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Fwd: NC Fisheries Management Continues to Amaze...
CALL TO ACTION
If we had not been present at last week's MFC meeting we would not have believed the turn of events that took place. On Thursday morning, DENR Secretary van der Vaart received a letter signed by 13 senators and representatives asking the Secretary "to rescind immediately the MFC's existing authority to supplement the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan." The Secretary deemed these 13 legislators as representative of "ample concern within both houses of the North Carolina General Assembly" to have one of the Department attorneys deliver his letter to the MFC meeting on Thursday asking the MFC to postpone the vote on adopting a supplement to the Southern flounder FMP presumably to give the newly appointed Commissioners "the necessary time to achieve an informed vote."
But in an even more bizarre turn of events, Representative Steinburg made an unscheduled appearance before the Commission to issue a thinly veiled threat that "you could be voting on an issue tomorrow as it relates to the banning of gill nets and so forth" and "if any decision that's made is interpreted as not being fair, you will likely be dealing with the legislature moving forward."
Rep. Steinburg from Edenton was one of the 13 legislators that signed the letter asking the Secretary to rescind the supplement authority. The others were Sen. Bill Cook, Sen. Brent Jackson, Sen. Bill Rabon, Sen. Norm Sanderson, Sen. Jerry Tillman, Rep. George Cleveland, Rep. Frank Iler, Rep. Pat McElraft, Rep. Chris Millis, Rep. Phil Shepard, Rep. Michael Speciale, and Rep. Paul Tine. All represent coastal counties with the exception of Sen. Jackson.
The supplement process has been publicly transparent, allowing ample public input, through both oral and written comments. During this comment period the Division received 986 email comments, 260 letters, and 3,976 petition signatures. Only 45 comments out of 5,222 opposed significantly reducing the Southern flounder catch. That is less that 1% of the comments that did not support strong protection of the resource.
CCA-NC fully supports the MFC's efforts to seek a supplement to the Southern flounder FMP to finally end overfishing and allow the stock to begin to recover. In all of the years that CCA NC has been working with the MFC on fisheries management issues, no one has ever seen this type of legislative move to influence a Commission of the executive branch. There was overwhelming public support in favor of efforts to reduce commercial harvest of Southern flounder by raising the minimum size limit to 15 inches, implementing a Total Allowable Catch limit for commercial harvest, the prohibition of large-mesh gill nets and no further reductions to the recreational limits.
The MFC was told by the Secretary of DENR and 13 state legislators that it is not a matter of whether the public agrees with the need to protect a depleted fishery from continued overfishing, it is more important to continue to allow a very small sector of the commercial fishing industry to profit from a shrinking public trust resource. The citizens of North Carolina that have spoken up in support of the supplement process should be very upset with their representatives, and they should let them know. The Governor's office should also be very upset with the legislators that are seeking to circumvent the executive power of the MFC commissioners that were appointed as fisheries managers by the Governor.
We are asking all concerned citizens to contact their legislators and express their concern. Please click on the following link to our Action Center for a sample message that we encourage you to edit in your own words and use to send a personal message to your representatives: