To Supplement or Not To Supplement?
To supplement or not to supplement our Fishery Management Plans . . . that is the question. But what is the answer?
To answer this question, you first need to know what a supplement is and what is it’s intended purpose. A supplement is a process that allows the Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) to quickly make temporary changes to a Fishery Management Plan (FMP) until a full amendment can be adopted. This process was ONLY intended to be used in emergency situations where waiting to complete an amendment may jeopardize the overall health of a fish stock and cause the stock in question to crash.
It is my opinion that none of the fish stocks managed by the state of NC currently meet the criteria that would justify the approval of a supplement. Unfortunately, this opinion is not shared by a majority of the current MFC members who seem to view any level of uncertainty in the status of a stock as an emergency situation that warrants immediate action. It has even been suggested that these individuals are using the uncertainty as an excuse to misuse the supplement process in an attempt to make up for years of failure in Raleigh. (i.e., net bans, gamefish, HB 867).
Whatever their motivation may be, I and the NCFA Board view their actions as a blatant misuse of the supplement process.
This view recently went to court where two judges ruled in our favor in a lawsuit over the MFC approved supplement to the Southern Flounder FMP. Since that time the MFC has requested another supplement, this time to the Striped Bass FMP citing concerns in the Southern and Central population of Striped Bass as their reason for requesting the supplement.
While there may be reason for concern, there has been no significant changes in the stock that would justify approval of a supplement; in fact, the Division says the major issues are environmental and biological factors, neither of which would be addressed in the supplement process.
This new supplement request is very similar to the Southern Flounder supplement in many ways and just as before, the authority to approve or deny the supplement belongs to the Secretary of DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality).
I can only hope that the current Secretary, Michael Regan, chooses to deny the Striped Bass supplement and avoid the situation where once again a judge would answer the question, “To Supplement or Not to Supplement?”