The pogie battle is enjoined again

With the passage of the Coastal Recreational Fishing License into law last year, only a few needed changes remain to be made in North Carolina’s saltwater management strategies — if the state is going to continue to allow a relatively few commercial netters to take a large portion of our citizens’ public resources for profit.

One change involves menhaden, another southern flounder and another red drum.

Of course, these issues could be put to rest in one fell swoop if the N.C. legislature would join the rest of the Southeast and simply ban nets. We expect that to happen right after U.S. senators Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton figure out they’re just senators and not arbiters of U.S. foreign policy and Oprah Winfrey invites the Duke lacrosse team to be guests on her show.

It took about 20 years to get the CRFL passed into law. Few people understood why commercial netters, led by the N.C. Fisheries Association, fought the CRFL bill in the legislature because it had no direct effect on members’ activities. In fact, it was touted as (and we hope it will be) a way to increase fish populations for all user groups. The CRFL basically lets the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries keep track of how many hook-and-line anglers exist here, what they catch, and obtain much-needed income while building a trust fund for saltwater species research.

Then again, maybe that was the reason — the state never before had passed a law committed to the proposition all anglers are created equal and fish are more than a commodity to be sold by the few.

This menhaden bill (see Newsbreaker in this issue) run up the flag pole a second time by Rep. Bonner Stiller (R-Brunswick) is a reasonable attempt to keep Omega Protein, a national outfit with a plant on the shoreline of Chesapeake Bay, from sending some or all of its 11 “reduction” vessels to N.C. territorial waters (0-3 miles) and sucking up tons of the baitfish that sustain king mackerel (and king tournaments), Spanish mackerel, striper, yellowfin and bluefin tuna, bluefish, flounder, speckled trout, red drum, black drum, wahoo, bonito, false albacore, et al, not to mention providing food for almost every shorebird (including piping plovers), ospreys and bald eagles at N.C.’s inshore and nearshore waters.

Omega’s plant can process 100 metric tons of menhaden per day, but its ships have been banned inside 3 miles of the hill by every eastern seaboard state — except Virginia and North Carolina.

“They could come down here (to Brunswick County) and destroy our fisheries, most importantly the king mackerel,” Rep. Stiller told N.C. Sportsman in April. “We don’t have any law to keep ’em off the beaches. And if we don’t have pogies, we won’t have kings — and there goes our king mackerel tournaments.”

Such tournaments provide millions to the southeastern N.C. coastal economy.

A state senator from up Carteret County way opposes Stiller’s bill, even though most of her constituents at Morehead City, Atlantic Beach and Bogue Inlet also depend heavily upon menhaden and their sustaining power to the resource and economy.

Then again, she’s always been supported by commercial netters.

“It’s her business if she wants Omega to rape the resources up there,” Stiller said. “I just wish she’d leave us alone in Brunswick.”

About Craig Holt 1382 Articles
Craig Holt of Snow Camp has been an outdoor writer for almost 40 years, working for several newspapers, then serving as managing editor for North Carolina Sportsman and South Carolina Sportsman before becoming a full-time free-lancer in 2009.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply