Contributed by NCDMF
July 2, 2020
WRITTEN AND CONTRIBUTED BY: EASTON EDWARDS
I recently attended the Marine Fisheries Commission meeting held in New Bern, NC on February 19th & 20th. Public comments were Wednesday night and Thursday morning. I sat and listened to individuals rant and rave that gill nets were the evil of all evil and that their removal from the upper Neuse river, had in just a short time, created a sanctuary like the world has never seen before. That by simply eliminating this user group from those waters, they had created a speckled trout fishery that has produced numbers, STATEWIDE, that have never been seen before. As I sat and listened to this ridiculous rhetoric, I was amazed that they are so zealous in their constant attacks on the commercial fishermen, that they can’t even follow the script correctly set forth by one of their puppeteer groups, the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA). In their February 14th newsletter, they state “Mild winters and ideal environmental conditions for successful spawns have resulted in a trifecta boom in three species: speckled trout, red drum, and striped bass. The upstream net free zones are NOT RESPONSIBLE for this boom ….”. One would think that any sensible angler would see this and not continuously blame the commercial side for everything that happens in fishery management. The CCA is correct on this one point. The overwhelmingly mild winters we have had for the last two years (winters that we have not experienced a cold stun event resulting in killing of speckled trout), have been the cause of the speckled trout boom we are now experiencing.
I sat and listened to the public comments and wondered, do these people really believe that no one knows the truth? Do they really believe that the commissioners sitting at the head of this room are going to swallow this propaganda verbatim? And what’s worse is, do they believe that any legislator that they’ve constantly whined and moaned to, is going to accept this as fact? One would hope that all the legislators, both house and senate, would ensure they know the FACTS, and not propaganda or fake news that the various groups constantly bombard them with. In fact, if I was a legislator, I would be sickened by the constant noise directed at me and the governor’s office about fishing. If you listen to them, they have never had enough fish, have never caught enough fish, or never plan to have enough fish to catch again. I believe they actually believe that there should be enough fish that you could pull up to any Wal-Mart retaining pond, cast in a line baited with a marshmallow, and catch trout, drum and striped bass until you fill the back of a truck up. That is how ridiculous their constant claims of the commercial fishermen ruining their fun is.
I sat through their claims and eased into the hallway as they completed their propaganda speeches. I was absolutely amazed to hear some of the discussions; How they had a new appointee on the commission who was going to “set things right” and eliminate all the nets, how they were going to unseat the governor, appoint a commission of their liking, and systematically eliminate commercial fishing. As I listened to this rhetoric, I concluded that these people do know the difference between right and wrong, they just simply don’t care. They will do whatever they can, moral or immoral, to eliminate commercial fishing, simply because they don’t like it. Every legislator should be on guard for any fake news directed at them as facts from these malicious, agenda-driven people. They present facts that are rarely, if ever, accurate and true. Case in point – This very year we have seen the most speckled trout EVER recorded in our history. Anglers have caught these trout all year. You can’t go anywhere that you can’t catch a limit of trout, and if you can’t catch your limit this year, you need to quit fishing. I trout fish all the time. I can tell anyone and any legislator that any issues that dare be directed at them on trout are not a matter of the condition of the resource, but rather a matter of some kind of conflict that they have had or have heard about.
As I listened to discussions on the commission, I heard one commissioner put this into perspective… He began by stating that all the noise directed by these groups and individuals at the governor’s and legislators’ offices weren’t about a valid resource issue, but in fact about something that they simply didn’t like. When the members of these groups come down to fish, they don’t want to see a net anywhere they go – especially those that might be near “their spot”. I heard him explain that he too was an avid speckled trout fisherman, like myself. He noted that there are times when he goes fishing and there are nets in his “spot” that might make him unhappy, BUT unlike these vindictive groups and individuals, he realizes that the commercial fishermen are trying to provide for their families and that they have the same rights to that patch of water that he and every other recreational angler do. He then went on to say that when you consider what is “wanted” rather than needed, you need to look at other scenarios. He gave an example of how, when he started fishing 30 years ago on Bay River, there were few boats and everyone knew each other – both commercial and recreational, and always kept each other updated as to where the fish are. He stated he could fish anywhere and not be crowded. Flash forward to today… On any given day there can be as high as twenty trout rigs at the Bayboro landing and as high as sixty rigs in Vandemere and Hobucken. When he goes to his “spot”, there might be anywhere from five to ten rigs taking fish near it and then four or five rigs sitting in his “spot”. How dare they do this when it’s his and no one else’s? How dare they use his water? He then stated how ridiculous these people act because of something they want or don’t want – someone having a net in their “spot”. The commercial fishermen have the same rights to provide for their families, under proclamations set forth, as anyone else to that patch of water – like it or not.
The TRUE FACTS are these: In 2019, the catches of Speckled Trout were as Follows:
Recreational Landings: 3,555,702 lbs
Commercial Landings: 344,342 lbs
Source: NC Division of Marine Fisheries
The Recreational sector caught 91% of the total capture of Speckled Trout, or
OVER 10 TIMES GREATER than the amounts landed by commercial fishermen.
The fact they have the audacity, gall, or for lack of a better word greed, to complain to anyone with numbers like these is absolutely sickening. If legislators take these groups’ verbiage for fact, they should be ashamed, and if a legislator pushes this agenda, he or she should be investigated.
The worst injustice occurs from actions like this to people not even considered by these individuals and groups. I heard remarks at the meeting that explained this. When you attempt to eliminate the commercial fishermen from the resource, you are depriving the consumers of the opportunity to purchase and enjoy that product also. Most citizens and consumers do not have the means to purchase $25,000 to $75,000 trout boats and trailers, take off, and go fishing when they want to get their trout. Most people work Monday through Friday and when the weekend comes, they do the family thing around the house. These people have the same right to enjoy that product as anyone else, and most can only get it through a fish market who is provided to by commercial fishermen. What group of elitists with full pockets, or legislators, have any right whatsoever to deny these citizens their right to a healthy, affordable protein? No one has that right!
I’ll close by saying this: I am sickened when I hear these groups and individuals rant and rave at any user group, be it fishing, hunting, or whatever, when they don’t even know the facts. What’s worse is when they know the facts and blatantly lie, spreading false propaganda and fake news to push an agenda that is wanted rather than needed. I deplore any group such as the CCA, Coastal Reform group, and even blog sites that have the same vindictive rhetoric, which only wish for the elimination of the commercial fisherman. They never stop pressuring the legislators and the governor to eliminate a hard-working group of people that they don’t like.
I would hope that any Governor would look at the facts and listen to the people in charge to manage fisheries fairly, rather than succumb to these minions that only want their agenda and the elimination of an industry, and in addition, the consumers it provides for. They will not stop. Every citizen of this state that loves to eat fresh seafood, fishes for a living, or just doesn’t believe that entitlement gives you the right to dictate against those who have less, needs to make their voice known! You need to contact your legislators. Let them know you are beyond sick and tired of these big donors making policy that can deny you fresh North Carolina seafood. Remind them that your vote is the same as every person who backs these groups, and that you have friends too! Let the governor know you are just as much of a citizen as they are. Only through a positive, constant, and loud message can we hope to keep our fisheries fairly regulated for ALL citizens of North Carolina.
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