Salt-water fishing licenses fund activities

Grants totaling $2.43 million from Marine Resources Fund focus on people, fish, habitat

CorrespondentJanuary 31, 2013 

Funds from salt-water fishing licenses the state began selling in 2007 continue to provide millions of dollars of grants for activities that otherwise would be getting by with less.

Or might not exist at all.

The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission and the N.C. Wildlife Resources recently announced 20 grants for 2013 totaling $2.43 million from the N.C. Marine Resources Fund, which benefits from the sale of the Coastal Recreational Fishing Licenses.

Five grants totaling $1,210,333 went into the “people focus” area, five totaling $479,825 into the “fish focus” area and 10 totaling $743,277 into the “habitat focus” area.

The commission sold 415,310 licenses in 2012, according to Patricia Smith, who has been its public information officer in Morehead City for six years. The commission said yes to 20 of the 34 applications.

“This is a competitive grant program where they apply and go through a review process and the wildlife resources and marine fisheries commissions decide who gets them,” said Beth Govoni, the commissions’ new grant coordinator, who was formerly at the Duke University marine lab in Beaufort, the executive officer for the research facility at Cape Hatteras.

“The grants come from the marine resources fund. Money from the lifetime licenses ($186,000 from 1992) goes into the endowment fund. The decision was made at the beginning to let that fund add up and get bigger.”

People focus grants

In the “people focus” area, $650,000 went to the Wildlife Commission for a Jacksonville boating access area, and $333,333 to the Town of Vandemere for a waterfront park initiative. Also, $120,000 went to the Marine Fisheries’ enhanced artificial reef web page and $76,000 to the Marine Fisheries’ Angler’s Guide and $30,000 to its Recreational Fishing Digest.

“The website is not just going to mirror the printed material,” said Jim Francesconi, webmaster who will direct the work on the artificial reef page. “It’s going to hopefully get to the point where we can add things to it. It’s going to be accessible on iPhones and computers, so even if you’re out in the field, you can electronically access our information on the reefs.”

He said the project will eventually produce five sets of waterproof maps encompassing the state’s entire coastal area, with links for printing out digitized versions of reefs allowing for changes to be made as changes occur in the reefs.

Fish focus grants

The “fish focus” grants include $273,644 to the Marine Fisheries’ assessment of critical habitat of anadromous fishes using telemetry techniques; $116,646 to its program assessing the mortality and movements of weakfish tagged in the state; $36,035 for its mark recapture study of Cape Fear striped bass; and $12,000 to its red drum cooperative tagging program. Also, $41,500 to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association’s Beaufort Bridgenet survey.

Habitat focus grants

Eight of the “habitat focus” grants went to the UNC Chapel Hill Institute of Marine Science. The largest, $143,742, went to FerryMon, the state department of transportation-based automated monitoring of water quality in the Pamlico Sound. Also, $111,988 to investigate salinity fluxes on natural and restored habitat bottom; and $105,754 to study the effects of landscape setting on the function of seagrass meadows.

The institute was also awarded $97,368 to compare the use of nominated strategic and nonstrategic habitat areas coastal marsh habitats; $96,324 to study trends in fish utilization of low vs. high relief; $72,415 to develop a comprehensive salinity database; $50,121 to “There’s something fishy about salt marsh, oyster reef and seagrass habitat,” and $30,365 to incorporate stakeholder knowledge of the status and value of coastal habitats.

“Our faculty gets grant money from a large variety of sources – the federal government through the National Science Foundation, and so forth – and has gotten money from different programs from other sources from the state and also from the private sector,” said Dr. Rick Luettich, director and professor at the Institute, who said the faculty has about 75 active grants worth around $25 million.

“But the individual work done on each of these grants – it’s a critical amount of money. It really helps address the particular issues addressed in each grant. … We can get money for hard science, but often times it’s difficult to get money to communicate it directly to the public.”

Also, $32,000 went to the Marine Fisheries’ oyster shell recycling program and $3,200 to the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program.

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