Fishing guides protest Marine Fisheries Commission policies

Published: Mar. 7, 2022 at 8:47 PM EST
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - More than 50 recreational fishermen gathered outside the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries building Monday morning, protesting decisions made by the commission.

The demonstrators have a list of demands they want to see the commission address.

“The public has reached their breaking point, enough is enough!” fishing guide Allen Jernigan said.

Protestors are asking the commission to address practices they feel are unfair.

“You’re still going to allow the commercial harvest with bad gear, but you tell a man he can’t keep one with a rod and reel. I mean, something’s got to change, that ain’t right,” Jernigan said.

According to the division, 70% of allowable southern flounder harvest is for commercial use, while 30% is for recreational.

“Back in March, they decided to gradually equalize the split between recreational and commercial fisheries for over the years. Then in this past meeting, they decided to delay for two years doing that gradual split,” Patricia Smith, NC Division of Marine Fisheries spokesperson said.

That decision is keeping fishing guides like Allen Cain in a tough place.

“Most of my business is catch and release, but every now and then, you have people that want to take a fish home, and it’s very frustrating that they’re not allowed to catch and keep that flounder, yet they can go buy the flounder that a commercial netter or commercial fisherman has already caught,” Cain said.

North Carolina also allows the commercial use of large mesh gill netting, which many believe brings about its own problems.

“We’re one of the few states that allow commercial gill netting of our fishery which kills indiscriminately, not just the targeted species but many other fish, as well as sea turtles, birdlife mammals like dolphins, and it just really hurts our fishery in the long run,” Cain said.

Protestors feel the division should address that too, but as Smith said, gill netting is heavily regulated.

According to Smith, the allocation will go up to 60% commercial and 40% recreational in 2025, then 50/50 in 2026, which some say still does not favor the recreational fishing industry enough.

Jernigan said he believes the movement will grow and protestors are looking to plan more demonstrations.

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