North Carolina's seafood industry is in crisis

June 2, 2014 

Restrictions on commercial fishing in North Carolina are well-intentioned, aimed at preventing the “fishing out” of some varieties. But have they become too burdensome for fishermen just trying to make a living?

The fishermen, a News & Observer report noted, say they are. For example, there are limits on how many pounds of fish a fisherman can bring to the dock at a time, and if fishermen hit the annual quota on fish caught, the state shuts down the season. Add to that the effects of excessive rainfall on fishing and limits on what varieties of fish can be caught at different times of the year, and the fishermen say they simply have a hard time staying in business.

They have a self-interest in making this case, but the declining number of commercial fishermen is troubling.

This is not to say the state should repeal all fishing regulations. Overfishing in the commercial industry hurts the sports fishing industry. But limits, times of seasons and other regulations may be worth some revision given a 10-year low in the state’s seafood harvest.

That’s alarming because the seafood industry hasn’t just supported many thousands of families over the state’s history, it also has been a part of that history and a part of the romance of the fabled coast.

The decline of the industry is nothing to ignore. Here is an opportunity for Gov. Pat McCrory to try to rally a bipartisan study of fishing regulations with an eye toward finding ways to preserve an industry and a way of life worth protecting.

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