Russ Lay from the Outer Banks Voice in September 2015 reported an interesting and unbiased five-part take on the Coastal Conservation Association’s (CCA) strong hold on North Carolina’s Fisheries. This is an important issue and significant investigation.
In 2014, the Voice looked into how North Carolina manages its fisheries. When they began, they had no opinions and knew little of the politics behind the control of fisheries and the right to harvest these resources. But it soon became apparent that one Rhode Island-sized interest group [CCA], in terms of membership, is exerting a Texas-sized influence over a powerful part of the General Assembly, as well as regulatory agencies.
This is the second of a five-part series examining who is in control, who is being ignored, and who has no voice at all in the management of the state’s multi-million dollar resource of fin fish and shellfish that live in our coastal waters.
“The CCA has nothing to do with conservation unless you consider sport fishermen having all of a certain species allocated to themselves as conservation.” Those are the words of author Robert Fritchey, who wrote Wetland Riders,the definitive book on the history of the Coastal Conservation Association. The CCA traces its roots to Texas in 1977 and was originally founded by mostly wealthy anglers in Houston.
State law authorizes a Marine Fisheries Commission to set policies governing the harvest of the state’s fish stock. It also says the commission is supposed to treat commercial and recreational interests fairly. But the commission was designed in such a manner that a balancing act between the two competing interests on the board is all but impossible.
The board’s makeup also lends itself to political intrigue in the appointment of members by the governor. The problem lies in how the nine seats are allocated. Three are reserved for commercial interests, three for recreational and one for a marine scientist. Two are classified as “at large,” with the only qualification being a “knowledge” of the fisheries industry. Without those at-large seats, it would be a seven-member board with a scientist serving as the tiebreaker. But with two at-large seats, historically both sides have lobbied governors to appoint members sympathetic to one of the two competing groups.
It would take a few hundred words to demonstrate where science goes off the rails and how other factors, including interest group reactions, exert an influence on what is expected to be an unbiased, fact-driven process.