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Killing fish for fun instead of for food, Part II

Friday 18 March 2011 at 3:52 pm. They’re back.


We knew they would be.


Groups such as the Coastal Conservation Association and the Coastal Fisheries Reform Group are making another brazen attempt to reserve three of North Carolina’s most sought after fish for recreational anglers only.


A bipartisan group of representatives in the North Carolina General Assembly introduced House Bill 353 on Tuesday, March 15. The four who introduced it are Republican Reps. Darrell McCormick, Dan Ingle, and Ruth Samuelson and Democratic Rep. Rick Glazier. Glazier is from Fayetteville. The other three are from Winston-Salem, Charlotte, and Burlington.


As of today, there were 17 co-sponsors, both Republican and Democratic, and most represent inland districts.


HB 353 would give gamefish status to red drum, spotted sea trout, and striped bass.


The bill stipulates that the three fish can be caught only by hook-and-line and only by recreational fishermen.


The three fish would be off-limits to commercial fishermen and could not be bought, sold, or traded. They would no longer be available in fish markets or restaurants.


If you want to eat one of these fish, you would have to catch it yourself or forget it.


That means that those of us who don’t own a boat, can’t afford to charter one, don’t have the equipment and skill to surf fish, or just don’t want to catch them ourselves won’t be eating red drum, striped bass, or speckled trout.


The same “conservation” groups pushed a gamefish bill in the 2009 General Assembly. That bill, which gave gamefish status only to red drum and speckled trout, died in committee.


After several dramatic striped bass kills, probably by commercial trawlers, appeared all over the Internet this winter, the recreational fishing groups realized how politically expedient it would be to add striped bass to their bill this year.


And some observers of the fishing industry think the bill might pass this year.


There are new lawmakers in Raleigh. Rep. Tim Spear of Creswell, who represents our coastal area in the House, was instrumental last year in defeating the gamefish enthusiasts, but powerful Democratic Senate leader Marc Basnight won re-election but lost his leadership role and resigned earlier this year.


So here they come again, hoping for a more receptive audience this time around.


Some of these recreational fishing groups, such as CCA, are well funded and powerful.


And they get support from citizens and lawmakers who either don’t know or don’t care about their elitist views of a valuable public resource.


These groups and people who support them believe that those who fish for fun should have all of these fish reserved for their pleasure, and their pleasure alone.


They don’t care about commercial fishermen who work – and work hard -- for a living.


They did care enough about working watermen to put $1 million in the bill to compensate some commercial fishermen who will lose out. How condescending can you get?


Nor do they care about fishing communities or the historic and cultural importance of fishing for a living.


In 2009, at least some groups pretended they were acting in the name of conservation. The Coastal Fisheries Reform Group’s website noted at that time:

Prompted by the welfare of the resource, we are subsequently forced to intervene through the avenue available to us through our North Carolina General Assembly by introducing a bill that would declare the Spotted Sea Trout and the Red Drum as Game Fish”



This time around, the Coastal Fisheries Reform Group doesn’t even mention conservation on its website news item about HB353.


These 3 fish only represent less than 2% of the commercial harvest values here in NC, but combined the positive economic impacts easily exceed 250 million dollars to the NC economy annually as recreational sport fish. South Carolina designated these fish as game fish in the mid 1980's, and it is high time NC follows suit!”


This time around, their big talking point is that people who fish for fun are more valuable to the economy than people who fish for a living.


Yes, it’s true that commercial landings of all three fish are only a fraction of what the recreational anglers manage to catch each year.


In 2009, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) reported that commercial fishermen on the coast landed 7.2 million pounds of striped bass, while the killing for fun crowd landed three times that amount -- 21.4 million pounds.


In 2009, according to the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission, commercial fishermen landed only 194,296 pounds of red drum, compared to 358,180 pounds caught by recreational anglers. For spotted sea trout, the numbers were 320,247 pounds for commercial landings, and 833,577 pounds for recreational.


So why can’t people who fish for fun share some of the resource with men and women who catch fish to feed their families?


They can still have fun and spend lots of money doing it. Those of us who want to can still buy red drum, spotted sea trout, and striped bass in markets and restaurants. Commercial fishermen can still earn money catching their paltry share, if they choose.


And don’t let the striped bass kills this winter, as inexcusable as they were, fool you into thinking that commercial fishermen are the only ones wasting fish.


According to ASMFC’s 2010 annual report, recreational discard mortalities, assuming an 8 percent mortality in releases, were 703,000 fish, a 67 percent decrease from 2.1 million fish in 2006. Recreational anglers landed a total of 1.9 million fish in 2009.


Right now, it is important for you to contact your representative and senator in the General Assembly.


I hope you will let them know that the grab for gamefish status is a misguided and greedy move by recreational anglers.


Fish in the ocean are a public resource. They can continue to be shared by both the folks who want to fish for fun and those who fish for a living.


Right now, HB 353 has had a first reading in the house and has been assigned to a subcommittee, which will probably schedule a hearing soon.


I am sure you will find it as ironic as I do that this bill, which will threaten the jobs of some commercial fishermen, has been assigned to the House Committee on Commerce & Job Development’s Subcommittee on Business & Labor.


Finally, I close with words from a guest column that Ernie Foster, captain of the Albatross Fleet, wrote in October, 2007, after the federal government declared striped bass a gamefish in federal waters.


According to an article in The Washington Post,” Ernie wrote, “the executive director of Maryland’s CCA, Robert Glenn, believes that striped bass are too valuable to be ‘plundered for commercial sale.’ Killing for fun is good. Feeding others within highly controlled harvest restrictions is bad. Go figure.”

His column continues:

As you look up and down the coast, from Maine to Key West, in every marina you see boats, boats, and more boats. Most are pleasure craft. Does anyone believe that people are buying such expensive toys, with their discretionary dollars, because they are not having fun? And yet, the notion prevails that we must get rid of professional fishermen so that we will have even more fun.

Even more fun? We are already having fun, folks. Otherwise, we would not be spending our money on the charters, the boats, and the tackle. Do we really need to wipe out fellow citizens financially, socially and geographically so that we can have even more fun? I was taught a lot of lessons growing up in Hatteras, going to public schools, and at the university. Choosing even more fun over the welfare of my fellow citizens was not one of them.

How have we come to this point, this place, where it has become public policy to prevent our professional fishermen from providing a product to the American consumer? What is driving politicians to approve policy and regulations that eliminate a significant part of our coastal heritage and that eliminate independent businessmen from taking care of themselves and their families? Have we, as a nation, come to believe that all seafood must be imported, unless you are one of the approximately 3 percent of American citizens who personally fish in saltwater? How elitist is a national policy that bars all but 3 percent of our citizens from acquiring an abundant, nationally controlled, natural resource?”



If you are as outraged as many of us here on Hatteras and Ocracoke are about this bill, write your representatives, and please do it now. There is a county by county list with e-mail addresses at the end of this blog, and there are also names and e-mails for the

Committee on Commerce & Job Development/Subcommittee on Business & Labor.





CLICK HERE to read a blog about the 2009 effort to declare gamefish status for red drum and speckled trout.


CLICK HERE to read a blog about the Coastal Fisheries Reform Group.


CLICK HERE to read the text of House Bill 353.


CLICK HERE to see a list of state representatives and senators by county with their e-mail addresses.


Members of the House Committee on Commerce & Job Development’s Subcommittee on Business & Labor are:


[email protected] (Committee chair & sponsor of bill)

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]


[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected] (bill sponsor)


[email protected] (Speaker of the House)



seventeen comments

Bud Nelson

Just one more nail in the coffin for the individual commercial fisherman. I hope this bill dies a natural death.

Bud Nelson (Email ) - 19-03-’11 10:39

Irene – Seriously, are you really that blind? Is it so important for you to bend all truths and ignore reality in order to construct your argument?

Why is gamefish being sought? Because of poor management and continually dishonest commercial fishermen.

If commercial landing of these fish are really as small as they are – why the big fuss?

I’ll tell you why – because the “off the book” commercial landings of red drum, etc. are vastly more valuable than the legal, published landings. It wasn’t too long ago several fishermen out of manteo were busted illegally landing red drum. This past year, to south of you – three fish house owners were busted black-marketing red drum off the books.

Where do all these fish go, legal and illegal? No one knows exactly, but you can be certain that a very small percentage stay in North Carolina are eaten by the true owners of this public resource – the citzens of North Carolina. Many of these fish are shipped to Florida and Louisiana…states in which have already declared these species gamefish. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think it’s fair for the citizens of our states to get to enjoy OUR fish for the benefit of just a few fish house owners and fishermen.

You also seem to ignore the fact that so many people come to DARE COUNTY to go fishing! Recreational fishing! From the beach, from the pier, and from charter boats. Are you going to ignore that extremely significant economic impact (and benefit)?

We all know the truth – the value of the red drum and speckled trout black market (aka, fish sold without trip tickets) is vastly more valuable.

Otherwise you wouldn’t care all that much.

Chris - 19-03-’11 18:42
Rob Alderman


You act like rec fishermen don’t break the rules and their is a HELL of alot more of them to break the rules..

I am no Bit— and was taught not to tatle tale, so I’ve never reported one of the hundreds of illegally poached fish I’ve seen over the years by the recs, so get a grip.

The recs awax the stocks way harder then the comms..and I make my living on those rec stocks. I know that each side does harm. The problem lies with one side thinking they are better.

Their is plenty of Reds to go around, plenty of stripers and fair specks in these waters. The trout get hit hard by bad winter and both recs and comms loose access. The striper comm harvest just needs better rules then those, the CCA and CFRG impose on them through the NCDMF.

Plenty of fish in the water if everyone would get over their mightier than thou attitudes and play together..

But, to sit here and act like the comms do all/ the only poaching is just Fn ignorant.

Rob Alderman - 19-03-’11 21:51

I see that Chris has tried to deflect attention from the fact that the intent of this bill is nothing more than a grab for the fish that would give recreational anglers exclusive access to a public resource. I’d suggest that readers take time to read the text of H 353. They’ll see that there is no preamble, no explanation that states the reason for this legislation. Clearly this bill can’t be justified in terms of conservation, so Chris has rationalized greed by painting all commercial fishermen as dishonest outlaws.

Susan - 20-03-’11 12:23

I am a recreational fisher (wo)man….typically a fact that I’m proud to declare because I believe it signals the fact that I love the sound and ocean and all things connected with it. Since to me, that also means I love the commercial fisherman and feel camaraderie (and some jealousy) for their way of life. I’m not too proud to declare my recreational status today because of the stigma this bill places on me. This is NOT the view of all recreational fishermen! I will be contacting my legislator because the demise of the commercial fisherman hurts us all. We should support all independent businessmen.

Let’s not have this be an "us verses them" senario…..we can and should coexist. Does the home gardener have the right to say that farmers shouldn’t have access to spinach seeds…there have been some problems with spinach, so from now on the only access is to people with the space and resources to grow this at home? Sorry that means most of the population will have to do without because they can’t grow it. That sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? Just as ridiculous as the logic in HB 353.


Karin (Email ) - 20-03-’11 16:34
chuck allison

it seems to me that chris ‘doth protest too much’ to quote our friend bill shakespear. both groups can and should get along and share the resource. however this bill just isn’t the way to do it. hope it dies a sensible death.

chuck allison (Email ) - 20-03-’11 17:30
Lee Harper

I think Chris touch a sensitive nerve by the reaction. I would like for someone to do the math and see economically what makes more sense. The commercial fishermen giving up 2% of what they catch so they can earn as much by spending less on these three species versus the economic gain by tourism and other income from recreational fishermen. I think the increase in revenue across the community would be greater by increased tourism.

But that isn’t the issue. What is driving this fight is that someone from inland is making you do something. I hear about hidden agendas and all that non sense. When has our government ever kept a secret? The people who keeping talking about “hidden agendas” are the ones who think NATO has built concentration camps in our mountains.

The commercial fishermen have got to be flexible and adaptable to survive. You are your worst enemy; killing those stripers twice did you in.

As for the “hidden agenda” crowd; I’m going to start selling aluminum foil fishing hats so the government can’t read your thoughts. I’ll be rich.

Lee Harper - 21-03-’11 20:20

This is not a commercial versus recreational fishing issue. This is all about access to healthy food, about food justice and food sovereignty. ALL people have the right to decide what they eat.

Susan - 21-03-’11 21:14
Rob Alderman

You WILL NOT increase the tourism by stopping the comms.

Get the state of NC and Dare County to spend more money on advertising what is already really Awesome fishing.

Most morons don’t realize this state has held the WORLD RECORD red drum for over 30 years—they think it came from the Gulf. This state has produced the only 2 blue marlins over a 1000lbs on the East Coast in the past 16 years..And guess what..The state of NC does NOTHING to let the billion dollar rec industry know this..

Want more fishermen and tourist dollars..Then advertise..

Have problems catching fish..Call me..for a small fee I’ll teach ya how.

Rob Alderman - 22-03-’11 08:02

After the striper kills and the cold weather stunned the specks, the Marine Fisheries Commission showed how well they could manage the resource by doing nothing. They have an entrenched view towards protecting commercial fishing interests that can’t be overridden except by gamefish status.

As good as some people think the fishing is, the stocks of red drum, striped bass, and speckled trout are not so abundant that they can withstand rampant waste and greed indefinitely. The MFC will do nothing to protect the resource until it is gone (like they are currently doing for gray trout).

Other states have declared the red drum a game fish, and have seen positive results in the population, which leads to more recreational fishing. Why should NC be any different?

If there are no stripers, red drum, or speckled trout to catch, the whole access issue will be moot.

Boogamite - 22-03-’11 11:24
Bud Nelson

Boogamite – When LA first tried to limit Drum catches, they split the catch between Rec and Comm. Recs had the first shot at them. Recs caught three times their legal limit in a few days. They caught so many that Comms were denied their share. Gamefish status doesn’t ensure a larger biomass, it just limits consumption to a few. The resource should be shared by all.

Bud Nelson (Email ) - 23-03-’11 09:46

Before 1980, less than 50,000 pounds of redfish were harvested in the EEZ off Louisiana. Then Prudhomme popularized blackened redfish, and by 1986 the EEZ catch was at 8.1 million pounds.

Before 1980, recreational harvests of juvenile fish in inshore waters was the dominant take of this resource. The rapid increase in the EEZ take was primarily sexually mature adults offshore by purse seine trawlers (i.e. commercial fishermen). That is the reason for the slot limits we have today – those larger, and older fish, are vital to the population since they are the brood stock.

Maybe Louisana made a mistake when they first limited the catch. But if it weren’t for the dramatic increase in commercial take, they may not have needed to act in haste. Today the red drum is doing OK in Louisana’s waters (at least before the BP oil spill – who knows for sure how that may affect the fishery). Its doing so well that the commercials are trying to revoke gamefish status (in 1999, LA residents preferred gamefish status by a margin of 3 to 1).

Sharing means leaving enough fish in the water for everyone. If the MFC could be trusted to act responsibly for the good of the resource, this would probably be a non-issue.

Boogamite (Email ) - 23-03-’11 18:33
Rob Alderman

"16” min total length 5 daily per person – bag 2 No more than one over 27” max total length "..Yep this is the LA bag limits for red drum.

While, the oldest drum ever aged came from these waters at 60 years old..even the brudes die and need to be replaced. I fhteir stocks are just fair..why allow so many pups to b e taken???

Comms get ousted and the recs get MORE.

Rob Alderman - 23-03-’11 22:21

The BP oil spill might have changed things a bit, and you can’t blame that on recreational or commercial fishermen. But before the spill, Louisiana had a vibrant commercial fishery. Just not for red drum.

The commercial fishermen got "ousted" from the red drum fishery in LA because they were seriously overharvesting it. That’s the reason for the commercial ban in federal waters, and the commercial ban in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas waters.

Perhaps the Louisiana limits are more generous than North Carolina’s because they have managed the resource better?

Slot limits work. Anybody who knows anything about animal husbandry knows that sexually mature adults are key to maintaining healthy populations. The same reason farmers keep their old cows and sell off the young steers and heifers. With healthy breeding stocks, the young drum are regularly replaced. Kill off the older generations, and the population will eventually crash. Take a few out of the middle, and everything seems to work out OK.

If management decisions were left to the NCDMF, gamefish status might not be required.

Boogamite (Email ) - 24-03-’11 09:58

The recreational numbers are bogus. The numbers are derived from that marine fisheries survey. You know the one where they do ever so infrequently. For example, I fish regularly and get approached maybe twice a year—usually when I’m not catching fish or during periods where one is not likely to catch fish. If I am catching fish or have the dog when they come by, they usually just don’t bother.

Now, they take this sparse and skewed data and somehow take a mysterious formula and use it to determine recreational catches statewide. Then they take another formula and use it to determine the waste factor.

Give me a break, the data collected CANNOT possibly be used to estimate any realistic recreational catch figures.

Ginny (Email ) - 29-03-’11 10:53

We don’t need game fish status. We need reasonable well thought out rules. It is the rules not the anglers (commercial or recreational) that cause waste. Don’t believe me? Think about this, if there had been no daily limit would the commercials have reached the quota without waste at Oregon Inlet? Did the commercials ever actually reach thier quota last winter? Would a single quota have been a win/win—no or little waste and maximum economic value.

Ginny (Email ) - 29-03-’11 10:58
Kurt Maschmeier

Being an avid Hatteras surf fisherman for most of my life when vacationing on the island and also being an animal rights advocate, I am torn when it comes to this issue. I practice “catch and release” while fishing on the Banks and I feel more fisherman should do the same. So many times I have watched as other fisherman catch a fish, especially a “non-game fish” like a ray or sand shark and instead of being compassionate and respecting the fish, they just rip the hook out and leave the fish to die on the beach or carelessly throw them back like their trash. To me this is not the way of the fisherman. All species of fish should be respected and if a fisherman doesn’t intend to eat the fish which they have caught then I feel it’s the fishes right to live and be treated with honor rather than tossed aside or mistreated. It all comes down to respecting nature and what is Hatteras. Hatteras is a fishing community and has so much history. My father and grandfather first vistited the island in 1954 for a fishing trip and since then it has been a family tradition that we continue today. Back in the day when I was a kid I remember my father catching a bunch of blue’s and filleting them. Pics of my grandfather holding up trophy style Red Drum and hearing endless fishing stories from my dad. These are the memories I have of Hatteras and it’s why I keep coming back, it’s a special place. Nowadays my father is like myself and we just surf fish for the sport of it and release the fish back into the ocean. We take pictures so we capture the moment and it creates a memory that last’s a lifetime. I feel the men and women who work as commercial or independent fisherman, who have done this for years and have family history to the buisness have a respect for the fish and the island of Hatteras itself. I support these hard working local fisherman but do not spport the “factory fishing” that goes on offshore far from the Banks. These “killing vessels” scoop up everything in a huge net and kill whatever species of fish that are not edible or market worthy by sending them through a huge grinder and the bloody reamains are discarded back into the ocean. What a waste of life and disrespect for Mother Nature. This is the problem that needs to be addressed, our oceans are overfished and a lot of species will become extinct which in return will cause an ecological breakdown in our oceans which will effect all of us, recreational and commercial/independent fisherman. The locals of Hatteras have always made me feel comfortable and have always been respectful and kind. I like the “mom & pop” style bait shops and the old-school feel that Hatteras bring’s, it is a fisherman’s paradise. I may have got off the subject a bit but my point is that Hatteras has such a history to it and we all need to respect that and support those who make Hatteras what it is, a fishing community. It’s all about politics and crazy rules these days ran by people who don’t understand the ways of Hatteras and the importance fishing and it’s economical impact on the island and it’s people. I have always felt that the locals need to push out all the crooked politicians and law maker’s that are trying to change the island and it’s history. I feel everyone would be a lot happier and profit more if the island was ran by the people, the ones who have lived here all their lives and have a connection with the island. It all comes down to respecting and preserving what we have here on this earth, all the resources. If you fish, rather it be recreationally or commercial, just have respect for the fish and the sport and understand the importance of preservation. The future of Hatteras shouldn’t be in the hands of these law makers, it should up to the people who live and work on the island and who know what it’s going to take to make it survive.

Kurt Maschmeier (Email ) - 17-04-’11 10:51

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