Let’s get ready to Rummmble!
From now on, I think NC Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) Chairman Sammy Corb ett should start every MFC meeting by yelling “Let’s Get Ready to Rummmble”. He should then introduce science as the underdog contender, and special interest agendas as the reigning undefeated champion of the MFC. While this may sound humorous or even absurd to some, I can assure you that anyone who has attended a MFC meeting in recent years would agree with me.
While attending a MFC meeting, it is impossible not to notice that science has been all but knocked out of the fishery management process in NC. The science (which is supposed to be the cornerstone of our management process) is now little more than a side note, taking a back seat to special interest agendas. The majority of commissioners who are appointed to represent stakeholders, now represent only their respective organizations, and come to every meeting armed with pre-written motions and pre-counted votes. The organizations they represent now are merely puppeteers pulling the strings from behind the scenes, out of sight to the general public. This was obvious in February of 2017 when the now infamous “shrimp petition” put forward by the North Carolina Wildlife Federation (NCWF) was approved by the MFC, even after being dismissed by every scientist who had reviewed it (except those on the NCWF payroll).
These special interest groups have become so influential that their representatives on the Marine Fisheries Commission can flagrantly violate the state’s open-meeting laws without fear of repercussion. In fact, in November of 2016, former governor Pat McCrory reappointed Commissioner Chuck Laughridge, who had been repeatedly warned for violating open-meeting laws. The most recent commissioners appointed to the MFC by Governor Roy Cooper do not appear to be any better than those appointed by his predecessor, and they have wasted no time picking up the bad habits of their cohorts on the commission. During the February 2018 MFC meeting, newly appointed Commissioner Pete Kornegay stated on the record that he, Chuck Laughridge, and “others” had tweaked a recommendation that had been submitted by the NCWF. He then put forward a pre-written motion that had been given to commission staff prior to the start of the meeting. Commissioner Kornegay’s actions imply that he, Commissioner Laughridge, and possibly other members of the commission discussed an issue that was currently being deliberated by the commission outside of a public forum, which is clearly a violation of the state’s open-meeting laws.
Shortly after the February meeting, the NCFA asked DEQ Secretary Michael Regan to request that the attorney general’s office investigate the open-meeting law violations. As of today (March 11th), we are not aware of any actions taken by the secretary on this issue, but we remain hopeful that he will take these recent violations as serious as we do. Unfortunately, no matter how this issue is resolved, we may never be able to restore scientific integrity to our management process without dissolving the current commission.
Everyone who cares about North Carolina’s fisheries resources should contact Governor Cooper and ask him to dissolve the Marine Fisheries Commission, and to resist the financial and political influence of special interest groups while appointing a fair and equitable commission. NC State Law requires all fisheries of recreational and commercial importance to be managed for sustainability, and I believe that a fair commission can do this in a way that benefits all stakeholders, whether they be recreational, commercial, or consumer.
Help the NCFA knock out the overwhelming influence that special interest groups currently have on the Marine Fisheries Commission. Call Governor Cooper today!
Office of Governor Roy Cooper
Office of the Governor
20301 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-0301