Dare County Board of Commissioners voted on Monday to adopt a resolution opposing a bill now in the General Assembly that, if passed and signed into law, will give striped bass – aka rockfish, Red Drum and spotted seatrout gamefish status and thus will make it illegal for commercial fishermen to land and sell the three species.
“By God, we are going in the wrong direction and doing so quickly,” said Commissioner Mike Johnson. “This is a travesty.”
His remarks were echoed by other board members who, like Johnson, were visibly angry at the attempt to remove the public-trust resource from the reach of the consumers and nonfishing public and add more burden to the beleaguered fishing industry.
In addition to the negative economic impact on the commercial fishing industry, such a law also would impact consumers, fish markets and restaurants, said area businesspeople.
“It would be devastating,” said Christina Brodeur of Carawan Seafood Co. in Kitty Hawk. “All the regulations already have been hurting seafood markets and commercial fishermen. Rockfish and Red Drum are two of our biggest sellers when they are in season.”
Ervin Bateman, owner of Sugar Shack Seafood Market and Sugar Creek Restaurant on the causeway in Nags Head, echoed Brodeur’s assessment.
“Flounder is our number-one fish at Sugar Creek and we already are having problems finding that, because the fishermen have been so limited as to what they can catch.”
Like Brodeur, Bateman described the economic impact to fishermen and their families, as well as other businesses, as “devastating.”
And, he said, the loss of income will come at a time when both local and state governments are wrestling with budget short-falls and falling property values.