Gamefish proposal sent to proposed legislative panel

By on June 19, 2011

Legislation proposed to put striped bass off limits to commercial watermen by designating the species a gamefish has been put under the umbrella of a new legislative study committee.

The bill would have designated striped bass, red drum and speckled trout as gamefish in North Carolina, effectively taking them off the commercial market.

Efforts to re-classify red drum and speckled trout have failed in the past.

This year’s effort to include striped bass, or rockfish, partially grew out of an uproar over thousands of fish dying, apparently as a result of culling by commercial trawlers.

After photos and videos of dead fish floating on the ocean hit the Internet last winter, the state Division of Marine Fisheries changed a 50-fish daily limit to 2,000 pounds and limited net drags to 30 minutes.

The agency also allowed fish exceeding the limit to be transferred at sea to other licensed vessels.

A bill to create the study committee was passed by the General Assembly before it wrapped up business last week. It is under a larger bill to create study commissions, and differences between the House and the Senate versions still need to be resolved.

Also examined by the Marine Fisheries Legislative Study Committee would be banning trawling in North Carolina waters and creating commercial hook-and-line seasons.

In addition, the committee would look at the structure of the Marine Fisheries Commission and the Division of Marine Fisheries.

Included in the legislation creating the committee is the possibility of revisions to the Fisheries Reform Act of 1997.

The panel would be made up of four members of the state House of Representatives and four members of the state Senate.

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