04/10/09 — OUTDOORS - Bill 918 set to designate coastal game fish

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OUTDOORS - Bill 918 set to designate coastal game fish

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on April 10, 2009 1:46 PM

RALEIGH -- Two popular fish species along the North Carolina coast may be granted a reprieve from commercial fishing thanks to a new bill filed in the state House of Representatives this week.

Bill H918, entitled "Designation of Coastal Game Fish," was brought before the house by Rep. Paul Luebke (Durham) and Rep. Carolyn Justice (New Hanover). The bill is designed to end any sales of Red Drum or Speckled Sea Trout.

Avid coastal angler and Goldsboro native Ray Brown believes that fishermen interested in the management of the Red Drum and Speckled Trout fisheries should be aware of the current legislation.

"I encourage people to read the bill itself and draw their own conclusions," said Brown. "My personal opinion is that this bill is a good thing for two of our state's most-popular recreational species."

A full copy of the bill is available for review via the General Assembly's Web site.

The bill would make hook and line the only legal means of catching a Red Drum or Speckled Trout, and thus would remove gill nets as part of the Marine Fisheries Commission's conservation plan.

The Commission would be charged with the task of adopting any necessary rules to implement the bill. Also, the Commission would be responsible for making payments to commercial fishermen who's business practices are hurt by the legislation.

Commercial fishermen will be paid the average of their Speckled Trout and Red Drum sales over the last three years each summer until 2012. Additional compensation will be awarded in 2010 for the gear cost associated with the bill.

Money for those commercial payments will be taken out of the North Carolina Marine Resources Fund.

For several years, the Tar Heel state has provided a disproportionate amount of Red Drum sold commercially in the United States. In 2007, exactly 273,452 pounds of Red Drum were sold nation wide. Nearly 250,000 pounds came from North Carolina waters.

Approximately half of all (wild-caught) Speckled Trout sales are the result of catches by Tar Heel fishermen. The reason for the large discrepancy is due to several gulf coast states such as Texas, Alabama and Florida closing of the species commercial status.

"Other warm-weather states already have similar regulations regarding these two fish," said Brown. "Through research, those states decided the most profitable way to manage the Red Drum and the Speckled Trout was as recreational fish."

The Coastal Conservation Association is one of several organizations supporting the bill. According to CCA statistics, Red Drum and Speckled Trout account for one percent of North Carolina's total commercial fishery.

Anglers in the News-Argus readership area can contact their local legislators to support or oppose the bill. Efton Sager can be reached at (919) 733-5755 or via email at Efton.Sager@ncleg.net. Van Braxton can be contacted by telephone at (919) 715-3017 or by email at Van.Braxton@ncleg.net. Larry Bell can be reached at (919) 733-5863 or by email at Larry.Bell@ncleg.net.