Coastal fish bill reels in opposition in Raleigh

Legislation would change designation of coastal fish

Coastal fish bill reels in opposition in Raleigh

RALEIGH, WAKE COUNTY - A bill that would change the designation of three types of coastal fish reeled in opposition at the state capital on Monday.

If passed, House Bill 983 would categorize red drums, spotted sea trout and striped bass as coastal game fish. This means the fish would not be allowed to be harvested commercially, only recreational fishermen would be allowed to catch the fish.

About 360 fishermen and restauranteurs went to the legislative building in Raleigh on Monday to express their concerns of the bill.

"You take three species, that's three less opportunities they have to make a paycheck," said Keith Bruno of Oriental, who owns a commercial fishing operation. "If they go out of business because they didn't make that paycheck - they're on the unemployment line, they're on food stamps, they're not productive members of society anymore."

Commercial fishermen also argued consumers would miss out on the opportunity to try these coastal fish.

But supporters of the bill said it will raise money for the state because recreational fishing is more profitable.

"I think it could be the best thing that has happened to the management of our fisheries in a long time," said Tim Hergenrader, a recreational fisherman.

The bill would also attempt to compensate the commercial fishermen who can prove they are experiencing monetary losses because of the change. In addition, the bill would increase coastal recreational fishing license fees, help fund dredging operations, and support the Marine Fisheries Observer Program.

The bill is in committee in the House and has not been voted on just yet.

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