Jes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and NationalFisherman.com.
Thursday, 05 January 2012
Today in Raleigh, N.C., the state Assembly's Marine Fisheries Legislative Study Committee held its first public hearing session on a proposal to designate red drum, spotted seatrout and striped bass as gamefish.
The committee is the result of widespread opposition to a bill that attempted to make these fish off limits not only to commercial fishing but to any sale or barter.
So what does that mean? It means the Coastal Conservation Association-backed initiative would take these three species out of public hands and make them the sole property of the very small percentage of people who own and use recreational fishing licenses in North Carolina.
This ought not be an opportunity to pit commercial against sport fishermen. There's a large overlap between these two groups, because commercial fishermen tend to enjoy fishing of all kinds. There are cultural and economic benefits to recreational fishing businesses, as there are with commercial fishing businesses. Furthermore, I don't believe dividing fishing interests is how we get things accomplished in fishery management. We have to come to the table together instead of fighting over individual species as if they're the last scrap of protein on the supper table.
Commercial fishermen sell and barter their catch to the general public. This bill would make it illegal to do anything with these three fish except catch them yourself. That would perpetuate a dangerous idea of putting our natural resources into the hands of a few privileged people.
What would the public say if gas station owners united in a quest to sell their fuel only to a small portion of the public who owned licenses to fill up their tanks?
The CCA is publicly urging its members to fill the room for the four scheduled meetings of this committee and tout the economic benefits of recreational fishing. But this is not just about economics. It's about the culture of fishing in this country. How do we want to manage our public resources? Do we want to reserve them for a privileged few, or do we want to continue to allow our fisheries to be enjoyed equally on the public table as well as by the private sector?
I urge any member of the public to attend any of these meetings and stand for the right of any American to catch, buy or sell fish. The first takes place today and the next three are on Feb. 2, March 1 and April 5. All four meetings run from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Room 643 of the Legislative Office Building in Raleigh.
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