UPDATE: Please sign this ONLINE PETITION
Monday, May 6th, the NC House of Representatives, will hold an open forum to allow individuals to provide public comment on HB 983. This meeting will take place at 1:30 pm in Raleigh at the General Assembly’s Legislative Office Building in Room 643 (room numbers are always subject to change) Speakers will be required to sign up prior to the start of the meeting and will be allowed 2 minutes to share their comments.
John Day, NCSU Center for Environmental Farming Systems
One of the most beleaguered segments of the local food system is wild-caught seafood. It’s a story of cultural heritage and very healthy and tasty food running up against coastal developers, the wealthy sportfishing industry, cheap imports (and all the associated issues) and political agendas.
Part I of House Bill 983 is an attempt to diminish our food sovereignty in North Carolina by prohibiting commercial fishermen from catching red drum, spotted sea trout (speckled trout) and striped bass. H983 reserves those three species exclusively for sport fishermen. If this bill passes that essentially means that you’ll never be able to eat those fish from NC waters again unless you have the means to go out in the ocean and catch them yourself.
Don’t be fooled by the language of this bill – wild-caught seafood is already managed sustainably. Prohibiting commercial fishermen from catching these three species DOES NOT reduce the catch limits, it just limits who can catch it (and eat it).
Please call and email the members of the House Committee on Commerce and Job Development and urge them to remove Part I from H983. We don’t need to begin this journey down the slippery slope of making certain local foods the exclusive domain of the few.
Following are members of the House Committee on Commerce and Job Development with links to their contact information:
||Rep. W. Brawley
||Rep. R. Moore
||Rep. Alexander, Rep. Avila, Rep. L. Bell, Rep. Blackwell, Rep. Boles, Rep. R. Brawley, Rep. Brody, Rep. B. Brown, Rep. Bumgardner, Rep. Carney, Rep. Catlin, Rep. Collins, Rep. Cunningham, Rep. Dockham, Rep. Dollar, Rep. Earle, Rep. Farmer-Butterfield, Rep. Fisher,Rep. Floyd, Rep. Fulghum, Rep. Goodman, Rep. C. Graham, Rep. G. Graham, Rep. Hager,Rep. D. Hall, Rep. Hamilton, Rep. Hanes, Rep. Holley, Rep. Holloway, Rep. Howard, Rep. Jeter, Rep. Johnson, Rep. Lambeth, Rep. Lewis, Rep. Lucas, Rep. Malone, Rep. Martin,Rep. Pierce, Rep. Presnell, Rep. Richardson, Rep. Riddell, Rep. Samuelson, Rep. Schaffer,Rep. Setzer, Rep. Shepard, Rep. Speciale, Rep. Starnes, Rep. Steinburg, Rep. Szoka, Rep. Terry, Rep. Tine, Rep. Tolson, Rep. Waddell, Rep. Warren, Rep. Wells, Rep. West, Rep. Whitmire, Rep. Wray
Arguments Against Game Fish Bill (HB#983)
Date: April 12, 2013
To: North Carolina General Assembly
From: Captain Ernie Foster
Owner, Albatross Fleet
Re: Game Fish Bill (HB#983)
I grew up and currently live on Hatteras Island surrounded by working watermen who move seamlessly between charter and commercial ﬁshing. Fisheries issues matter to me because I have relatives, neighbors and friends who charter ﬁsh, recreational ﬁsh and commercial ﬁsh.
I have worked in the Hatteras charter ﬁshing business every season since 1958. I operate the Albatross Fleet charter boats, and I believe that I have a considerable base of knowledge about sport ﬁshing with regard to both the economics of the business and the motivations of the people who sport ﬁsh. I have taken the time to write this letter because it has come to my attention that legislators are being heavily lobbied to pass a “Game Fish Bill.” As brieﬂy as possible, I will state my reasons as to why the proposed Game Fish Bill is a terrible policy.
If you can factually dispute anything I present in this letter, I would appreciate you letting me know. I want to know because this is a matter that strikes at the core of who my family, my ancestors and my community are. Being truthful and honest is of the utmost importance to me.
To be clear – the Game Fish Bill is just “Step One” of a two-step strategy to eliminate commercial gill net ﬁshing in North Carolina. This is not rocket science. The tried and true formula is simple: Step One, you legislatively declare some ﬁsh to be a game ﬁsh and then, Step Two, you declare the need to pass rules to protect them (i.e., get rid of gill nets). This has been the strategy the Coastal Conservation Association used in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and South Carolina. This is the plan.
So, here is what is wrong with this Game Fish Bill
Point 1 – The history of ﬁshing in NC demonstrates that the economic viability of commercial
ﬁshing and recreational ﬁshing are independent variables.
Rationale: In 1937 when my father ﬁrst started taking sportsmen to the Gulf Stream of Hatteras (NC’s ﬁrst serious eforts at charter ﬁshing), saltwater sport ﬁshing in NC was a statistically insigniﬁcant part of the state’s economy. The coast was occupied by commercial ﬁshermen only.
The increase in the number of recreational ﬁshermen over the past 75 years has been dramatic. Sportﬁshing marinas now dominate our harbors. This growth took place even while commercial ﬁshing dominated. The annual commercial catch numbers have remained relatively constant. It did not require a decrease in commercial ﬁshing activity to generate a corresponding increase in sportﬁshing. They are independent of one another.
Point 2 – The Game Fish Bill proponents are asking you to ignore both logic and basic math. You are being asked to pass a law that is economically indefensible.
Rationale: The three ﬁsh being promoted for Game Fish designation are striped bass, channel bass (red drum) and speckled trout. At the present time, the NC Division of Marine Fisheries carefully controls commercial harvests. Both the ﬁshermen and the ﬁsh houses that buy the ﬁsh must keep detailed records. (NC has the best data collection on the East Coast!) The commercial numbers are very accurate numbers. On the other hand, the regulation of recreational ﬁshermen is – at best – spotty. This is because of the sheer volume of both recreational boats and shoreline anglers and the vast array of marinas and private docks that make enforcement a great challenge. This contrasts with the very few landing points – ﬁsh houses – of the commercial sector.
Everyone agrees with the accuracy of the NC Division of Marine Fisheries; statistics which show that approximately 70% of the proposed “game ﬁsh” are harvested by the recreational sector, while only 30% are harvested by commercial ﬁshermen.
The CCA is telling you, through their lobbying efort, that an economic bonanza, an “untold ﬁnancial windfall,” awaits North Carolina in the form of increased recreational ﬁshing activity, if the recreational ﬁshermen can have the additional 30% of ﬁsh now being caught by the commercial sector. The CCA tells you that if the recreational sector can just get its hands on the extra 30% of the total, then the state will literally attract triple the present number of sport ﬁshermen and the extra money that comes with them.
I ask you to do the math. If you give each angler 3 more ﬁsh, each one would have 10 ﬁsh. But, there is a problem. Because if we have three times as many anglers, we would have to divide up those 10 ﬁsh because we are already harvesting all of the ﬁsh that Marine Fisheries says is biologically viable. So, even though extra anglers are not now coming in vast numbers to catch 7 ﬁsh each, you are being told to believe that they will come in triple the present numbers to
catch only three! This is irrational reasoning.
Point 3 – The attempts by the CCA to promote the Game Fish Bill is a raw power play to eliminate commercial gill net ﬁshermen. If successful, it will reduce economic diversiﬁcation in our coastal communities. And that is a terrible economic policy.
Rationale: Economic theory can be complex. However, I have never, ever heard of either an economist or an investment advisor that argues that any investor should ever strive to decrease economic diversity. Or as my late father said, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” This concept of economic diversiﬁcation is not the complicated part of economics.
Point 4 – There are no occupations nor any group of individuals who are more self-sufcient, more independent, more self-reliant and less dependent on government infrastructure than NC’s commercial ﬁshermen. Such self-sufciency should be encouraged and rewarded by government – not eliminated – by government.
Rationale: Given the recent history of serious weather events along our coast, speciﬁcally hurricanes, it has been interesting, though unpleasant, to observe the negative consequences to the tourism/recreational ﬁshing activity in the immediate aftermath of a storm. Equally interesting to note is that the only economic activity to immediately return to normal is commercial ﬁshing. While Hattaras and Ocracoke Islands have seen our commercial ﬁshermen get back to work within a day or two, our other economic engine – tourism – sits completely idle for weeks. Without the need of government help or support, the commercial ﬁshermen simply go back to work. Isn’t this the very kind of self-sufciency that our state government should encourage and shine a spotlight on? Why would we destroy such an industry?
Point 5 – Destroying our commercial ﬁshing industry will have a negative impact on tourism.
Rationale: Tourism is a massive part of the coastal economy. Our tourists come to NC for a wide variety of reasons. Sport ﬁshing is not the number one reason, but it is a very signiﬁcant piece of the pie. That said, the terms “heritage tourism” or “cultural tourism” are big in the tourism trade. Many, many people want to visit and experience places that are “real,” to see “communities that are functional,” to go to places where “unique and unusual” occupations are observed, and to be in contact with nature. Along our coast there are many examples of what I have just stated, and our oldest example is our commercial ﬁshing industry.
Point 6 – Gill net commercial ﬁshing is crucial for the survival of community infrastructure in the non-tourist months – wintertime.
Rationale: In both Hatteras and Ocracoke Villages, the major wintertime economic activity is the commercial ﬁshing industry. Our fuel docks, our grocery stores and our marinas will close without this industry. Without the fuel docks and marina infrastructure available, even the minimal wintertime sport ﬁshing activity now taking place cannot occur. Keep these facilities open – this is Economics 101.
Point 7 – Seafood restaurants and retail seafood stores will sufer without commercial ﬁshing.Rationale: Locally Caught, Outer Banks Catch and Carteret Catch are all terms that represent a growing movement to eat locally produced food. Retail seafood sales will be seriously hurt if we eliminate NC’s commercial ﬁshing industry. If you believe in buying “Made in the USA” products, if you believe in supporting home-town production, if you believe in the small time, independent entrepreneur – then you do not want imported seafood. The Game Fish Bill (Step One) and subsequent gill net ban (Step Two) will dramatically reduce the availability of local seafood products. Exhibit A is the Ocracoke Fish House. It is economically viable because of its retail market sale of red drum. Eliminating their sale is disaster.
Point 8 – Consumers (95% of NC Residents) will be excluded from what most people consider to be a public resource.
Rationale: Our ﬁsh are a public resource. The Game Fish Bill will make them the exclusive domain of those among us have the time and the economic resources to buy our own boats and travel to the coast and have the physical ability to be a successful angler. So, if the Game Fish Bill becomes law, do not grow old or inﬁrm because Game Fish Status means No Sale; No Trade or Barter. Simply put, if you do not catch your own ﬁsh, you do not eat them. Does this sound like fairness? Is this good economics?
Point 9 – When the sole motivational factor for demanding a change in public policy is Greed, it may be time to reevaluate.
Rationale: The CCA leadership that is lobbying for this legislation simply wants more ﬁsh – just for themselves. Period. Ask any biologist. They are not asking you to “stop the killing.” No, they are asking you to let them be the ones with the exclusive right to harvest (kill) the ﬁsh. Apparently, having the right to harvest 70% is not enough! Apparently, they need them all – economic diversity be damned. North Carolina already has in place the means of determining what the annual harvest quotas should be, and it is the commercial sector that is most closely held to the rules (See Point 2), so
this is not about “saving the ﬁsh.” Nope, this is all about allocation. And if traditional ﬁshing communities and the people who have lived in them for centuries get destroyed in an attempt to ensure that a Very Few Individuals can have even more fun while angling, then Tough Luck to those Local Suckers; they should have had better lobbyists. Oh, and those upstate consumers??? Well, we are importing plenty of really, really uninspected farm-raised stuf from who knows here, and it does not interfere with my angling fun. And that international balance of trade deﬁcit??? I do not care, I’m having fun!
The North Carolina Watermen United
fully endorses this Opposition to Game Fish Bill (HB#983)
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