Why Do NC Fishermen Want To Pay More To Fund Regulation?

Feb 28, 2014

The US Fish and Wildlife service requires that North Carolina pay observers to check commercial fishing gillnets and make sure they don't entangle endangered sea turtles.
Credit Pedro Ramirez, Jr. / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A trade group of North Carolina commercial fishermen has proposed that the General Assembly raise their fishing license fees to pay for regulatory measures.

Flounder fishermen sometimes get endangered sea turtles caught in their gillnets, so federal law requires that the state hire trained "observers" to check nets regularly. The General Assembly only funded the observer program until next summer, but if there's no observer at all, the state will be required to stop all gillnet fishing.

Jerry Schill of the NC Fisheries Association said the group now wants the state to double the cost of commercial fishing licenses to $400 per year. He said it's "bittersweet" for the fishermen.

“There will be some that are absolutely opposed to it. Some of them that were involved with this process sitting around the table after hours of discussion that don't like it, but know that it has to be done,” Schill said. “Somebody has to pay for these observers if the fishery is to continue.”

The upside of the proposal is that the new revenue would be put in a fund controlled by the Marine Fisheries Commission, so fishermen would have a say in how the money is spent.