Washington native passionate about conservation

Published 10:01 am Sunday, April 11, 2010

Lifestyles & Features Editor

When Josh Eddings was growing up, he enjoyed hunting in the woods of Beaufort County and fishing the waters of the Pamlico River.
He developed a love of the outdoors and, over time, learned the importance of conserving eastern North Carolina’s natural resources.
That affinity for wildlife grew into a passion that Eddings has used in the production of a documentary, “Red Fish Can’t Jump.” The film will premiere Friday at 8 p.m. at the Turnage Theater in downtown Washington.
Eddings’ main partners in the project are Capt. Seth Vernon, an inshore fishing guide based in Wilmington, and fellow nature enthusiast and cameraman Luke Pearson of Goldsboro.
Eddings, who graduated from the University of North Carolina in Wilmington in 2008 with double degrees in Spanish and international business, became “obsessed” with fly fishing under Vernon’s tutelage. “It just turned on a new world for me,” Eddings said.
That obsession eventually led to the new documentary.
“It basically started out with me saying, ‘Let’s all go out and fish.’ We did and we filmed it,” said Eddings, 25, and a 2003 graduate of Washington High School. “Luke edited the day’s footage and we made a You Tube video.”
Responses to that video led the threesome to pursue funding “and do a film that would mean something to somebody,” Eddings said.
The project captured the attention of members of the Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina. Eddings and company were awarded a grant to get the project off the ground.
“They were our first main sponsor, and from that point we knew we had a conservation issue on our hands,” Eddings said.
The documentary focuses on the plight of the red drum. Ironically, it is North Carolina’s official state fish but it’s offered no protection from over harvesting. The fish have been granted “game fish” status that protects them from commercial harvesting in almost all of the Atlantic states, except North Carolina.
Work on the documentary began in 2006 and the project was three years in the making. The Turnage premiere marks the first time the completed film has been seen publicly.
“We got a ton of footage of gill nets and things caught in the nets,” Eddings said. “The Pamlico Sound, the Pamlico River and any inland estuary is a primary nursery area, breeding area, for sea turtles, birds, ducks, even dolphins. You’ll catch a lot of species you didn’t mean to catch.”
Eddings hopes the film, with the information and opinions it imparts, will stand on its own merits.
“Don’t take our word for it,” he said. “Listen to the experts and what they have to say about it.”
And “Red Fish Can’t Jump” isn’t an attack on a way some local residents make their living, Eddings insisted.
“We’re not anti commercial fishing,” he said. “The thing we present most strongly is why North Carolina is so far behind everybody else in fisheries management plans. Almost every other state in our area bans the sale of red drum commercially. It’s still more valuable as a game fish.”
It’s all about conservation, Eddings added.
“We’re pleading with everyone to do the best you can to preserve the resources we have in North Carolina,” he said. “There’s got to be a better way to do things than they’re being done now.”
Sponsors for the project include Great Outdoors Provision Company of Greenville, Guy Harvey Jewelry, West Marine and Down on Mainstreet in Washington. Friday’s premiere will also feature live music by Wilmington performer Jason Andre, who will sing several songs originally written for the film.
Admission for the premiere is $10 per person; dvd copies of the documentary will also be for sale. To purchase tickets, contact the Turnage box office at 252-975-1191 or www.turnagetheater.com.
*For more information about “Red Fish Can’t Jump,” visit redfishcantjump.com.