Archived Story

Tine, Speciale oppose game-fish bill

Published 1:20am Wednesday, May 1, 2013

State Rep. Paul Tine, R-Dare County, strongly opposes House Bill 983, known as the 2013 Fisheries Economic Development Act.

“This bill is a thinly veiled effort by special interests to accomplish one thing, to eliminate commercial fishermen from catching trout, rockfish and drum,” said Tine. “Commercial fishing is vital to our economy; we should be focused on finding ways to support our commercial fishing industry rather than adding new limitations and regulations.”

The bill’s primary sponsors are Reps. Tom Murry, R-Wake County; Michael Wray, D-Northampton County; Tim Moffitt, R-Buncombe County and John R. Bell IV, R-Wayne County. The bill, filed April 17, was passed by the N.C. House on its first reading April 18. The bill was referred to the Committee on Commerce and Job Development.

The bill would designate spotted sea trout, red drum and rockfish (striped bass) as coastal game fish in North Carolina waters. With that designation, those fish could only be caught by hook and line.

The bill ties dredging measures, compensation to some fishing industries and fisheries-observer program funding to making three species of fish only available to recreational fishermen.

“Dredging and fisheries management support needs to be a priority for the state all the time, not as a condition of giving up the right to fish certain species,” Tine said. “We should not be in the business of picking winners and losers by decreeing from Raleigh who can access these fish.  Right now, about 10 percent of the catch goes to commercial fishermen and the consumer. It is irresponsible to eliminate their access to a public-trust fishery to accommodate a special interest.”

Tine said he would be working with fishermen from all over the region to continue a concerted effort to fight the bill and that several members of the Coastal Caucus were collaborating to try and defeat the bill.

State Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Craven County, not only opposes the bill, he’s actively fighting against it.

“It’s a bad bill. It really has no place seeing the light of day as far as I’m concerned,” he said Tuesday. “This game-fish bill — the problems that I have with it, and I have several problems with it — one, I don’t think it should be tied in with the dredging. Dredging is something that we have to do. We’ve go to come up with a solution for that. I don’t see where the two — and I think that’s why they tied it together to try to help get it passed. I don’t think it’s going to work for them. The other thing is … there is no science saying that we need to do this, that we need to make them game fish. It’s purely an economic move. It’s government, once again, deciding winners and losers — we can make more money off of the sports fishermen if we keep the commercial fisherman from catching them in their nets and everything else. So, they’re willing to sacrifice the livelihood of part of the population to gain … economically from another part. It’s not something government ought to be doing.”

The North Carolina Fisheries Association opposes the bill.

Sean McKeon, leader of the association, told The Daily News of Jacksonville the bill doesn’t help commercial fishermen anymore than earlier versions of the legislation. The bill would keep commercial fishermen from catching the three species in the state’s waters. McKeon told The Daily News the bill is more about banning commercial fishermen from using nets to catch the fish than labeling them as coastal game fish.

The Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina supports the bill. The nonprofit association, composed mostly of recreational fishermen, contends the three targeted fish provide more value to the state’s fishing industry as recreational catches than commercial catches.

The bill, if passed would do more than designate the three fish species as game fish. The legislation calls for nominal increases in fees for coastal recreational fishing licenses. It also allocates $1.3 million from the state’s general fund to the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries to help fund its observer program. It also permits a portion of the state’s fuel-tax revenues to a proposed fund for dredging of shallow-draft navigation channels in the state’s waters.

 

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