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Commercial fishing advocates speak out against bill to reclassify some fish

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TWC News: Commercial fishing advocates speak out against bill to reclassify some fish
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CARTERET COUNTY, N.C. — Commercial fishing advocates are voicing strong opposition to the 2013 Fisheries Economic Development Act.

It would designate Red Drum, Spotted Sea Trout, and Striped Bass as coastal game fish. The bill also provides funds for dredging and the Marine Fisheries Observer Programs. Proponents of the game fish portion say it's a necessary, economic allocation.

"Our public trust resources in salt water need to be allocated to the user group that is going to provide North Carolina with the highest total return and that's exactly what game fish does," said Chuck Laughridge with the Coastal Conservation Association.

Those against it, like Sean Mckeon, President of the NC Fisheries Association, say other important issues were attached to it as leverage to get it passed.

"These are two things that are really needed and they have put [in it] what I would call a poison pill. If you want to have the things you really need, you're gonna have to swallow game fish," said Mckeon.

Data from the Division of Marine Fisheries says in 2010, harvesting of these fish by commercial fisherman made a $3 million economic impact for the state. That same year, harvesting of the fish by recreational fisherman netted more than $93 million dollars for North Carolina.

"The economics just does not justify taking anything away from anyone," said Mckeon.

Despite their own numbers, even the Division of Marine Fisheries is expressing concern. In a statement, an official said:

The greatest issue is that we believe the action is contrary to the N.C. Fisheries Reform Act...designating game fish status for any coastal species is a departure from this policy, giving the recreational sector preference over the commercial sector.
 
The bill was just introduced last week and has been referred to the committee on commerce and job development.

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