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One Mission, One Commission

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    Posted: 20 November 2019 at 6:25pm
Just received this from the NCWF.

RESOLUTION
Consolidation of the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries into the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to
Eliminate Redundancy and Improve Natural Resource Management Efficacy
 
WHEREAS, North Carolina is blessed with abundant, diverse, and valuable fish and wildlife resources that serve to enhance the quality and standard of life for all citizens, including the state's heritage, culture, human and ecosystem health, and economic well-being; and,
WHEREAS, existence of these resources places a solemn duty and responsibility on government to properly manage and protect public trust resources in the most effective and efficient way possible for the interest of the resource and on behalf of all the citizens of the state; and,
WHEREAS, efficiency and efficacy are critical aspects of any professional natural resource management program; and,
WHEREAS, the North Carolina Wildlife Federation was formed in 1945 on the premise that fish and wildlife conservation programs must be conducted and managed in a manner that prioritizes the resource and is representative of citizens who value, utilize, and enjoy these resources through outdoor recreational activities; and,
WHEREAS, the North Carolina Wildlife Federation was instrumental in the establishment of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission ("WRC") in 1947, whose purpose by Statute Article #143-239 is to "manage, restore, develop, cultivate, conserve, protect, and regulate the wildlife resources of the State of North Carolina"; and,
WHEREAS, historically, in a time of exceptional abundance of marine fishery stocks, the management of marine fishes was set aside to a separate agency, originally called the Office of Commercial Fisheries, to allocate harvests at maximum levels for commercial purposes with little regard for protecting breeding stocks to replenish future fisheries; and,
WHEREAS, over the past 25 years, the levels of marine fish stocks have diminished dramatically due to overharvest allowed by permissive regulations of the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission ("MFC") that have been inadequate to protect the stocks from overharvest; and,
WHEREAS, since the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries ("DMF") has never had adequate budgetary or policy support from its parent agency (currently the NC Department of Environmental Quality), the administration, or the General Assembly, the programs and plans offered to manage marine fisheries stocks have always been too little, too late, leading to the significant decline in marine fisheries experienced in North Carolina today; and,
WHEREAS, the missions of the WRC and DMF to protect and enhance the public trust natural resources and habitats of North Carolina are closely aligned but create areas  of  duplication, redundancy,uncertainty,and inefficiency as indicated by the partial list presented here:
  • Artificial, arbitrary and burdensome designation of coastal, joint, and inland waters on every coastal tributary with different jurisdictions, rules, and enforcement on each body of water without any obvious beneficial purpose, occupying significant personnel resources for the adoption of Joint Rules by each agency, the publication of hundreds of Rules in the NC Administrative Code.
  • Separate law enforcement divisions to enforce the rules for each type of fishing waters, which in effect mandate that the same fishes swimming back and forth have different protection depending upon where they may be at any given time and often the officers of each agency may be patrolling the same waters monitoring different activities such as commercial and recreational fishing that often result in multiple checks of the same individual.
  • Separate aerial units for WRC and DMF, each employing its own pilots and aircraft and separate communication systems and centers, and operators in different locations, often with duplicate radio repeaters on the same tower paying two rental fees, and duplicate recruitment and training programs for law enforcement officers.
  • Separate administrative functions for each agency including: purchasing, printing, personnel management, license sales and record keeping, legal representation and Rule making, warehousing, and storage of uniforms and other assigned gear for enforcement and fishery management purposes, virtual technologies for public awareness and access.
  • Separate governance by extensive boards of commissioners (WRC has 19 members and MFC has 9 members), which represents a large commitment of resources with no identifiable benefit other than political patronage, especially with regards to the MFC and the archaic, gubernatorial criteria of member appointments based on the economic segment of the industry they represent.
WHEREAS, a decision to consolidate the MFC and DMF with the WRC would increase effectiveness of the natural resource programs in North Carolina, while saving significant funds, reducing bureaucracy and enforcement issues, and eliminating public confusion.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the North Carolina Wildlife Federation in official session this sixteenth day of November 2019, that for the reasons given herein that the consolidation of the MFC and DMF into the WRC would result in a more effective agency to manage and administer the fish, wildlife, and marine fisheries resources of North Carolina, and the provision of equitable access to public trust resources, enhancing livelihoods and recreation for participants by promoting the ability of fish and wildlife to reproduce and be maintained in a healthy state for the future.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the North Carolina Wildlife Federation strongly recommends the consolidation of the MFC and DMF into the WRC to create one fish and wildlife agency as an efficiency measure to reduce wasteful, excessive duplication of responsibilities, programs, personnel, and services; to realize economies and efficiencies from consolidation; and to improve administrative, regulatory, and management efforts directed toward the public trust fish and wildlife resources of North Carolina.



Dell Godwin
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 November 2019 at 6:48pm


Thumbs Up

Thanks for sharing.

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NC Fisheries Management- Motto: Too Little, Too Late, Too Bad   Slogan: Shrimp On! Mission Statement: Enable Commercial Fishing At Any and All Cost, Regardless of Impact to the Resource.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 23Mako Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 November 2019 at 7:15pm
Just read it as well. 100% on board. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TomM Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 November 2019 at 9:14pm
Overdueđź‘Ť
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 November 2019 at 10:08pm

One Mission, One Commission
Executive Statement Efficiency and science-based management are critical aspects of any professional natural resource management program.  The missions of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC agency and commissioners), North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) and North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) to protect and enhance the public trust, natural resources and habitats of North Carolina are closely aligned, but areas of duplication, redundancy, uncertainty, and inefficiency exist.  Similarly, areas of synergy exist that could be improved through agency and commission consolidation.  A merger of the agencies and commissions would save significant funds, reduce bureaucracy, reduce public confusion, and increase effectiveness of natural resource management in North Carolina. 
  
Duplicated functions within Agencies

Specifically, joint management functions such as law enforcement (including aerial operations), biological sampling of the same stocks, public input, rulemaking, administration of the N.C.  Administrative Code and regulatory processes, and management decisions could all be streamlined through a thoughtful consolidation.  Designation of coastal, joint and inland waters would no longer be necessary.  Duplicated routine administrative functions such as purchasing, warehousing, human resources, office management, information technology, and license sales could be reduced or eliminated. 
 
Science-based fish and wildlife management

The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation provides two basic principles for management of public trust natural resources.  One, that fish and wildlife belong to all citizens; and two, that they must be managed in a way that their populations will be sustained forever.  In order to achieve these principles, decisions must be based on facts, professional experience, and commitment to shared underlying principles, facilitated by trained biologists and scientists.  A science-based management protocol is not driven by economic considerations.  The mission statement of DMF that states it is “dedicated to ensuring sustainable marine and estuarine fisheries and habitats for the benefit and health of the people of North Carolina,” is consistent with the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, but is not being met as the data and fish stock research prove. 

Two different agencies managing some of the same fish species

Inland waters under the jurisdiction of the WRC are home to multiple, co-managed diadromous and interjurisdictional species (e.g., Striped Bass, Alewife, Blueback Herring, Atlantic and Shortnose Sturgeons, Hickory Shad, American Shad, and American Eel) that occur in both fresh and salt water.  These species must travel through DMF- managed coastal waters to reach WRCmanaged inland waters to spawn or grow. In addition to these co-managed species, many others (e.g., Spot, Atlantic Croaker, Red Drum, flounders (Gulf, Southern and Summer), Weakfish, Spotted Seatrout, and Striped Mullet) occur in coastal, joint, and/or inland waters.  The management objectives of the two agencies may conflict.  While the WRC manages for both abundance and quality fisheries, with less consideration of short-term economic impacts, the DMF is charged with managing for the maintenance of harvest at maximum levels.  The WRC approach is often more consistent with best management practices.
   
Failing Report Card: A look at N.C. marine fishery stocks
A review of species landed by commercial interests in North Carolina that also provide significant benefits to recreational fishing and ecosystem function of inland waters illustrates the sustainability problem.  The review detailed below examined American Shad, Hickory Shad, American Eel, White Perch, Yellow Perch, Striped Bass, and river herring (Alewife and Blueback).  Peak landings for those seven species during the time series of landings since 1972 were 15.1 million pounds.  Landings in 1997 when the Fisheries Reform Act was passed were 1.6 million pounds.  Landings in 2018 were 0.4 million pounds, a 75% decline since 1997 and a 98% decline from the peak.
   
A review of the marine species that depend on estuarine and/or inland waters during parts of their life history and provide valuable ecosystem functions to inland and coastal waters included Spot, Atlantic Croaker, Weakfish, and Southern Flounder.  Peak landings of these four species were 54.6 million pounds.  Landings in 1997 when the Fisheries Reform Act was passed were 20.9 million pounds.  Landings in 2018 were 2.7 million pounds, an 87% decline since 1997 and a 95% decline from the peak.  Blue Crab, historically N.C.’s most valuable fishery, has declined from a peak of 65.7 million pounds to 16.4 million pounds in 2018, a 75% decline.  

Conservation and professional science-based management of natural resources should be both efficient and insulated from politics. 
As DMF is housed within the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and overseen by a Secretary and Deputy Secretary who are political appointees, more political oversight and interference is likely, handcuffing professional management and science-backed decisionmaking.  While DMF biologists provide adequate data and analysis, MFC and/or departmental policy decisions often neglect those findings.   

It is important to note that WRC commissioners have no mandated financial incentives related to their decisions.  WRC decisions are not immune from political considerations, but in our opinion are generally less influenced by them. The DMF process for implementing management measures is complex and time-consuming.  Public meeting periods typically last more than a year, and are coupled with reviews and input from executive and legislative interests, political operatives, and commissioners who have financial interests in the outcomes. This process often takes years. The recreational/conservation proponents urge for reductions while commercial interests demand status quo, or delay.  Often, the DEQ Secretary makes unilateral decisions on management actions--to avoid political fallout--that are inconsistent with the science, and rarely made in the best interest of the resource or the general public.  It is impossible to properly and adequately manage the natural resources and supporting ecosystems of this state under these often conflicting management scenarios. 

Institutional processes
From an outcomes standpoint, the successes of the DMF, formerly referred to as the N.C. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, are minimal in comparison to those of the WRC.  The condition of marine and estuarine resources and their associated habitats continues to degrade.  Since 1997, when the Fishery Reform Act was developed to protect and enhance the marine resources and associated habitats of our state, only one stock (Albemarle-Roanoke Striped Bass) has been declared recovered, a goal of the Fishery Management Plan process.  No habitats have been restored or further protected, a goal of the Coastal Habitat Protection Plan.  In fact, the situation has worsened dramatically, with moratoriums on harvest, listings of endangered species, and collapsing fisheries.  While responsibility for some of these conditions must be shared with federal and interjurisdictional management agencies, many are not, and under our current management authority and practice these conditions are unlikely to change.  Again, the condition of our marine resources in 2019 is largely due to unchecked partisan politics, and managing for short-term economics versus long-term resource and economic sustainability. 

Two separate commissions
Consolidation of commissions would also improve the marine fisheries program by removing the archaic criteria of the MFC member selection based on economic interests of the industry it regulates, as currently mandated by the statute. The three Commercial seats on the commission, two fishermen and a dealer, must make 50% of their income from commercial fishing.  The Recreational Industry seat must also make 50% of his/her income from a sportfishing related business.  Two at-large seats can be filled by anyone, vested in the industry or not.  It is only the two recreational fishermen on the commission who can have no financial interest in the resources they manage, a significant minority.  There is no specification for the scientist seat.   

Commissioners who, again as mandated by the statute, represent special interests have consistently rejected management options that are based upon research and analysis by trained biologists and statisticians for conservation and management of the marine fisheries.  The record is filled with specific examples.  Further, those commissioners are expected to be mindful of the special interests they represent, which leads to conflict, instead of consensus for the benefit of the marine fisheries resources.  A geographical, statewide representation of commissioners, established through a process such as that used to appoint district WRC commissioners, would acknowledge that N.C.’s estuarine and marine fishery resources are also held in trust for all N.C. residents, not just those who benefit most from them. Geographical, statewide appointment of commissioners is far superior to the current MFC process and should engender more positive outcomes as important conservation principles are applied to the serious management issues confronting fisheries today. 

Politics Should Not Direct Natural Resource Management
The WRC is a constitutionally-independent commission established by statute having individual members who answer only to the entity that appointed them, i.e. Governor, Speaker, or Senate Pro Tem, as specified in statute. The WRC as an agency answers only to the Wildlife Resources Commission.  That means that even though it is housed within the DEQ organizational chart, its Secretary has no oversight authority.  The MFC is different because the DMF is subject to the DEQ Secretary's oversight.  That means that while the MFC can make regulatory policy independently of the Secretary, it is dependent on the DMF to implement the decisions. 

Therefore, the Secretary can block the MFC at the implementation stage.  Furthermore, to amend or supplement management plans of a particular species in times of need, permission must be granted by the Secretary.
 
There is further evidence of the differences between DMF and WRC in hiring processes and appointments.  All state coastal fisheries management agencies— DMF, DEQ, and MFC—are executive branch agencies in all respects, given that the Fisheries Director is appointed by the Governor; DEQ Secretary and other DEQ leaders are appointed by the Governor; and all members of the MFC are appointed by the Governor, whereas WRC Commissioners hire and employ the WRC Director, there are no political appointees made to oversee the WRC, and WRC Commissioner appointments are shared by the Governor, Speaker of the House, and Senate Pro Tem. 

Summary Statement
Logically and fiscally, a merger is both overdue and greatly needed for the citizens of North Carolina and their public trust resources.  Collectively, we know what to do and how to do it.  The WRC can only accomplish so much within its agency purview, when every step toward conservation of jointly-managed fishery resources is met with DMF and MFC resistance by increasing harvest on already depleted stocks, failing to end overfishing, failing to rebuild stocks that are overfished, and failing to protect nursery habitats from destructive fishing practices. 
  
While the WRC and DMF missions are closely aligned, the conservation management efforts of the WRC are severely compromised for jointly managed species by the historic extraction management practices of the DMF.  By merging the two entities into a single Fisheries and Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC), and separating the stewardship of the resource from the influence of partisan commissioners and the DEQ, a conservation ethic should prevail.  The long-term benefits to the commercial and recreational sector will be measurable, timely and apparent as stocks rebuild and critical habitats are restored.



Edited by Rick - 21 November 2019 at 5:37pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Chuck Laughridge Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 November 2019 at 7:49am
Agreed!!!!

Good Fishing!!!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote cnaff Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 November 2019 at 8:21am
While this piece satisfies in language appropriate to its proposition, it sets up the opportunity to expound upon the specific activities the DEQ, through its hegemony over DMF and the concurrent control exerted by the governor, in his significant pursuit of personal gain over these resources. I would say that these paragraphs posit the need for voluminous exposition of the relentlessly buggered process at the MFC and DMF such that we would want to see the Federation spell out these abuses for the casual member, and the public who might see it in passing, not being members of the NC Waterman community, and therefore not being privy to the excellent sleuth work Rick and other members here have brought to our attention for these many years of dwindling resource but increasing awareness of the directed, political degradation. The Federation needs to take off the gloves and go for blood here after setting up this fight, by naming names and calling out the administration by name and its specific actions, relating them, in turn, to the actions of previous administrations and their companions in resource buggery in the GA, who lent their influence toward our generations of estuarine malfeasance and who constitute a longstanding black hand in the directed assassination of the public's right to a properly managed resource.
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Edited by j.willis - 21 November 2019 at 9:36am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ray Brown Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 November 2019 at 5:05pm
A unified voice from the headwaters to the three mile limit makes a lot of sense and should get the state more for their cents.

But as always the devil is in the details.   If this is a simple "takeover", with the WRC having a commercial division then that seems pretty good on the surface, but if a merger involves some form of hybrid where the makeup of the WRC changes and is weighted rather than across the state simply because certain fishermen live in certain areas then I'd like to see more before I sign on.

If folks think NC suffers from gerrymandering to attain a political goal in general politics, then anyone involved in fishery management can tell them that form of gerrymandering is child's play to the "fish monger's mamba" we have had to dance to for decades in NC.


Edited by Ray Brown - 21 November 2019 at 5:07pm
I am a native of NC. The "bycatch captial of the east coast of the US". Our legislature lets us kill more fish for no reason than any other Atlantic Coast state. I hope they are proud.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 November 2019 at 12:09pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 November 2019 at 12:51pm


I see an opportunity to harvest low hanging fruit.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 November 2019 at 11:01am



North Carolina’s Fishing Decline……..A Case of Denial or Private Agendas?

Tim Wilson November 24, 2019

As we stay on our path to saving our precious North Carolina fishing resources, we continue to look for all the reasons we have gotten here. I believe that we should be firmly aware of all aspects of the causes and sources of the problem and who is actually responsible. Once we have those blanks filled in, we can then press toward solutions and who the parties are that will have the care custody and control of making sure these solutions happen in a timely manner. Having the answers to these important questions is key to fixing the right problems rather than distracting the majority of both commercial and recreational fisherman from the actual factors that have created the seriousness that we are now faced with today. It appears that the North Carolina State agencies that are tasked with the responsibility of managing our coastal fisheries bring multiple issues to the table. Her are a few that we know:

  • North Carolina allows trawling within the bays, sounds and rivers. This seems odd since other states including neighboring South Carolina and Virginia, dictate no trawling in bays and estuaries. Those states currently enjoy healthy fishing resources largely due to those regulations. These large sounds and estuaries are the breeding areas for countless species important to the fishing food chain for recreational and commercial fishing for North Carolina. The trawler process both disturbs, and many times destroys the sound’s bottom by the dragging of tickler chains and other gear. This process kills juvenile fish as well which poses a significant negative impact to the aquaculture that lives there.
  • Non-North Carolina commercial fisherman are currently fishing the state’s waters by being allowed to fish under the licenses of North Carolina fishermen.
  • North Carolina allows the use of commercial gear and “take” limits by fisherman that are not actually engaged in the act of commercial fishing. This is done by simply applying for a commercial license.
  • North Carolina has ignored the conservation and resource management practices and strategies of every state on the east coast of the United States, therefore we rank last in most fishing resource statistics while failing to change its flawed policies and actions.
  • North Carolina has unsuccessfully enforced the laws addressing violators that:
    • Offload their catch multiple times in a single day to circumvent catch limits.
    • Violating fish markets that fabricate catch tickets which allows fishermen to exceed the catch limits of specific species.
    • Investigate and enforce the laws that protect the fishery from the use of commercial gear by fishermen that are not actually commercial operations.

The significant reduction in the North Carolina’s fishery has resulted in a total closure of the flounder fishing, for likely a year for the recreational fisherman, while only allowing commercial fishermen to fish for flounder at limited times. With flounder being the state’s primary species for both commercial and recreational anglers, this proves to be a clear indication of the severity of the state’s fishing resource problem.  Currently the North Carolina Marine Fisheries has shown no plans to make any changes in their mindset or approach of the  decline of fishing stocks.  Based on recent comments by the governor’s office and Director of North Carolina Marine Fisheries there are no plans to address and correct the problems that have brought the state to this dangerous point. Attempts by conservation advocate groups like The North Carolina Wildlife Federation have found the state less than responsive, if responsive at all. The North Carolina Wildlife Federation recently submitted a resolution to Governor Roy Cooper that recommend a massive management consolidation. Under their plan, the Marine Fisheries Commission, a board appointed by the governor and Division of Marine Fisheries, that enforces rules day to day along the North Carolina coast.  This would be consolidated into the state Wildlife Resources Commission. The Wildlife Federation blamed “permissive regulations of the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission” for decreased fish stocks along the coast. It said the Division of Marine Fisheries has been underfunded and that its similarity to Wildlife Resources creates “areas of duplication, redundancy, uncertainty and inefficiency.”

The North Carolina Wildlife Federation resolution was presented to Governor Roy Cooper’s office last week with Ford Porter of the governor’s office being noncommittal on its prospects according to a post on Raleigh’s WRAL website. Any change  would mean General Assembly action that would result in a delay until sometime next year. According to the WRAL post, the Division of Marine Fisheries Director Stephen Murphey, commented that the resolution is “just the latest attempt” to manage fisheries outside of the regular process. He said the federation put two petitions for rule making before the Marine Fisheries Commission recently, and neither went through. Murphey said his agency will do whatever the General Assembly says to do, but the merger doesn’t make sense to him.

From these statements, it is apparent that Governor Cooper no longer sees the North Carolina Coastal fishery as the same concern that he touted prior to his election in 2016. What was part of his platform, now does not even register a concern or comment from the governor.  Below is a link that clearly spells out his promise to the voters and fishermen of North Carolina that is now been forgotten.

https://www.roycooper.com/marine-fisheries/

Division of Marine Fisheries Director, Stephen Murphey’s comments are only based on his concerns of changes within the agency that he manages rather than the worst fishery decline in the history of North Carolina. The regular process that he speaks of has resulted in that very decline. At this time, I see and hear no one in the state government even willing to acknowledge that a problem exist or plans to reverse this significant decline. The Biggest question here is why? What is motivating our state government to be unresponsive to the problem and the people of this great state?

Our Effort

Please rest assured that Coastal Carolina Magazine will continue to bring you information on this important issue. At the same time, we will continue to work with those groups involved in the quick and permanent recovery of North Carolina’s fishing resources. Please understand that while we cannot always divulge the details of our efforts or those efforts of others, work is still ongoing. You can help by communicating with your North Carolina State Representative and communicate your concerns in writing. We’ll keep you informed.


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