Dear Honorable North Carolina Legislator,
I am writing you in opposition to House Bill 353. This Bill proposes to designate three species of finfish: Striped Bass, Red Drum and Speckled Trout, as “game fish” and as such will only be available to one sector of the population wealthy enough to afford it, leaving the majority of North Carolinians, the consumer, without access to this valuable public resource. All three of these species are heavily regulated by the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries to maintain a healthy population while allowing access by all.
It is ironic that Bill 353 has been sent to Committee on Commerce & Job Development Subcommittee on Business & Labor, a bill that will eliminate good-paying jobs and injure small business in an area of limited opportunities. This bill will not create any more jobs past the current trend; it is hard to imagine how the passage of this Bill could be spun as any sort of economic boost, especially in light of current economic trends.
Many businesses depend on the very species this Bill is designed to take away. Restaurants (white tablecloth to Mom and Pop Fishcamps,) fish markets, fish houses, retail markets, consumers, tourism-based businesses, to the whole industry that supports the fishermen themselves such as boat builders, mechanics, net makers, twine companies and the list goes on.
New markets and demand for fresh and local foods of all types are booming, particularly in the Triangle and Triad areas of the state. A new effort to get seafood directly to consumers called Community Supported Fisheries (CSFs) have waiting lists of North Carolinians who want fresh, local seafood and there are four grassroots seafood marketing efforts: Brunswick Catch, Carteret Catch, Ocracoke Fresh and Outer Banks Catch that are successfully connecting seafood to the consumer. American consumers are eating more seafood than ever before. Studies show when given a choice, ninety-four percent of consumers prefer local seafood to imports and want to support fishing communities (NC Sea Grant.) Stripes Bass, Red Drum and Speckled Trout are at the top of the list of the most desirable seafood for the table.
In closing, I would urge you to vote against HB 353 in consideration of the North Carolina Seafood Industry. Fishing communities are an important part of North Carolina culture, heritage and identity that no amount of reparations will recover. Please don’t allow this healthy, viable public resource to be taken away.
Thank you for your time and consideration.