A bill designating gamefish status for red drum, speckled trout and striped bass has been filed in the North Carolina House of Representatives. House Bill 353, introduced on behalf of Coastal Conservation Association North Carolina and sponsored by Representatives Darrell McCormick (R - Iredell, Surry, Yadkin), Rick Glazier (D - Cumberland), Dan Ingle (R - Alamance), and Ruth Samuelson (R - Mecklenburg) prohibits the sale of these species and requires they be taken only with hook and line.
CCA NC has tried for years to make sure these important species, which comprise less than two percent of the state's commercial harvest, were managed properly. The continued decline in the spotted sea trout stock, the directed commercial harvest of red drum, as well as the inability of the Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) to address wasteful commercial fishing practices of striped bass - which became gruesomely apparent this past February - figured highly in the decision to introduce this bill.
"We had no choice but to seek relief from the N.C. General Assembly," said Greg Hurt, Government Chair of CCA NC. "We tried repeatedly to have the MFC address these issues and they abjectly refused any conservation measure proposed."
Economics are also a strong impetus for gamefish status. The financial benefits to the state through licensing, travel, lodging, and tackle and equipment is some 150 times that of the commercial fishing impact.
"It's time the state recognized the overwhelming economic contribution recreational saltwater fishing makes to coastal communities," said Jay Dail, Chairman of CCA NC. "Managed properly, our fishery in N.C. would bring much needed relief, in the way of jobs and tourism, benefiting local businesses along our coast."
HB 353 would also compensate commercial fishermen for specific losses resulting from this legislation.
"The designation of these species as gamefish will have a positive impact on the resources and maximize the economic benefit to the people of North Carolina. We do feel it is important to mitigate the financial impact this bill could have on some in the commercial sector." said CCA NC president Jim Hardin.