Saltwater fishermen pulled their boats around the Legislative Building in downtown Raleigh on Tuesday to draw attention to a stalled conservation bill.
House Bill 867 is aimed at ensuring protection for what recreational anglers say are declining numbers of fish on the North Carolina coast. It would set standards for conservation and fisheries management based on scientific data, while ensuring that a “reasonable” amount of fish can be caught each year and requiring state environmental regulators to assess whether overfishing has occurred.
The bipartisan bill hasn’t been heard in any committee since it was filed in April.
The anglers issued a statement saying that a recreational fisherman from Greenville organized the parade of about two dozen boats after his friends wanted to do something to move the bill forward.
“It is time for sportsmen to speak up and demand a vote on HB 867,” Joe Albea, the fisherman, said in the statement. “It’s time for the legislators to see that the people are tired of them spending our fish and saving none of it for the future.”
A coalition of conservationists, marine manufacturers and retailers have formed N.C. Sound Economy to push for science-based policy decisions on fisheries management, according to member Bert Owens of Beaufort.
Owens stressed that the campaign is not meant to pit recreational fishermen against commercial fishermen, although there has been a pitched battle between the two interests for years.
The General Assembly is not expected to remain in session for much longer after passing a budget this week.