman or spouse and
represented the central part of the coast. Her term was to end next
Neither Corbett or Willis could be reached for comment, but Willis’ resignation letter was made available.
“The currently accepted attitude and apparent approval of fisheries
management by lawsuit, petition or simple corruption is not something
that I can tolerate,” Willis said.
She also questioned what she characterized as awarding seats to
political donors in spite of their lack of knowledge of natural and
man-made influences on fisheries.
Rob Bizzell of Kinston was tapped by Cooper in July as the new chairman of the commission and to fill a recreational slot.
He previously served as both a member and chairman of the commission in
the 2000s during the tenures of previous Gov. Mike Easley and Gov. Bev
He is founder of Realo Discount Drug Stores, co-founder of Carolina
Home Medical and also served as the president of the North Carolina
Cooper also appointed Tom Hendrickson of Zebulon and Harkers Island as a member at-large.
He is an attorney and businessman who works in real estate development
and commercial real estate investment and management, including
apartments in New Bern and affordable housing in Charlotte.
Hendrickson also serves on the Global Transpark Authority and was the founding chairman of North State Bank.
According to state statutes, if the chairman and at least one
commercial member and one recreational member is present, the
commission can conduct business as usual.
However, if there are no commercial representatives or recreational
appointees at the table, no votes can be taken and the chairman is to
schedule another meeting within 30 days.
At the second meeting, regardless of lack of representation of a
sector, business can be conducted if there is a simple quorum of five
Sam Walker contributed to this report