The MFC voted on May 26th to continue with the gill net closure in the Neuse and Pamlico rivers and directed DMF to study the impacts of removing the gill nets as their preferred management option.
But this time the reason for continuing the gill net closure was different.
At the meeting, Commissioner Tom Roller said;
“In saying that this is an allocation fight, you are right. So, when NCFA comes here and says there is no scientific evidence for removing gill nets, what they are saying is I want my allocation. Yeah, that’s exactly what it is. So, it’s an allocation by the retention of gill nets. Cause a dead fish is a dead fish, right? A dead fish is a dead fish and you have to ask what is the greater value to the economy? And in most cases, and many cases, not all cases, it’s recreational.”
During the March 2019 MFC “emergency” meeting, the rationale to close the Neuse and Pamlico rivers to gill nets was to protect a breeding age class of striped bass to see if they would successfully spawn. I didn’t hear anything in this meeting about allocation.
So, in 2019 the Commissioners (without an allocation discussion) voted to remove gill nets from the Neuse and Pamlico. Gill nets! The gear with the least number of striped bass dead discards. There was no vote on reducing the larger number of striped bass dead discards produced by the recreational sector in these rivers (recreational dead discards were 2.5 times higher from 2012 to 2020).
Maybe because like Commissioner Roller said, it’s an allocation fight. Recreational fishing is more important; it doesn’t matter how many dead striped bass discards THEY remove from the system. Sounds like the decision did not fully represent all interests and surely had a good bit of prejudice involved.
But hey, the Commissioners were reducing 28% of the striped bass dead discards by removing commercial fishermen from the rivers. Surely the other 72% that the recreational sector throws over dead won’t hurt the breeding stock!
Are you confused yet?
The Commissioners also said at the March 2019 “emergency” meeting that reopening the rivers to gill nets would be looked at in two years at the next striped bass FMP amendment.
The Division and the Estuarine Striped Bass FMP Advisory Committee did just that and put together and presented the draft for Amendment 2 of Striped Bass FMP at the February 2022 MFC meeting. This draft included the option to reopen our rivers to gill nets. But guess what; the Commissioners voted to completely remove this option from the draft FMP before it even had chance to be reviewed by the Advisory Panels and before the draft was made available for public view.
Once again, another vote from the Commissioners that did not represent all interests fully or fairly. And again, blatantly ignoring DMF data that clearly showed the majority of dead discards were coming from the recreational sector; prejudice.
I’m starting to see a pattern here.
Earlier this year, despite the best efforts of the Commissioners to silence the people, the Advisory Panels and the public brought up and fought for the reopening of the rivers to gill nets and forced it to come up again before the Commission.
The hastiness, bad judgement, and unfairness used by the Commissioners in 2019 was discussed during the May 2022 MFC meeting. Their discussion was not about protecting a breeding age class of striped bass. The discussion was anecdotal; of how recreational anglers like Jim Bob and Sponge Bob are catching more this and bigger that now that the gill nets are out. The discussion was that the gill nets do not generate as much economically in these rivers as recreational fishing does. The discussion was allocation. Recreational fishing is more valuable than commercial fishing so the recreational sector should be “allocated” these river systems and access shall be denied to the lowly commercial sector.
Seems we have gone full circle here. From so called “protecting striped bass from gill nets” to reallocating the rivers for sole use of one user group. Now the
unequal representation, unfairness, and prejudice from past meetings makes sense.
It now seems the Commissioners are no longer worried about “protecting striped bass”, but instead their focus is on allocation of not just fish stocks, but of two river systems to be solely used by the recreational sector while keeping out a handful of gill netters who were there responsibly fishing in the first place.
At least now we know why the commercial sector was unequally represented and all of these unfair decisions were made by the Commissioners. It was all a means to an end, allocation. Allocation of public waters solely for the personal and financial benefit of a few.
NCFA knows what the agenda is. We see the allocation fight they unfairly continue to push forward. This fight is far from over. NCFA will keep fighting for you, your right to fish and we will keep fighting for decisions that are equal, fair, and without prejudice.
Thomas Newman III
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE for 6/6/2022:
What started out on a good note last week ended up sour. We have a few things we’re working on but many are being held hostage due to differences between the Senate and House. It’s across the board and not just fisheries related. Also frustrated with the department, meaning DEQ. Let’s just say they were for it before they weren’t.
Interesting though because over the years leadership wants to stay away from “fish” because it’s controversial. So, this year they’re dealing with Medicaid expansion, medical marijuana and sports betting! I guess because that is NOT controversial!
I’ve earned being “mental”