NC Lawmakers Look to Protect Coastal Fish
WILMINGTON, N.C. - Recreational anglers in North Carolina are hoping to reel in the commercial fishing of three popular fish.
State lawmakers are considering House Bill 983, which would specify that red drum, striped bass and spotted sea trout could be caught only by hook and line.
While the law essentially would stop commercial fishing for those populations, said Dick Hamilton, head of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation's Camo Coalition, it has a greater benefit to the state's economy.
"It would stimulate a lot of tourism, a lot of purchases of equipment, travel, meals, lodging, boats, motors, all that stuff and local taxes and a lot of local incomes," he said.
Commercial fishermen say the Fisheries Economic Development Act would destroy their business and way of life, although the bill does provide money to help harmed commercial fishermen and manage commercial fish stocks. According to the federation, the three fish offered protection in the bill make up 1 percent of the fish caught on North Carolina's coast.
Commercial fishermen say it will be difficult to avoid catching red drum, striped bass and spotted sea trout in their nets, but Hamilton says there are ways to avoid bringing them in with the rest of their catch.
"Commercial fishermen are quite skillful at setting their nets," he said. "One thing, you can vary your net size; you'll catch the targeted fish that you want. You can set the depth, you can set them at the bottom of the water, you'll catch a certain type of fish."
North Carolina and Mississippi are the only two states that still allow the commercial fishing of red drum and speckled trout, Hamilton said.
"They don't keep red drum and speckled trout in Florida," he said. "They don't catch them commercially and sell them because they're too valuable. They're too valuable for their tourism. They import the fish from North Carolina to sell in their restaurants."
The fish also can be raised in fish hatcheries.
The Fisheries Economic Development Act currently is in the House Commerce Committee before moving on for a vote. The bill's text is online at openstates.org.