Getting fresh, local shrimp just got much harder, thanks to a new regulation passed by the Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC).
The push has been on for several years to limit North Carolina shrimpers from harvesting their crop, and was finally successful thanks in large part to a controversial lobbyist. The lobbyist group is Coastal Conservation Association (CCA).
How was this group able to dominate the Commission and sway the vote toward their side?
Politics, of course.
State law says the MFC is supposed to balance the interests of commercial and recreational fisheries in its role of managing the state’s fisheries resources.
In late 2015, former Governor Pat McCrory awarded the lobbyists a majority of seats on the Commission.
Last week the state’s shrimping industry was dealt a crippling blow due to these political machinations.
Citing one-sided and incomplete research data to provide sound bites for their cause, the group claimed certain species of fish were threatened by shrimpers. The Commission passed over data contradicting those claims presented by biologists and coastal community leaders.
In addition, the group ignored:
- Numerous concerns cited by fishermen (recreational and commercial) and citizens.
- The communities affected by this regulation as they were not part of the petition creating process.
- All of North Carolina’s marine fisheries advisory boards. These boards voted against the proposed regulation, but their protests fell on deaf ears.
Also ignored in this process was peer reviewed science that shows shrimp trawling encourages marine growth. The trawls aerate the mud and pollution sludge so that worms and small creatures that fish eat can grow.
The study found that there was more fish and ecological activity where shrimpers were trawling. And, conversely, in areas not trawled by shrimpers there was less ecological activity and less fish.
To pass this unnecessary regulation, this lobbying group circumvented the existing Shrimp Management plan which shrimpers, scientist, and industry leaders have been working diligently to reduce by catch with promising results.
We cannot manage our fisheries via petition from special-interest groups.
Parts of our marine ecosystem are not the same as they were 50 years ago, for a host of reasons to include climate change, pollution, hurricanes, dredging, coastal development and fisherman effort. At this critical time, we need collaborative fisherman leadership and smart ecological scientists to study, regulate, and actively promote a robust marine ecosystem.
States like Alaska and Louisiana have shown that with state support there is plenty of room to promote and protect our marine ecosystem for science, recreation and seafood harvest.
It’s not merely the commercial fishermen’s livelihood that suffers; it’s the seafood markets and restaurants, the fragile seafood infrastructure, the scientists who utilize commercial fisherman for data and most importantly the ordinary citizens who rely on the efforts of commercial fisherman for their seafood.
If we focus on pollution, habitat enhancement, collaborative management, ecological science, and valuing the cultural, nutritional, and recreational value of North Carolina seafood and its harvesters, we can do great things.
North Carolina needs to bring a balance to our Marine Fisheries Commission and not allow special interest groups to pit commercial fishermen against recreational fishermen because it does not benefit the citizens of our state.
To help, please call or email or legislators and help take a stand for NC Seafood!
Governor Cooper http://governor.nc.gov/contact-governor-cooper 919.814.2000
Representative Moore firstname.lastname@example.org 919-733-3451
Senator Berger email@example.com (919) 733-5708
Representative Grange Holly.Grange@ncleg.net 919-733-5830
Representative Butler Deb.Butler@ncleg.net 919-733-5754
Representative Davis Ted.Davis@ncleg.net 919-733-5786
Senator Lee Michael.Lee@ncleg.net (919) 715 2525
Marine Fisheries Commission– http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/north-carolina-marine-fisheries-commission
Mark Gorges, Chuck Laughridge, Rick Smith, Mike Wicker, and Brad Koury gave the commission a super majority to pass the petition, all 3 commercial fishing representatives voted against the petition.
Articles exposing the corruption of the Marine Fisheries Commission and the Petition:
Articles separating shrimping facts from fiction: