Two 800 Pound Gorillas in the Game Fish Room

Game fish status for three species of fish is back in the news and in the North Carolina Legislature. But while certain groups are debating the status of speckled trout, red drum and striped bass everyone  is missing the two 800 pound gorillas that are sitting in the room. If North Carolina isn’t careful House Bill 983 is going to unleash them both.

Game Fish: 800lb. Gorilla Number One

Would you call a plumber for marriage counseling? Or contact an electrician for weight loss tips?  Or how about seek the advice of a banker about preserving a wetland? Of course you wouldn’t. It would be crazy to do so.

So why is the state of North Carolina taking economic advice from a conservation organization?

Unfortunately that’s exactly what is happening in the North Carolina legislature with HB 983 the “2013 Fisheries Economic Development Act”. This bill, which is a resurrection of last year’s defeated HB 353 “Designation of Coastal Game Fish” has been created and perpetuated by the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA). If passed it would be illegal for the commercial fishing families of North Carolina to catch and sell speckled trout, red drum and striped bass. HB 983 would also ban all North Carolina citizens their right to have these fish on their supper table unless you caught it yourself and prohibit any seafood market or retailer from selling them to the public. Out of 9,535,483 North Carolina residents only 289,930 have a recreational saltwater license. That means 97 percent of the North Carolina citizens would be banned access to three fish which are currently a public trust resource.

The CCA, a conservation organization states that their motivation and reasoning for HB 983 has nothing to do with biology or fish stock status. The CCA claims their sole reasoning behind the bill is purely economics. They claim that trout, drum and stripers are more valuable to the state as an exclusive recreational fisherman fishery.

Should I be contacting a marine biologist about my investment portfolio?

Game Fish: 800 Pound Gorilla Number Two

game-fish-billHere is a shocker-91 percent of the tourist that come to the coast of North Carolina do not fish. Yes-You read that correctly! The North Carolina Division of Tourism, Film & Sports Development in their “2011 North Carolina Regional Travel Summary” highlighted that fact as well as many others.

According to the report the number one reason why a tourist comes to the North Carolina coast is to go to the beach. 68 percent of the visitors participated in that activity. Shopping and visiting relatives were priority two and three respectively with a 36 and 31 percent participation rate. Coming in at number four was going to Church or a museum at a 20 percent participation rate.

Now this is where the report gets very interesting. The fifth most popular activity of tourist along the North Carolina coast was dining out at a 19 percent participation rate. Both freshwater and saltwater fishing combined ranked only 12th in priority with coastal tourist participation rate of only at 9 percent.

Coastal tourist chose to eat at local restaurants by more than 2 to 1 over all types of fishing. Listed below are the priorities and participation rate of overnight coastal tourist according to the North Carolina Division of Tourism, Film & Sports Development.

1)      Beach 68%,

2)      Shopping 36%,

3)      Visiting relatives 31%

4)      Historic sites/Church 20%

5)      Fine dining 19%

6)      State/national park 16%

7)      Rural sightseeing 16%

8)      Museums 14%

9)      Visiting friends 13%

10)   Wildlife viewing 11%

11)   Urban sightseeing 11%

12)   Fishing (fresh and saltwater) 9%

13)   Old homes/mansions 7%

14)   Golf 6%

15)   Biking 4%

16)   Gardens 4%

17)   Nature travel/ecotouring 4%

18)   Bird watching 4%

Overnight coastal tourist are going to the beach and visiting family and friends. They go shopping, go to church and eat seafood! It’s not hard to figure out when you consider that the second largest festival in the state is the North Carolina Seafood Festival which attracts over 200,000 people over a 3 day weekend. What do tourist do at the festival? Gather their friends and family together, buy stuff and eat seafood!

Seafood is a tourist attraction. Unfortunately HB 983 will replace fresh, locally caught seafood with imported fish. Yep-It’s written right into the bill. Aquaculture is written in there too. Which do you think would make a better ad campaign to attract tourist? A scene of freshly caught fish on the dock of a working North Carolina waterfront or a picture of the health and sanitation inspector examining imported fish that are sitting in a container ship?

We’ve all heard of junk science. Now we are facing junk economics being presented by the CCA in the North Carolina Legislature. Act now North Carolina or forever lose your right to fresh, locally caught seafood. Just Say NO to HB 983!

Bill Hitchcock

 

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