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February 10, 2011

CCA North Carolina seeks end to trawling

Striped bass kills highlight need to end destructive fishing practices

PINE KNOLLS SHORES, NC - In response to a rash of massive striped bass kills along the coast, CCA North Carolina will request the NC Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) to eliminate trawling of any kind as a permissible fishing gear for striped bass. The incidents, photographed and videotaped by recreational anglers in the area, were the result of commercial trawling operations in state waters and have prompted outrage up and down the East Coast. CCA North Carolina will request decisive action at the MFC meeting in Pine Knolls, Feb. 10-11.

"The MFC has an obligation to responsibly manage these resources," said Jay Dail, Chairman of the CCA NC. "Allowing a fishery to dump thousands of dead stripers over the side as a regular course of doing business is not responsible management. At the very least, the Commission should immediately outlaw the use of indiscriminate, highly destructive trawls in state waters in favor of more selective gear."

In response to the first of the striped bass kills on Jan. 21, the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries implemented regulatory changes to address discards of striped bass in the commercial trawl fishery. The Division replaced the previous 50-fish-per-day commercial trip limit with a 2,000-pound-per-day trip limit. The action was intended to allow the commercial industry to keep fishing while avoiding regulatory discards. The plan failed as another fish kill event, complete with trails of dead, floating bass, were again witnessed and recorded.

CCA North Carolina will request the MFC to establish a commercial hook-and-line only fishery for striped bass, a far more selective gear that will prevent the tragic waste of striped bass common to trawls.

Sadly, the NC Fisheries Association's response to the recent fish kills wasn't about the unwanted loss of striped bass, but one of location, "The federal government obstinately refuses to allow an increase on commercial quota or any percentage rollover, and the EEZ is still closed. These boats wouldn't be anywhere near these recreational boats who were taking all the videos if they didn't have to stay within three miles." stated its director.

"This isn't a question of 'getting away with it.' It's about a flagrant waste of a public resource. On top of that, the economic hit of denying those fish to recreational anglers should be a significant concern to the state," said Jim Hardin, President of CCA NC.   In 2000, a study by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science indicated Virginia stood to generate about $181 million if the state allocated 100 percent of the striped bass to the recreational sector. Allocating 100 percent of that state's stripers to the commercial industry would generate about $24 million. "Allowing this kind of destructive fishing practice to continue off our coast does not make sense at any level. It has to stop and we expect the MFC to take appropriate, effective action."