Republicans in the N.C. House of Representatives on Wednesday agreed to effectively kill the latest attempt to pass a "gamefish bill" that would have ended commercial fishing for speckled trout and redfish in all North Carolina waters, and striped bass in North Carolina's inland coastal waters.

Rep. Paul Tine (D-Dare/Beaufort/Hyde/Washington) trumpeted the opposition's success in having HB 983, "The Fisheries Economic Development Act," killed on Wednesday after House Republicans caucused and determined that they would no longer push the bill through the House Committee on Commerce and Job Development, where it had languished since its introduction on mid-April. 

 

"I spoke with the bill sponsor this evening after the bill was considered in the majority caucus, and he assured me the bill will not be run or folded into the budget," Tine said in his press release. "It was truly a bipartisan effort to defeat the bill, and it would not have happened without all the work of the opponents who made sure their voice would be heard in Raleigh."

 

Rep. Tom Murry (R-Wake), was a main sponsor and the bill's major proponent in the House. According to sources, Republican leaders in the House met with Murry on Wednesday and expressed their belief that there was significant Republican opposition to the gamefish bill. The bill was discussed later in a caucus of House Republicans, and it was determined that there was enough opposition from members of the majority party – combined with opposition from Democrats – that the bill would not likely make it through Murry's committee for a vote on the House floor.

 

Tine's press release said, "After growing opposition, the bill sponsor sought the will of the Republican Caucus and found that opposition there, combined with a significant number of votes in the Democratic Caucus, would make it difficult for the bill to move through committee.

 

"This bill pitted the recreational interests against the commercial fisherman, the consumer, the fish houses, the restaurants and the seafood stores," Tine said in his press release. "The bill sponsor was fair in the process allowing all sides to be heard and in the end; most legislators decided that it was best that all sides have access to these public trust fisheries."

 

Murry is chairman of the House Committee on Commerce and Job Development. He and three other representatives were listed as the bill's primary sponsors: Tim Moffitt (R-Buncombe), Michael Wray (D-Halifax/Northampton) and John Bell (R-Craven/Greene/ Lenoir/Wayne).

 

The legislative offices of Murry and Moffitt were contacted for comment on Thursday morning by North Carolina Sportsman, but telephone messages have not yet been returned.

 

HB 983 was the fourth legislative attempt to classify speckled trout, redfish and striped bass as gamefish, preventing commercial sale.

 

Two years ago, despite receiving reported majority support in both the House and Senate, the gamefish bill was killed in an agreement that provided Republicans with enough Democratic votes to override an anticipated veto by then-Gov. Beverly Perdue of a Republican budget bill.

 

Two provisions in the bill now must be addressed by the legislature in other avenues.

 

One section of HB 983 would have appropriated $1.3 million to support the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Observer Program, which is required to keep the flounder-netting industry open. Observers report interactions by nets with endangered sea turtles, as required by a lawsuit filed several years ago.

 

Another section of the bill would have taken money from the state highway fund and used it to dredge shallow-draft inlets open along the coast.