First family of fishing

North Carolina’s Daniels family has spawned four fishing
generations but say the good days are gone

By Maureen Donald

Henry and Joyce Daniels have been married for 59 years — to each other and to North Carolina’s commercial fishing community. The Daniels family, based in Belhaven, has made its living fishing for four generations. Unfortunately, there won’t be a fifth generation, according to patriarch Henry Daniels. The reason, he says, is a toxic combination of government involvement, coastal development and inaccurate fishery management...

“The industry is overregulated to the point of collapse, and there’s little we can do about it,” Henry says. “Add to that ever-increasing waterfront development and you create a very unfriendly environment for the commercial industry.” “Bottom line is the government is trying to put us out of business.”

"She lives up to her name. Joyce has been by my side since 1957, and her namesake has done us both proud."

- Henry Daniels

According to Jerry Schill, president of the North Carolina Fisheries Association, the Danielses speak from an experienced point of view. “Over the years Henry and Joyce Daniels have been a steady and important influence on the work of NCFA,” Schill says. “Most of that influence has been their personal involvement with Henry being very active as a member of our board of directors and attending a very large number of regulatory meetings, and Joyce as a member of the former Pamlico Auxiliary.”

Schill points out that Henry’s involvement has extended into research. “When he was running his boat, he participated in cooperative research projects with Sea Grant,” Schill says.

“We have always held the belief that the world is run by those who show up,” Schill says. “Henry and Joyce have shown up and been willing to walk the walk, while others just talk.” But for all their involvement, the Danielses fear the commercial fishing industry in North Carolina has little time left.

They aren’t alone. After years of watching the government cut the amount of fish they can catch and watching their incomes shrink, many fear they could be on the brink of extinction. According to Henry, fishery managers continue to...


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