Valentine’s Day 2018: Just Sharing the Love

by Jerry Schill

The Marine Fisheries Commission met in Wrightsville Beach on February 14, 2018. Yes, it was Valentine’s Day. It was also Ash Wednesday. Despite that, 245 people signed in for the meeting and 69 provided comments. They came from Currituck County to Brunswick County. Nearly all of the commenters gave opinions on changing the criteria for commercial fishing licenses. There was not ONE who spoke in favor of changing the criteria! It was quite obvious that commercial fishermen were not only against an income requirement for eligibility, but were opposed to any change from the current definition.

Some of the rhetoric coming from those who have been pushing for a change in commercial licensing, (who are not involved at all with commercial fishing), have made comments would give the impression that the speakers were unruly and disruptive. That certainly isn’t what I observed!

This was the 50th Valentine’s Day for my wife and me as a married couple. We “celebrated” by sitting in the back row of a marine fisheries meeting with 200 emotional members of the commercial fishing community. Such a romantic evening! I can assure you that she would not have sat there for such a long time had there been significant unbecoming behavior.

It was a great turnout and with some very minor exceptions, a very well behaved group. However, it made little difference as the next morning the Commission chose to ignore the overwhelming public sentiment and passed a motion 5 to 4 to send recommended changes to the General Assembly. Commissioner Brad Koury joined Sammy Corbett, Alison Willis and Janet Rose in voting against the motion.

Now, we move to Raleigh, and it’s important to put Wednesday, May 23rd on your calendar! We will begin with a rally on the South side of the Capitol Building and move from there to the legislative offices with our united message. The day will end with a Legislative Seafood Reception at a different location.



Jerry Schill’s comments to the Marine Fisheries Commission on February 14, 2018:

Thank you Mr. Chairman and members of the commission.

My name is Jerry Schill, Director of Government Relations for the North Carolina Fisheries Association. Although I’ve been in that role for less than one year, I began my tenure with NCFA over 30 years ago.

I don’t wish to spend much time on the issue of changing the licensing requirements for commercial fishermen as others will have many responses, but I do feel the need to explain how we as an organization arrive at our positions on various issues.

NCFA is in its 63rd year and has a board of directors that represents geographical districts, all types of gear and includes day boats, one man operations, large offshore vessels and seafood dealers and processors. The board is elected for three year terms and conducts monthly meetings to discuss issues and formulate positions. We have discussed the licensing issue many times over the years and once again need to emphasize that commercial fishermen do not favor changing licensing requirements!

Addressing another subject:

Without a doubt, we have all heard comments about how unfair or unbalanced the Marine Fisheries Commission is, and not just currently but over time certain groups have said the commercial folks dominate just like today the commercial folks say it’s certainly stacked against commercial fishermen.

But what’s the truth?

I have a list of every Marine Fisheries Commission since 1987 up to the current commission. I’ve listed every commission by name including the chairman. But I didn’t just list their affiliation according to how the governor appointed them. Rather, I listed them as they should be listed. If they are a scientist sitting in an at-large position, they are listed as scientist. Or a recreational fisherman in an at-large position as recreational and if a commercial in an at-large position, commercial.

And here are the results for those 32 years:

Only two of the 32 years had an even split with commercial and recreational;

Eight of the 32 years had a commercial advantage of one;

Eleven of the 32 years had a recreational advantage of one;

Eleven of the 32 years had a recreational advantage of two, which has been the case since 2010.

Of those 32 years, a recreational was chairman for 15; commercial for 16 and a scientist chaired the commission one year. That one year was 1987 when Dr. John Costlow served on the commission that had 7 scientists!

So, for the past 32 years the recreational folks have had a numerical advantage for 22 years; the commercial folks had a numerical advantage for 8 years.

This commission, without a doubt is the most unbalanced body to regulate fishing in recent memory.

You should all resign immediately and allow governor cooper another shot at it. Or allow the general assembly to fix what the governor has messed up.


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