NCWU e-mail about Rockfish/Striped Bass Limit

1/24/11

An unfortunate incident happened on the Outer Banks over Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The weather was absolutely beautiful, following a very cold, rough December. Fishermen by the droves came down to the beach for a relaxing weekend of Striped Bass fishing (rockfish for us). We have finally had good rock fishing for the first time in years, due to the cold conditions we have all been experiencing (must be global warming), and everybody was excited to catch some fish.

Our commercial fishermen have been blessed by the good rockfishing, also. The federal government gives North Carolina 480,480 pounds of commercial quota, which is split 3 ways between the beach seine fishery, the gillnet fishery, and the trawl boat fishery. There is no quota for the recreational sector. Our commercial quota has not been caught in years, and I frankly don’t know if it has ever been caught.

By proclamation the director of the Division of Marine Fisheries closed the gillnet fishery on Thursday before the weekend. By proclamation the director of the state division of marine fisheries closed the trawlboat season on Friday at 6:00 p.m., but by proclamation the director opened up the trawlboat season again 3 hours later and allowed that fishery to proceed through the weekend.

Trawlboat fishing for rock is a hit-or-miss proposition. One boat will catch some, and the boat right next to him will not have a fish. One boat had a great catch, and that is where the weekend took a very bad turn. The boat caught way over his 50 fish limit, even while the boats on either side caught nothing. After keeping his 50 fish limit, there was no recourse, except to discard the rest back over. The capt. and crew were sick that the resource was wasted, the recreational observers were sick about the waste, and the general public has become inflamed over this waste. There was not one law broken. Had the trawlboat with the good catch given one fish to either boat that had caught none, he would have broken the law. Had he given one fish to a recreational angler to take home, he would have broken the law. Had he done anything other than keep his legal limit, and throw the rest away, he would have been in violation of law. Industry has been pointing out for 2 y!
ears that this law needed to be fixed, and yet nothing has happened until the very thing we have been fearing came to fruition over MLK Jr. weekend.
The very industry that has been branded as practicing wanton waste, and disregard for the law, has been lobbying for 2 years to have a law changed that would eliminate regulatory discard, and allow every pound of fish caught in commercial fishing operations to count against our federal quota. If we don’t use all of our quota, we do not get any back.
Allowing a transfer at sea would eliminate all regulatory discard, and would allow every pound of fish caught commercially to count against our quota, and would eliminate the black eye that our area, and our industry has sustained as a result of a bad law that has repeatedly been pointed out as needing to be fixed. It takes a true leader to confront unpleasant situations, and rectify wrongs. This very unfortunate incident should be one that we vow to never repeat. It should not, however, be one that takes our sight off the fact that the recreational, charter, and commercial industries are being assaulted by federal regulation pressed by radical environmentalists who would like to see all fishing eliminated.
Britton Shackelford
www.ncwu.net