Here on the Outer Banks, we are still waiting for the 2020 fishing season to get underway because of the effects of the COVID-19 virus. The fish are starting to migrate back with water temperatures starting to rise. Here on the Marauder we are ready to target Cobia as they make their way back up the coast. The Cobia fishery is very important to NC and VA because of its economic impact to Dare County and the towns along the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia. Several years ago, this fishery was under attack from federal agencies but a grassroots effort by a host of Cobia fishermen saved the fishery from being closed for that year. The fight continues and if it were not for a few dedicated anglers who sacrificed their time and money to travel up and down the coast to attend and make public comments, we would be facing extreme regulatory restrictions.
This brings me to the point that on the OBX and the Hampton Roads areas, we have numerous anglers clubs that were formed to promote fishing and share experiences in fishing. What we lack; however, is a dedicated fishing organization in the state of NC that truly represents Recreational Anglers and to lobby for this user group. What the Recreational Charter Industry and the Recreational Anglers need is an organization to be a watchdog in the legislature in Raleigh, as well as South Atlantic Marine Fisheries and NOAA meetings to make sure we are truly being represented. I know many of you reading this now are saying, “I want to fish and not have to deal with politics.” This really doesn’t mean you have to spend a great deal of time accomplishing this. It may be as simple as writing a letter or email to your elected officials. It may mean you need to attend a meeting and make a public comment. If we take a laissez faire attitude as an angling group and don’t fight for our rights to open access to these fisheries based on sound science, then regulatory agencies and special interest groups will push through their own agendas.
There is no better example of fisheries inequality than the NC Marine FIsheries Board. Here in Dare County, we sell more recreational licenses than any other county in the state. Add to that a large recreational charter boat fleet, five fishing piers and miles and miles of beaches for surf fishing. However on the NCDMF Board which has three recreational seats, none of them is from Dare County! All three seats are filled by recreational fishermen who reside in Kinston, Atlantic Beach and Wilmington. Not only is Dare County not being represented, but the board recently eliminated Dare County as a board meeting site. This means if we want to give public comments and attend these meetings, we will have to take the trek to southeastern NC. This is totally unfair, and we are being geographically discriminated against by not having representation from our area. You can rest assured the board is truly looking out for the stakeholders in the Morehead City and Wilmington areas, but not ours. The Governor and the Legislature needs to step in and make these seats not only industry and science designated, but also geographical so our county is truly being represented.
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