Fishing

Changes in commercial fishing licenses to be discussed at Feb. 14 meeting

Patty Johnson Plyer, Ocracoke Fish House

Patty Johnson Plyer, manager of the Ocracoke Fish House, holds up local catch. Fish available for purchase by the public and at restaurants could be severely impacted if new recommendations by the Marine Fisheries Commission as to who can be a commercial fisherman are approved. Photo by Peter Vankevich

MOREHEAD CITY – The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission will hear public comments on a recommendation to change commercial fishing licensing rules at 6 p.m. during their Feb. 14 meeting in the Blockade Runner, 275 Waynick Blvd., Wrightsville Beach.

The deadline for the commission to receive comments, either via email or regular mail, is this Friday, Feb. 9. 

Comments can be submitted to CommercialLicensesComments@ncdenr.gov or to:
Commercial Licenses Comments
N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries
Marine Fisheries Commission Office
P.O. Box 769, Morehead City, N.C. 28557

The move to redefine who can purchase a standard commercial license has caused a stir among Ocracoke fishermen principally because most fishermen with commercial licenses would not meet the proposed new criteria.  That’s because, as with most workers on Ocracoke, many fishermen have other jobs.

Only a handful of fishermen here would meet the proposed new criteria, said Ernest Doshier, a local charter boat captain and member of the North Carolina Watermen United (NCWU), which sent a letter Feb. 1 unanimously opposing the rule changes.

According to the NCWU letter, among the five the proposed changes for commercial fishing licenses:

  • Must have at least $10,000 in annual sales
  • Must have at least 50 percent of earned income from commercial sales
  • Must have at least 36 trip tickets per year.

 “If the NC Marine Fisheries Commission approves these recommendations at the February meeting, and the General Assembly in Raleigh approves them, the impacts on coastal communities will be profound,”  the letter says. “The commercial fisherman must meet all of these criteria or will not be allowed to renew his/her license.”

Bait shops and fish houses will lose, the letter says, along with those on the coast who struggle to have enough income.

“Nothing here is etched in stone,” said commission Chairman Sammy Corbett in a Jan. 12 press release.

While the meeting will be held on Feb. 14 and 15, Feb. 14 is the only day for public comment at 6 p.m. The chairman will allow each speaker to comment on any fisheries-related topic for up to three minutes. No other public comment period is slated for this meeting.  

Those making comments may provide handouts to the commission and should bring at least 12 copies.

The Feb. 14 meeting will begin at 2 p.m. and the Feb. 15 meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m.

The meeting agenda includes the following:

  • Voting on committee recommended changes to eligibility requirements for commercial fishing licenses (any changes will require legislative approval);
  • A report on a Southeast Regional Southern Flounder stock assessment;
  • A presentation on potential solutions to address shellfish lease conflicts; and
  • An update on analysis and recommendations for the striped mullet fishery.

A meeting agenda and briefing book materials can be found here.

The public may listen to the meeting on the Internet.   Up to 200 participants may listen to audio and view presentations in real-time on a first-come, first-served basis.  Directions for participating in the webcast, including information on system requirements and testing, can be found here.

Following the meeting, an audio recording will be posted online as will comments, said Nancy Fish of the commission office. For more information, contact Fish at 252-808-8021, or Nancy.Fish@ncdenr.gov.

Commentary on the Outer Banks Voice on the situation can be read here and here.

The NCWU letter is below.