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April 20, 2011

Dollars make sense in N.C. gamefish battle

A study makes a compelling case for legislative measures

On the heels of last winter's debacle that left hundreds of striped bass discarded dead by commercial trawlers, the Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina has released a major economic study  in support of H.B. 353, which would provide gamefish status for stripers, redfish and speckled trout.

The white paper, entitled "Comparison of the Economic Impact of the Striped Bass, Red Drum and Speckled Trout Fisheries by Sector in North Carolina" illustrates that the economic impact of the recreational fishery for those three species dwarfs the economic contribution  of the commercial sector.  The study makes a compelling case for legislative measures that protect the species and the recreational fishery.

The study by Gentner Consulting Group,  using the most optimistic commercial figures from the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries and the most conservative numbers for recreational fishing,  shows the overwhelming economic power of recreational angling. Recreational spending across all three species totals $81 million in the state, and supports $120.8 million in total sales, $38.5 million in income and 1,536 jobs. Recreational fishing for striped bass alone generates more economic activity ($12.1 million in expenditures) than commercial fishing does for all three species combined.

"For the first time ever, we have an opportunity in this state to take an objective look at how we can best use our marine resources, and economics should be a key factor in that determination," said CCA NC President, Jim Hardin. "Using an extremely conservative evaluation of the state's own economic data, this assessment shows clearly that recreational angling is a far greater economic engine for North Carolina than commercial fishing. And that engine will rev even higher with the passage of H.B. 353."

H.B. 353,  introduced last month,  and has been under attack by commercial fishing interests as a threat to their communities. Gentner's analysis demonstrates that the benefits to North Carolina  of gamefish status for striped bass, red drum and speckled trout far outweigh the status quo management of these species for the profit of a few individuals.

The Gentner report is available  at www.joincca.org