Marine Fisheries Commission sanctions striped bass slaughter
Anglers set to seek relief in General Assembly
In an appalling disregard for the indiscriminate killing of striped bass by the commercial trawl net fishermen, the North Carolina Marine fisheries Commission (NCMFC) voted to continue these wasteful practices. Following three tragic incidents where a massive number of ocean striped bass were killed in the North Carolina trawler fishery, recreational fishermen sent thousands of emails, phone calls and letters to the NC Division of Marine Fisheries and the NC Marine Fisheries Commission protesting the recent waste in this fishery. In response to these events and public outcry, the issue was placed on the MFC agenda for the Feb. 11, 2011 meeting.
At the MFC public comment sessions, a large turnout by CCA members, recreational fishermen and even some commercial fishermen resulted in a barrage of comments condemning the waste. Essentially all recreational comments requested permanently closing the striped bass trawler fishery and to replace it with a hook and line commercial fishery. During the meeting Dr. Daniel tried to minimize the extent of the dead fish stating that only a few hundred fish were killed. Some recreational speakers at the meeting provided documentation of the numbers of fish and supplied the names of charter boat captains that would confirm their observations.
Despite not knowing the type of trawl net used, the size of the net, the mesh size or the tow lengths, the NCMFC voted to continue status quo and to reopen the trawler fishery with a 2000 lb fish daily limit until the remaining 60,000 lb trawler quota is reached. Fishing will only be allowed on weekdays to reduce interactions (documentation of waste?) with recreational fishermen. These are essentially the exact same rules that lead to the most recent, wasteful trawler debacle that killed even more stripers. One can only conclude that the NCMFC continues to be dominated by those whose care little for their obligation to protect the resource and vote for their own personal gain.
The waste was universally condemned during the public comment session, but the commercially dominated MFC voted 6-2 to allow the practice to continue. Commissioners Anna Beckwith and Mac Currin were the dissenting votes and suggested pursuing to develop a hook and line commercial fishery for striped bass in North Carolina such as those that are very successful in so many other states. Unfortunately for anglers and the state’s marine resources, Currin leaves the MFC in June.
This action was not unexpected. The MFC has routinely ignored the public in order to manage the public’s resources in a manner that benefits only a small segment of commercial entities. This utter disregard will continue until the make-up of the MFC better represents the citizens of North Carolina, which is a goal of CCA North Carolina. In the meantime, these fish are at the mercy of a commission that is dedicated to allowing commercial fishing to operate essentially unchecked.