North Carolina sets rules for defining ‘commercial fisherman’

Proposed guidelines would require fishing days, income minimums

Defining the title “commercial fisherman” may sound simple, but the task seems anything but for North Carolina fisheries officials.

A special three-person committee met Jan. 11 in Morehead City, N.C., to formulate guidelines defining a commercial fisherman. 2017 data from the state’s Division of Marine Fisheries showed that nearly 3,000 licensed fishermen sold seafood to dealers totaling just shy of 60 million pounds worth $94 million. Roughly 4,000 others bought licenses without selling a catch to a seafood dealer.

“They’re going around the bag limits,” said Sammy Corbett, chairman of the Marine Fisheries Commission and member of the three-person committee proposing new guidelines. “It’s such a crazy issue.”

Approved at the meeting were three main guidelines to define a commercial fisherman: 50 percent earned income from fishing, three dozen trip tickets per year or proof of $10,000 income from a commercial operation for crew members. The missing key point is whether the guidelines are connected with an “and” or “or.”

Two additional guidelines suggested that inactive licenses that don’t meet the main criteria for three years will go into a special pool, and that the licenses may be reissued to owners one time after they prove a commitment to the approved criteria.

Heritage licenses can be maintained but not used for a $100 fee per year and can be activated one time to a family member. Or, the license can be permanently retired for a one time fee of $100.

Glenn Skinner, executive director of the North Carolina Fisheries Association, believes the effort is a ploy to further restrict commercial fishing.

“It’s simply wrong to restrict who can and can’t get a commercial license,” said Skinner. “I believe it goes against the Constitution. I don’t believe they have the right to determine how often somebody goes out.”

Results from the Jan. 11 meeting will be taken back to the full commission in February to be discussed further.

“Nothing here is etched in stone,” said Corbett.

About the author

Maureen Donald is a freelance correspondent for National Fisherman.

  • John Dapper

    Except for a few big guys, most fishermen don’t make a lot of money. Coming from the old days, when you could fish year round for something, I don’t see how many make it today. I know some of the smaller outfits sell direct to restaurants or at fish stands. And some sit out bad seasons. More license restrictions will lead to fewer big fishing companies. Small guys can’t afford buying a limited entry license.
    Unless the 3 people deciding this are fishermen, it’s just going to be another government mess. Fewer fishermen, fewer boats, fewer boatyards and gear stores, fewer mechanics and so on…

    Then the whole area will be declared a disaster area so the government can build new docks and facilities for the few big guys left. Sound familiar?

  • Myron Smith

    Only 3 non- Commercial Fishing Members of the Commission voted for changing Licenses. Commission had made decision to have licenses Rules remain 2 times in past. NC Fisheries is controlled by the CCA, Coastal Conservation Association which conserves NO Fisheries, sports Fishermen in their Yachts. CCA = WALTER W. FONDREN III, owner of MOBILE EXON IN TEXAS. Florida has no COMMERCIAL FISHERIES, WALTER FONDREN PERSUADED FLORIDA NO COMMERCIAL FISHING IN coastal waters. Louisiana Commercial Fishermen and Restaurants kicked Fondren and CCA out. God Bless the Cajuns. Allabama kicked CCA out also. More regulations by CCA members of NC Marine Fisheries Commissions.

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