HB867 Highlights Delicate Balance Between Sustaining Fish Populations and Conserving Stocks

May 5, 2017

It seems like a no-brainer: Both recreational and commercial fishermen want a lot of fish.  But how they balance and protect that resource – that’s where the problems arise.  House Bill 867, which was filed in the North Carolina General Assembly last month, would shift the NC Marine Fisheries Commission’s focus from sustaining populations to conserving stock.

The North Carolina Fisheries Association, which represents commercial fishermen, is lobbying against HB867 because they see it as placing too much unchecked power in the hands of the Commission.  But the Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina, which represents recreational fishermen, says the move would benefit all user groups by promoting abundance.

B.J. Copeland is a former member of the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission, and was involved in the passage of the 1997 Fisheries Reform Act.  On a recent CoastLine episode, he boiled down the divide between the two groups:

B.J. Copeland: "What recreational fisherman want is big fish and what commercial fishermen want are a lot of fish."

Those two things might not be compatible, according to Copeland, because fishing down too many big fish leads to fewer small ones.  Older, larger spawning stock produce more eggs with higher survival rates, and that helps sustain the overall population.