Recent comments circulated by Mr. Dean Phillips to members of the N.C. General Assembly and others have many inaccuracies and omissions that make it appear that by opposing game fish status for spotted seatrout the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) has neglected its duty to preserve the fishery resource. Nothing could be further from the truth.
On May 13, 2009, I spoke before the House Standing Committee on Marine Resources and Aquaculture in opposition to a bill (H918) to designate red drum and spotted seatrout as game fish in
Based on the FRA, the DMF and our Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) manage the state’s resources for the benefit of all user groups that include recreational and commercial fishermen of all types. Designating any coastal species as a gamefish would be contrary to the FRA by giving the recreational sector sole access to this resource and prohibiting the harvest or sale by the commercial sector. The DMF and MFC also concurred that we could not support such a bill that we felt bypassed the stakeholder process mandated in the FRA. These concerns were openly discussed with Mr. Phillips and his organization on several occasions before H918 was introduced. Mr. Phillips failed to mention this entire argument in his circulated comments, though it was stated as the DMF’s greatest concern with the bill.
Since spring 2009 the DMF has worked with the MFC and an advisory committee to develop a Spotted Seatrout Fishery Management Plan consistent with the FRA. This plan recommends management measures to achieve harvest reduction in both the recreational and commercial fisheries to bring about recovery of the species. An increase in the minimum size limit for spotted seatrout has already been put into place by proclamation.
The DMF did have additional concerns with the legislation. Unfortunately Mr. Phillips misquotes those concerns to the point of changing their meaning. For instance, Mr. Phillips quotes me as saying, “There is no biological or scientific reason that speckled trout should be given game fish protection.” What I said was, “There is no biological evidence that declaring red drum and spotted sea trout game fish will achieve sustainable harvest.” While they may seem similar, there is a big difference between the two statements.
There is a biological reason for reduction in harvest with any overfished species, whether that reduction comes from the commercial or recreational sectors. But there is no biological evidence that prohibiting commercial harvest of spotted seatrout will solve the overfishing problem with a species in which 70 percent of the harvest is taken by the recreational fishermen.
Mr. Phillips also misrepresents the tone of my presentation to the legislative committee. I would not characterize my statements as a “glowing report of the
Mr. Phillips also claims that I “conveniently omitted” a large difference in the number of licensed fishermen in
“Even with five times as many saltwater recreational anglers pursuing the Speckled Trout, NC only caught a mere few thousand pounds more than SC anglers did during the time frame that the director mentioned. That means that per angler, SC is catching almost five times as much speckled trout per angler than NC is.
For some reason, this wasn't pointed out to the committee that day. Why wasn't it?
This fact proves that the Speckled Trout fishing in SC is five times better than it is here in NC.”
Regardless, comparing the number of licenses to the landings of spotted seatrout is an invalid method to provide a meaningful comparison of the quality of the fisheries in North and
When analyzed appropriately,
In conclusion, we would be happy to sit down with Mr. Phillips and his organization, the Coastal Fisheries Reform Group, and help them construct their analyses or review what they have done to make certain it is factually correct. It is unfortunate that Mr. Phillips has accused the DMF in such a way that we must publicly point out these discrepancies in the record and his analysis. I welcome them to call me anytime that they would like information on any fisheries issue in an effort to prevent these problems from occurring in the future.