Fish kills put a spotlight on tension over rules

By on January 17, 2011

A fish kill said to be off the Dare coastline last weekend. (Posted in a fishing forum on

Thousands of dead striped bass and red drum floating in a long line off Dare County beaches create a disturbing image. And in the era of digital photography, it didn’t take long for the pictures to find their way online, spreading virally and grabbing the attention of news media in at least two states.

No one wants to believe, and few can understand, how something like this occurs. The accusations are flying.

Welcome to one of the longest running feuds in Dare County, played out in almost every other fishing community along America’s shorelines

News analysis

Recreational and commercial fishing interests collide every day. As federal and state regulators increase their oversight, assigning quotas, size limits and other regulations to both groups in an effort to maintain sustainable stocks, the rhetoric between the two camps continues to heat up.

So it came as no surprise when this past weekend, recreational anglers came across the scene depicted here. The dead fish, they say, came from commercial trawlers hauling nets through striped bass schools, ensnaring everything in the path of the huge webs.

Why the dead fish? It’s what most observers would describe as an unintended consequence of fishing regulations designed to prevent precisely this type of waste. And a solution to the problem is elusive.

The regulatory responsibility starts with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). Fifteen coastal states appoint three representatives each to the commission; one legislator, one gubernatorial appointee and each state’s director of marine fisheries. The group set broad parameters on size and annual tonnage quotas.

Its jurisdiction follows each state’s territorial waters, mostly near shore, leaving offshore regulation to the federal government. The state Division of Marine Fisheries decides how to carve up its allotment of tonnage and sets daily limits.

For North Carolina, Dare County Commissioner Mike Johnson serves as the legislative proxy for state Rep. William Wainwright on the ASMFC. The Voice called Johnson, who actively participates in the discussions where these quotas and regulations are created. Johnson summed up the issue in three words: “Daily bag limits.”

Johnson said that while many managed species of fish are assigned annual quotas based on the total pounds landed, the ASMFC has also insisted daily catch limits be included in the formula. To Johnson, this makes little sense and contributes to the scenes witnessed this weekend.

For example, if a species of fish is assigned a 200,000-pound annual catch limit for North Carolina, there is also a daily catch limit for each commercial vessel. For rockfish, based on their average weight, the daily limit is  50 fish per day. Striped bass also can be no smaller than 28 inches.

Trawlers use towed nets to harvest their catch. These nets do not discriminate by quantity, size or species. If a commercial vessel trawls through a school of stripers, there is no way to predict how many will be caught in the net.

Some fish die from the stress of being netted. Once the net is hauled on deck, the crew culls through the catch. Stripers that are too small, other unwanted species and any fish exceeding the daily catch limit are tossed overboard. In the process of sorting, more fish die or are weakened to the extent that they expire shortly after release.

Suppose the trawler lands its limit of stripers on the first haul. Some legal-sized stripers will die in the process, as well as rockfish not yet large enough to be caught. The trawler might retain the 50 largest fish, but if the first trawl yielded mostly 28-inch fish and subsequent trawls land larger fish, the stripers caught earlier might be tossed overboard and replaced by the larger fish. Some of these fish will die in this “swapping” process.

The trawler wants to bring to dock the largest fish (by weight) it can legally possess to earn more money. Fish are sold by the pound.

As Johnson points out, if an annual cap exists on the total allowable tonnage per season, the need for a daily cap is less clear. While the economics of sport fishing might find some advantage in daily catch limits as a way to extend the fishing season, commercial operators would prefer to reach their annual quotas with fewer trips.

Eliminating the daily catch limits might reduce the number of legal fish discarded and left for dead after a day on the water.

To be fair, while many eyes are trained on the commercial vessels, there is virtually no way to account for the hundreds, if not thousands of non-commercial boats plying the sounds and near- shore waters pursuing stripers.

Smaller daily limits apply to individual recreational fishermen, and while many use live wells to preserve a “keeper,” sport fishermen sometimes will also release a smaller legal fish if they catch a larger one later in the day, especially if their live well is already at the legal limit.

The released fish, weakened by rod and reel action and stressed further by the live well, will often perish.

While not as dramatic as a single trawler dumping hundreds of fish at one time, the multiplier effect of hundreds of private boats working the same waters as a half dozen commercial trawlers may indicate both groups are discarding too many viable fish in order to comply with the bag limits.

Certainly, in the battle for “PR,” recreational fishermen are scoring major points in their arguments that commercial operators, who often complain about ever-decreasing annual quotas, should not leave trails of dead fish in their wake, a practice which further reduces the fisheries stock.

Johnson has tried unsuccessfully to eliminate the daily limits for commercial operations and focus instead on the annual quota.

Until the rule is changed, more dead striped bass, red drum and even trout caught in fixed nets will be discarded for the sole purpose of avoiding a legal citation and penalty when the boat returns to the dock.


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April 8, 2011 3:37 pm

I think the rule should be for neters IF YOU HALL IT YOU KEEP IT What a waste to throw back dead and dieing fish. I am sure there is an outlet for the “junk” fish that do not have a HIGH $ rersale There are lodes of people that would darned near kill for a good fish dinner but they cannot aford the cost If the powers to be would allow the boats to fill the hold instead of dumping everything that that they cannot make big $ on and the fish mongers would make avable to the market. the fact that they do not have the storage is not good I am sure that there are ways to market it


March 28, 2011 7:12 pm

Come on ya’ll. What’s the point of bickering about who kills the most fish: sportsmen or commercial fishermen? There’s more going on here than localized fishing pressure. Truth is, major fish die-offs have been happening world-wide the last year or so. I think if we could all look at the basic facts, it’s obvious that something environmental going on. I’m not going to say that it’s climate change, something to do with industrial toxins, etc. But when you figure the amount of human population growing at an exponential rate world-wide, and the effect such a boom has on the planet economically and environmentally, it’s not a far-fetched notion to figure that burgeoning human population is having a devastating impact on all natural systems, fish included. This is coming from a guy who has travelled all over the world tha last few years, and has seen personally massive degradation of environmental resources, from year to year, every place I’ve been.


February 22, 2011 9:16 am

The commercial guys are doing what the state has told them to do. Granted the Captain of said trawler drug his net longer than needed, but it is my understanding that this trawler was not a “local” boat. With that said, I know for a fact that a large percentage of the Recreational anglers have gone over 3 miles to catch their limit of fish. It is Illegal to posses fish over the line and if we took all the fish caught over the line by recreational fisherman it would be much greater than the fish the said trawl boat killed!FEED THE HUNGRY WITH THE BY CATCH!

Todd C.

February 5, 2011 7:56 pm

Trawling needs to end PERIOD. It is too destructive and there is no selection process. Too indiscriminate. Besides the OBX would be better served by the RECs coming in town to charter boats, rent hotel rooms, buy tackle, eat out (ie SPEND MONEY)

Way more than some guy with a trawler . . .

Paul Buske

January 26, 2011 3:44 pm

I only recreational fish now but did commercial fish for 2 years in the late 80′s, and even back then the rules were ridiculous. Having to throw back good fish makes no sense. My brother-in-law manages a fish house in Wanchese and he is so frustrated with the rules, he is ready to quit a job he loves. When you catch a certain fish and have to bring in the same weigh in by-catch that gets thrown away because they do not have room to store it until crabbing starts is absurd. Create total catch limits per boat and let the guys catch all they want each day until they have their limit. If they happen to be slightly over on the last day, fine, give the fish to people who need to eat. We have many folks in our community who would love to have good fresh fish who can’t afford it. The system is seriously broken and as amelia says, it’s putting the commercial guys out of business. No longer do you see many privately owned trawl boats, a lot of the trawlers are owned by larger companies and hire crews. Concerning the trout, what a bunch of BS. 4 years ago we were rockfishing south of Rodanthe and there were literally miles of trout right close to shore. The fish are there, they just come and go like the tourists. I remember back in the 80′s, big bluefish were everywhere along the beaches and there were no rock to speak of. When is the last time you caught a big blue form the surf? They are still here, you just have to go 10 miles offshore to find them. Everything runs in cycles.

amelia checks

January 24, 2011 6:41 am

As a wife of a commercial fisherman for over 35 years, I have but one thing to say:
We are dying just like those fish.
Normally our boat wouldn’t even participate in the striper catch if it wasn’t for the decreased limits we were handed on winter offshore flounder. you have to do what you have to do to feed your family and remain a viable member of this community.


January 23, 2011 11:55 am

Well we know they don’t know what they’re doing(they never have) the trollers need some kind of watching over or we are all going to be shut down.We fish our back yard every day in the late summer(sound) BLack drm ,Puppy drm ,Speckies, Stipers, Very rarely do we get a floater when we do it’s a Srtiper and i think its from heat more than anything.We need to take care of this not the FEDS!

Rob Alderman

January 22, 2011 10:19 pm

I try not to make to much sh– up.

I’ll find the other study, when I get a chance.

Just keep telling yourselves these fish that die after release, a day, two days, or an hour later floats to the surface or washes ashore.Why? Cause they are not full of air.

Fish die by the thousands every day from natural causes , but you never see them floating. No one has ever witnessed the birth of Great White, but it happens.


January 21, 2011 10:26 am

Something I have not seen mentioned yet: Commercial catch is graded by size and prices are set based on size. If a dealer is going to offer me a premium per pound for larger fish, I am going to select larger fish to land. This is an issue that has perhaps been overlooked in the quest to understand a flawed law.

John T

January 21, 2011 4:48 am

I’ve been on Rec Boats that are also guilty of “grading” fish.Too often I’ve seen fish thrown in the box,only to be discarded and replaced with a larger fish several minutes later.If you don’t think that’s damaging to the resource,you shouldn’t be on the water to begin with.

Russell Blackwood

January 20, 2011 5:04 pm

It is no secret that Trawelers cause damage to what ever area they are in, be it Shrimp, Flounder, Trout or whatever marine species they are fishing for. I was a deckhand on Draggers in the 1980′s and and made a paycheck doing this very thing. It is done this way all over the planet. But it is legal here and our government made it that way.
But do not be fooled into thinking that hook & line fishing causes no damage to fish. As a Freediving underwater photographer I have filmed everything from Bluefin Tuna to Flounder being released with clouds of blood pouring out of their gills. If this weakened state does not kill them someother marine apex predator will. Not all released fish go down this way, but a good percentage do. I have witnessed this for over 40 years.
I do get a chuckle over the Nouveau Retired Recreational Fisherperson who have moved to the Outer Banks, screaming like angry Seagulls “MINE!MINE!MINE!”


January 20, 2011 4:37 pm

Just a few statistics on Striped Bass as reported by NC Fisheries.
Comm. Landgings/Dollars Rec. Landings
07 576,834 lbs/$1,238,956 1,029107
08 373459 $822,566 921.051
09 310604 $747,308 209,858

If you notice over the past three year, landings have decreased for both. Thats also something to think about.


January 20, 2011 4:21 pm

All charter captains periodically either receive a questionaire or get a call from a NC fisheries agent and we are asked how many days we fished that week, what type of fish we targeted and how many people we had fishing. Interesting point is that they never ask as how many fish we caught.I guess they assume you caught your limit. That would be a question to ask NC fisheries. Yes, there are problems with both sides and that’s a different story for another day.

Russ Lay

January 20, 2011 2:20 pm

Ray: You make good points. Personally, I seldom make my limits on rock. And their are certainly nuances in how stripers are landed. One point you made is one I am going to ask the DMF (which supposedly is meeting today on the issue but I have not verified) is how they get their rec numbers. I understand the legal commercial are brought in, in some states tagged, and weights recorded. I also understand there is an allowance for bycatch and mortality that helps set the quota.

But I have no idea how the regulators determine the number of fish landed by recreational anglers, nor the mortality rate or illegal catches they ‘assume’ as numbers are assigned. What I do know is that every charter I have been on were manned by responsible captains. Like Mico, when I am fishing with individuals, we never think of swapping out fish either. We reach our limit, we’re happy. Everything else we catch is released.

But the stories are out there, quite a few coming into my email. Each side points to the others potential abuse, so to be fair, both opinions have been printed in the article. My take, which I hope was obvious, is that the regulation is the problem, not the folks landing fish.


January 20, 2011 11:22 am

Rob A.
Hypothetically, there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but I’ve never found it. The numbers you are pulling out of the air are so far off base,its funny. Look at the Oregon Inlet Marina webcam and see how many boats are out today. Maybe a dozen charter boats and 20-30 rec. boats in the back parking lot. We’ll even say 50 has a high number. Then out of all the boats, how many will even catch fish. Anybody that tells you they catch fish everytime they go, probably has found that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow before. Then out of the boats that do catch fish, some dont always catch their limit. I saw some rec. and charter boats last weekend gaffing or netting floating fish to fill their limit. When we catch a small fish and toss it back, they swim away. When your trolling for Stripers as most fisherman do, the fish are generally hooked in the mouth area, not gut hook as they are sometimes when you livebait for them. As a far as them dying 3-5 days after being caught, where did you get that number from? I’ve seen no statistics to that fact in any Striper mortality reports. I like to deal with facts, not fiction. Several years ago, the NCDMF was trying to close Striper fishing at Oregin Inlet in the summer months due to the high mortality. I went to the NCDMF meeting in Washington,NC, and heard how they collected data. They had a guy go thru the parking lot at OI and count the boat trailers. Then they assumed each boat had X number of fisherman on it, fishing for Striped Bass in the summer. They also had a guy at the dock doing a random survey. This was so far off base. At the time, there was a handful of small boat charter captains and a few rec. fishingerman that targeted those fish. They decided after hearing the FACTS, not to close Stiped Bass fishing, but did issues us tags in a way to track our catch. Striper fishing in the summer was never closed, due to the facts.

Anyway, one thing that we all agree about, is that the law needs to be changed so the fish aren’t wasted and they will be around for years to come for all, rec. and comm. fisherman.

Russ Lay

January 20, 2011 9:35 am

John T: Point taken. It sure hasn’t worked in banking or mortgage lending!

Ekim: I would agree for most species. Rock are different, and another difference is how you fish for rock. Light tackle to make it a fight is good for the angler, bad for the fish. Heave a 10 ft surf rod off your boat, not so much.

I’ve seen the same technique on Blue Marlin. Some captains will back the boat down on the fish–good for the fish but some anglers might feel it was a wimpy approach. Other captains want you to fight the fish and use the rod & reel 100% in bringing the fish to the boat. A fight of bar-bragging legend, but a considerably weaker fish vulnerable to predators.

Bluefish on the other hand seem to survive fights better, in most release tourneys I find very few blues in shock and having to be held in place to recover.

I had one fisherman tell me yesterday he and a buddy reeled in rock all day in the sound; when he finished he noticed eight or nine floaters downstrem. It does happen.

Selena K

January 20, 2011 9:26 am

Well the cat’s outta the bag now. How much you wanna bet the Enviro Lawyers are all over this right now, prepping legal suits with the intent to make sure NONE OF US can fish for stripers ever again, commercial or recreational?


January 20, 2011 9:22 am

Best comment I heard was best available science taking the place of common sense. In my opinion, the regulators are the problem.

Take the Gray Trout–locally NCDMF recognized our population in the sound is healthy. They wanted to stick to 6 fish bag limit. I think they were going to cap how many large fish could be kept but don’t recall for sure. Now despite the fact that NC agency is in the best position to determine our stock ASMFC strong armed NCDMF into 1 fish bag limit.

Then there was the scallop issue. NCDMF didn’t even follow the advice of their own biologist–the stocks in each sound don’t migrate and should be treated as seperate units. We had to fight tooth and nail to get NCDMF to open the season in 2008. 2010 cold and hurricane have had the same impact as 2003 cold and Isabel but you can bet that when the stock bounces back NCDMF will blame the harvest from 2008, 2009, and 2010 (the latter opened late and was comprised of mostly dead/dying scallops).

Oh, and when a limit gets imposed it is easier to leave it go then change it. Example, Red Drum used to be 3 a day with one big fish. Its been one slot a day since the 1990′s. Meanwhile the fish is so prevalent that many who don’t know the bag limits are surprised to find the limit so low.

Quite simply while there may be a tendency to over fish without regulation, the quality of thought going into regulations and the over reaction by the regulators is making it darn difficult for everyone–recreational and commercial alike.


January 20, 2011 7:57 am

This claim of fish dying after being hooked then released is pig feathers, we have been rod & reelin how many years! the beaches should be litterd with dead fish 365,Hayman st should be coverd with Speckes all fall the Marlin should no longer exist,Enviromentilist PIG FEATHERS!!!

Rob Alderman

January 20, 2011 5:57 am

I agree that the waste shown in the pics and vids of this discard is ungodly and unwarranted.

But, recently several pics and vids of cold stunned trout surfaced, which lead to NCDMF closing all speckled trout fishing to comms and recs. This has resulted in numerous discussions were fishermen feel this unfair and unjust.

It seems with some and I repeat some fishermen that there is a double standard. It’s not ok to shut down fisheries to protect them if mother nature is involved, but OK if it is man made.

Most all of the Capts and mates are killing their creel limits in addition to that of their customers and giving said customers their alloted fish. Hoping, that they might get a better tip, retain customer loyalty or just plain out make their customer happy.

Hypothetically, 100 charter boats a day run out and do this for their customers–and that equates too 400 fish a day that doesn’t need to die. In the end, they do this because the system and policy says they can. Does that make it right? Is that considered any less death then seeing them floating on the surface.

The trawlers are operating for 6 days, when the charter boats have been whacking and stacking stripers for weeks. How much unwarranted fish kills has that lead too?

I am not condoning or condemning either what the recs or comms do. But, both equally work over the system with any species we can.

These dead fish are a direct result of people working over the system, which is something a lot of people are doing.

W hile most do not want to see the comms shut out, but, rather a change in the rules–you could see the fishery shut down altogether and then the recs may see themselves and their actions attacked by the very same people they were attacking.

Like I said. For me. This type of exposure is bad news for everyone.

John T

January 20, 2011 5:30 am

That’s possible Russ,but I’ve had up to my neck with government and it’s citizens over regulating our lives,you’ve seen it in the mortgage business……Once it’s taken away,it’s rarely given back.

Russ Lay

January 20, 2011 1:11 am

Johnny: That would depend on how many were on the boat and the size of the well. I fished for stripers in Roanoke Rapids on a boat that had a barrel larger than a beer keg for a live well. We couldn’t keep the rock fish since it was spawning season, but it would sure hold two.

Russ Lay

January 20, 2011 12:21 am

If NC changes the reg, would the issue of trawl nets for rockfish also be something to discuss? I haven’t checked every state, but NC appears to be the only one that allows trawlers to pull nets for stripers. Is that correct?

Jonny Cinco

January 19, 2011 8:55 pm

They issue here is the waste. Which side (rec. or comm.) that kills or harvests the most fish is not what I am concerned about at this point. But to kill a couple hundred or couple thousand fish and dump them is unacceptable. As far as rec. culling, I have been on many rockfish trips and never had the oportunity (or thought for that matter) of throwing back a dead fish in order to keep one that is larger. Besides that the article talks about rec. culling with a livewell. I would love to see a livewell that would hold a limit of legal sized ocean rockfish.


January 19, 2011 7:47 pm

Does the DMF still cap the commercial striper harvest at 480,480 lbs to close the commercial season? Why not let them keep a daily limit of ALL the fish they catch and as the numbers add up during the commercial season the comm boat captians will know what they can pull every day up to the limit? Seems fair for them and easy on the fish.

John T

January 19, 2011 6:46 pm

Bill, the waste really ticks me off, but I cannot condemn the trawler for fishing in legal waters and using legal methods.

This isn’t the first time this has happened, but it has received the most attention, due to the number of boats in the vicinity and the power of the internet. I just hope DMF adopts regulation that minimizes waste and allows the fisherman to profit.

Ron Saunders

January 19, 2011 6:32 pm

I have not read all the comments , so forgive me if I am off base.
My opinion: Once again, is it possible that “Best Available Science” has taken presidence over Common Sense?
There has to be a better way. Bet someone knows what that is. That’s all I have to say.

Ron (obxguys)


January 19, 2011 6:18 pm

they do this in the sound too,just love it when the FEDS( get involved.(keep them out of everthing)The fishermen have no shame when it comes to feeding their kids,but never look into another line of work.The boys i know want the GOV to pay them not to fish like they pay farmer’s not to grow,I have little simpathy for them when they do this!


January 19, 2011 5:06 pm

John T. The argument is not how many fish get boated by rec. or comm. fishermen, but the waste. As long as the fish are going into someone’s fishbox, I don’t care who it is, but when you have hundreds of legal size floaters, it’s wrong. Is it legal??? By the NCDMF it is, but why waste fish for a few more dollars. And Mr. Alderman, I invite you to go fishing any day when there is no trawlers out, just rec. fisherman and charter boats out and see just how many dead floating Stripers you find. I’ve Striper fish a lot in my lifetime and have seen very few floating dead from the rec. & charter fisherman. That being said, let’s all band together and call or write the Morehead office of NCDMF and get them to change the law and stop the fish waste, then everybody will be happy for awhile, MAYBE…

Russ Lay

January 19, 2011 4:11 pm

John T: That is why I quit doing offshore bill fishing. Once I learned the marlin were vulnerable after a long fight, I no longer saw the value of a ‘sport’ that might kill a 500 lb fish, even if released. I still fish Wahoo, since they are good eating, but now when we go offshore, we concentrate on mahi and tuna, and only what we can eat or give away. I still like to watch others fight and catch marlin, but I don’t participate myself.

Russ Lay

January 19, 2011 4:06 pm


Great point. We sat on this for 24 hours so we could talk to the commercial side, but by that time it was everywhere, including Raleigh and Tidewater TV. The world of the internet and wireless phones is a blessing and a curse. With Rob Morris at the editorial helm, he’s pretty disciplined on us trying to present both sides.

Now, a question to commercial and rec. I could make an economic argument that creel limits might help the economy of the rec side–longer seasons = more weekend visits, more charters, more bait sales vs. catching the entire quota in a couple of weeks.

For commercial though, even increasing daily or weekly pound limits seems to make for bad economics. If the total catch is set anyway, isn’t it less costly if a commercial boat makes fewer trips with a larger catch than having to go back daily or weekly?

I’d love to hear from both sides.

Rob Alderman

January 19, 2011 2:01 pm


I think these issues need to be addressed, but I pucker-up hard, when they come to light in such a manner. Videos on you tube, pics on Facebook and major discussions on the internet.

I support the comms all the way and I make my living in the rec world. But, most really don’t stop to think just how much hurting the recs put on all the species.

When these issues come to light they bring a lot of attention to all the fishermen from the radical environmentalist and could plausibly bring bad on all of us one day.

I just wish people would take the their pics and vids to the proper agencies and try to see what can be done, before posting this stuff everywhere and bringing so much heat inadvertently to everyone.

Russ Lay

January 19, 2011 12:16 pm

Great discussion folks! As a sport fisherman who also loves to consume commercially caught fish, I have both feet firmly planted in one camp and my stomach in debt to the other camp. By all accounts, the regulation is the culprit. Both sides have a stake in this resource, and those of you finding common ground are the ones who should be speaking up and solving the problem. Fish kills make for great media and the media loves to create bad guys. But the truth is usually in the middle and much less sexy to report. Keep the dialog going!

Rob Alderman

January 19, 2011 11:51 am

Yes, the mortality rate is slightly lower in cooler water, but the mortality rate of these fish is still high. Stripers are like a tuna in a sense, they often damage their hearts dramatically in a fight, which can lead to death within 3-5 days of their release. It has been proven that they fare worse upon release in warmer water.

Since stripers are one of the single most sought after fish in the NE and their migratory path leads them up and down the Eastern seaboard over the course of the year..they are preyed upon by recreational anglers at almost all times of the year.

Here in NC this year we are fortunate that the NE’s weather drove the ocean fish to us for the 1st time in years. There has been no lack of ocean stripers–just the lack of the weather to drive them to us. Locally, we destroyed our resident population long ago.

I can see and hear it now, when the fish don’t make a showing next year, because of weather. The blame will fall onto the commercial fishermen, when in all honesty..they don’t scratch the surface of the population of stripers in the big picture.

It would make more sense to open the quota. Let’em fish night and day until the quota is met and the game would be over..This year it would’ve taken all of one day and you wouldn’t have seen the trawlers again.

Just don’t ever forget–that in 90% of this Country’s sought after fish–the recs kill 3-4 times more then anyone, both in harvest and mortality.

The commercial fisherman are only allotted a minuscule amount of times in which they are allowed to target these fish to meet quotas. Recreational anglers have no such quotas. In the end–the recreational bag limits and mortality highly dwarf anything done by commercial fishing.

John T

January 19, 2011 10:21 am

Don’t forget the catch and release mortality either!

John T

January 19, 2011 10:19 am

I was told years ago that the mortality is a result of the fish being suffocated in the net. I believe the majority of it takes place when the net is being hoisted in the boat. Perhaps an experienced comm fisherman can confirm this.

I place the blame on the regulation itself,not the commercial fisherman. A fill and kill season would eliminate the vast majority of the waste. It could be opened one day at a time until the quota is filled. If there is an overage, it can be deducted from next year’s quota.

It’s hard for me to condemn commercial fishing for Rockfish when I drive by the OI Fishing Center and see over 400 boat trailers. Do the math 400 x 3 fisherman per boat x 2=2400 dead fish in one day! That’s just from one boat ramp! That’s a lot of dead fish and it doesn’t count all of the six pack charter boats. At the end, I’m sure many get thrown away due to freezer burn.

The point I’m trying to make is people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

Russ Lay

January 19, 2011 9:45 am

@Ray–thanks for clarification. This is what the Voice is all about. Rob & I aren’t the Voice, you guys are. We try to present both sides, so in this instance we call folks on either side and get quotes or background. Many of our readers obviously know more than a journalist working on a story, so this side is important to see in print.

My question is this: Should the regulation be changed somehow on the commercial side? That seems to be the crux of the problem, on top of the ethics of thousands of dead, wasted fish.


January 19, 2011 9:27 am

I saw this happen last year and was sickened. Why can’t we find a better way to regulate fishing that actually helps keep the ocean population up?

J James

January 19, 2011 8:02 am

Thanks Voice


January 19, 2011 5:35 am

For Duke… The commercial guys are just playing by the “rules” they have to live by…..The Coastland Times should put all the articles they have which Dr so and so promulgates in the comics section. Trying to decipher the “rules” requires a degree in English and a complete disdain for logic and common sense.

ps I am not a commercial fisherman and would starve if my fishing ability was needed to put food on my table.


January 19, 2011 12:22 am

Well, let’s tell a story from the other side of the fence, because we all know that Mr. Johnson is an advocate for the commercial fisherman and has helped them out in the past.
To start with, Striped Bass only have a minimum size for the commercial catch. Under current proclamation FF-8-2011,
No person may possess, transport, buy, sell, or offer for sale striped bass less than 28 inches total length taken with ocean trawls from the Atlantic Ocean.
B. It is unlawful for an Atlantic Ocean Striped Bass Commercial Gear Permit trawl holder to possess, land or sell more than 50 striped bass per vessel, per day, regardless of the number of permit holders on board, during the harvest period beginning at 12:01 A.M., Saturday, January 15, 2011 and ending at 6:00 P.M. Thursday, January 20, 2011.
To start with, other fisherman and I, have no problem with the commercial fisherman. They are trying to make a living just like the rest of us on the OBX. However, we do have a problem with natural resources being blatantly wasted. I personally went behind a trawler after they dump their catch on the deck, culling the biggest fish out and throwing the rest of the fish overboard. We netted three of the fish, which were 32-35” Stripers, way over the legal limit. We also spotted several Red Drum. According to rule B, It is unlawful for an Atlantic Ocean Striped Bass Commercial Gear Permit trawl holder to possess, land or sell more than 50 striped bass per vessel, per day.
Land is the key word. These trawlers would set a net, drag it, and pull it in or land, cull the big fish and throw smaller legal size fish back. Legally, they have to throw undersized fish back. But then they would start the process all over again. To me and others, the waste is wrong . . . Do recreational fisherman have fish that die? Sure, but I can assure you that out of all the private and charter boats fishing last Saturday and Sunday, the mortality rate of all these boats were less than one trawler. Try interviewing any charter boat captain and ask them what they feel their mortality rate is. Studies have been done that prove the mortality rate of Striped Bass caught on hook and line is very low during the cold water months.
We all agree that the current law is flawed. We would like to see it changed to a daily pound limit with even a percentage buffer. That way, it doesn’t matter if the Stripers are 28” or 45”. There is no waste, except for undersized fish.
It’s been several years since we have had a good showing of stripers on the Outer Banks. Tackle shops are selling out of lures, restaurants and hotels business are doing a better business. More local charters boats are running more trips and able to stay at home rather than fishing out of Virginia Beach. Fishing centers are having a brisk business. This is the time of year that most businesses struggle. Let’s don’t ruin one of the major resources that bring people to the Outer Banks this time of year. Also let’s help preserve this resource for future generations.


January 18, 2011 10:37 pm

I witnessed this first hand Sunday in 3 different locations. We took a few to fill our quota but the fishing was real slow and to see that massacre on the water while so many boats were not catching anything made me sick. I am not sure what the limits for the trawlers are, but if it about 50 to 100 fish why do they bother. Is it alright to kill 500 fish in order to get the biggest 100? I am not feeling sorry for the commercial guys this time around.

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