Commentary: CCA, GOP to blame for proposed license change

By on January 29, 2018

 Imagine you hold a state license in your profession, say as a general contractor.

Then you start a side business that takes off. Maybe it’s a restaurant or a consulting business. Soon, it accounts for more than half of your income.

And while you’re working harder than ever before, your financial situation has improved: Paying all the monthly bills with money left over, better educational opportunities for your children, or buying a bigger home with space for a growing family.

At the same time, your original business continues to thrive while providing a valuable service and an irreplaceable part the family income.

Then the State of North Carolina comes knocking, demands to audit your financial records and informs you that since you no longer earn more than 50 percent of your income from your “licensed” profession, you are no longer a general contractor.

Sound absurd? I thought so too.

The North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission is going to consider just such a proposal at its meeting in Wrightsville Beach in February under the seemingly benign guise of “redefining a commercial fisherman.”

The proposed definition would require standard commercial license holders to earn at least 50 percent of his or her income from commercial fishing, make $10,000 or more a year in fish sold, and also turn in 36 or more Trip Tickets per year.

As absurd as it sounds, the proposal was not surprising.

A three-person committee selected from the nine-member commission came up with the new definition and less than 30 minutes into their Jan. 11 meeting approved sending it to the full panel for discussion.

Critics say the swiftness and lack of input from interested parties during the panel’s deliberations led them to believe the committee had come together with a predetermined outcome and had hoped to push the measure through with little notice from the commercial fishing community.


What was surprising was that committee member and Marine Fisheries Commission chairman, Sammy Corbett, supported the proposal.

Corbett represents one of three seats on the commission that are reserved for commercial interests, one of two sides set up by statute to regulate the state’s fisheries, with the other side comprising recreational interests.

Thanks in huge part to appointments made by Republican former Gov. Pat McCrory to the commission, the recreational side lays claim to not only their three reserved seats, but one of the at-large spots.

Before the other recreational seat was vacated, it too was held by a member who consistently sided with the recreational side.

One seat assigned to the scientific community had also turned into a fairly reliable recreational vote, and despite meaning the commission had a 5-to-3 recreational fishing majority.

Editor’s note: Gov. Roy Cooper’s appointment of Cameron Boltes to the vacant recreational seat, and Pete Kornegay as the new scientific-community member were just finalized on Jan. 24.

Corbett seemed to back arguments that the new definitions were needed to eliminate commercial fishing licenses held by recreational anglers who used the licenses to skirt catch limits.

They also cited that out of almost 7,000 licensed commercial fishermen, only 2,973 actually sold their catch last year.

Additionally, supporters of the measure cited reports that high-end recreational boats were outfitted with commercial-grade gear because the owners held commercial licenses, another sign that licenses were being abused.

Of course, none of these criticisms were supported by data that revealed that those 4,000 commercial fishermen were recreational anglers in disguise, nor was any evidence offered to demonstrate stealth commercial fishing boats were out there pretending to be recreational charters.

All of this focus on the new measure being designed to help commercial fishermen by purging rule-abusing recreational anglers provided perfect cover for the group that, as Dare County commissioner Jim Tobin noted, was really behind the proposed rule change.

The Coastal Conservation Association.

The CCA, using its national and state organizations, has been relentless over four decades in persuading state legislatures and marine fisheries commissions all over the country to ban certain species from commercial harvest, eliminate the use of traditional fishing methods such as net trawls and pound nets, place onerous catch limits on commercially targeted species, as well as burying commercial fishermen under a bevy of regulatory closures, gear restrictions, enforcement monitoring and paperwork.


And the presence of former CCA board member Chuck Laughridge on the committee is reason enough to doubt this proposal can’t possibly be in the interests of the commercial industry since Laughridge has never made his dislike of commercial fishing a secret — before or after his appointment to the MFC.

Thus, his support of the rule change should raise concerns throughout the commercial industry.

But when all is said and done, Dare County Commissioner Jim Tobin’s recollection of his own commercial fishing career is the most telling.

Tobin, who has held a commercial fishing license for the last 15 years, described two major problems he had with the new proposal at the Dare commissioners meeting in mid-January.

“I don’t fit into any of these categories,” Tobin said. “It says 36 Trip Tickets. I fish pound nets for flounder. It’s about a six-month job to get flounder nets prepared and set and you got three months of fishing and you fish two days a week because you let them sit for several days before you fish them.

“I don’t believe in any year I would have made 36 Trip Tickets,” Tobin said. “With that said, in a good year, we’re making $75,000 to $100,000 a year.”

“In a bad year, when there’s hurricanes, we make less than $10,000 because our nets are torn up.”

So much for using Trip Tickets or the $10,000 minimum as a means to identify recreational anglers hiding behind a commercial license to abuse the system.

But what Tobin said next was even more telling.

“I also have a real problem with 50 percent of the income,” Tobin said. “This is basically telling you that you cannot be a commercial fisherman and go out and have other businesses and other jobs.”


“In my first year (of fishing) I went out and inspected nuclear power plants and I owned a garden center. I made more money doing that than I did from my first year of commercial fishing,” Tobin said.

“It’s un-American to tell someone they cannot go out and provide and work hard for their family and not qualify to be a commercial fisherman,” Tobin said. “This is horrible.”

“This is brought to you by the same people who brought you House Bill 867. It’s the CCA. It’s Chuck Laughridge and its horrible. I totally oppose this bill.”

Tobin is right.

And as a Republican, I suspect Tobin is upset at his party’s former governor, the GOP-controlled state legislature, and other Republicans who have allowed the CCA to get into their pockets, take control of the MFC, and destroy the livelihood of so many people.

There is not one shred of economic or scientific evidence commercial fishing has cost the recreational industry in North Carolina a dollar of revenue or a single job.

There has never been any scientific evidence offered that commercial fishing is harming the state’s fish stocks any more than the damage that may or may not be caused by recreational anglers to those same stocks.

And the Republican Party has always said they were about free enterprise, the working man and woman and how small business is the backbone of our economy. The GOP opposes regulations they claim overburden small businesses. They are wary of environmental science they feel is flawed and deployed primarily to harm business interests and serve political agendas of the “other” side — the political left.

Yet, over the past six years, the GOP has lived up to a different stereotype.

The party has always fought the image of catering to big business and the wealthy and nothing speaks to that stereotype than the CCA.

The group was founded in Texas by oil money and representing not the weekend angler, but those with wallets large enough to donate under the radar (the CCA never runs its political donations under its PAC in North Carolina), and boats big enough to require marina dockage.

Under the Democrats, the CCA made significant in-roads into the General Assembly and the Marine Fisheries Commission.

When the GOP and McCrory arrived, local commercial fishermen, who have long-supported Republicans, felt the pendulum would swing their way.

They’ve been disappointed in a major way.

The GOP-controlled General Assembly has been extremely CCA friendly, as was Gov. McCrory.

While our local representatives, Sen. Bill Cook, R-Chocowinity, and Rep. Beverly Boswell R-Kill Devil Hills, as well as Boswell’s predecessor former Rep. Paul Tine, I-Nags Head, have fought hard against the CCA, they’ve had to fight even harder against their own party in trying to protect commercial fishing from the CCA.

Even the Republican-leaning N.C. Chamber of Commerce has been conned into supporting the CCA’s agenda.

The state Republican Party wasted time repealing a plastic bag ban that cost no jobs locally and amounted to a rounding error on the profits of local chain grocery stores because of the alleged harm and regulatory burden it placed on the helpless likes of WalMart and Food Lion.

One has to now question why they are aiding a different self-described environmental group to destroy a business that has an estimated value of $25 million annually to Dare County’s economy alone and supports entire communities such as Wanchese and Stumpy Point.

It’s time for all us, and the majority party, to stand up to these privileged bullies who want to keep a resource that benefits us all, including consumers, all to themselves.

Recent posts in this category

Recent posts in this category

Kevin Hall

Who now a days in NC can make more than 50% consistently with all the rule and regulation changes they make on people. Sad time to be American. #UniteOrFail

Ray Brown

This is absolutely not an enforcement issue. It is a fishery management issue. The MFC is charged with managing the resource and issuing licenses. And I know that the legislature authorizes the license and they will have to make the changes if any are made, but I also know that both Republicans and Democrats in the legislature have asked for advice from the MFC because those legislators see a need to change how and to whom we issue commercial licenses. Every person over the age of 16 in NC can buy a SCFL much like you and I did by… Read more »

Ray Brown

That is not the point Mr. Hamby. Commercial fishermen can indeed participate as recreational fishermen. No problem with that whatsoever. Every person needs a “Busman’s Holiday” on some occasion. But the issue at hand is the number of commercial fishermen who never sell a single thing on the books. Over half of all people holding a commercial fishing license in NC last year sold nothing on the books. That is what the state is trying to resolve and bring under compliance. A commercial license is not to be used to circumvent recreational rules. It is to be used for commercial… Read more »

I eat a lot of seafood..I buy it from my local independent Seafood Store who is supplied by Commercial Fishermen….Whether they fish part time or all the time doesnt matter to me. As long as the Commercial business strives to fish in a sustainable way, It should not matter how much one fishes commercially in any one year. Also, Our resturants are supplied by Commercial Fishermen, visitors whom I host at my Inn are very interested in dining on fresh NC Seafood during their visit to The Outer Banks. As long as an individual is duly licensed and obeys the… Read more »

Ray Brown

Numerous licenses issued by the state or federal government giving permission to operate require knowing personal information about the individual or require the individual to divulge personal information to operate. Have you bought an IRA lately? If so, you know the person or the entity selling it to you has to divulge exactly how much money they make on that transaction. If they are caught not revealing that information; they lose their license. As far as the individual that owns a commercial fishing license now; let me ask you this. When the state changes the rules, why not allow a… Read more »

Bill Gorham

I think current events have shown both sides need to step back and reassess what’s going on here. The lobbyist are not the ones who are going to loose anything. The problem is the user conflict, no one has anymore right than the next. I am disgusted with the inability to separate the who and what with out painting a broad brush. I find the attempt the mask the truth by some organizations distasteful, if what your doing is justified NOTHING or NO ONE should have to be mislead. The children and Grand children of North Carolina deserve better. With… Read more »

Pesticides, herbicides, and just everyday runoff from highways, this is what is wrong with our fisheries. You cannot kill weeds and bugs and not kill marine life. Very easy to blame the commercial fisherman, when the real issue is pollution that flows into our estuaries. It is much easier to go after the commercial fisherman than the big money involved with herbicides and pesticides. If you want fish quit destroying our wetlands.


When I was a kid in the 60’s we used to ride our bicycles down to the ferry and ride across to the island. There was five buildings on the this end of the island then, two of them were at the Coast Guard station. In the 90’s there were excess of 20,000 commercial fishermen and now there are just over 2,000, do the math on that one.


Used to be that fishing off our ICW dock, you might get 5 or more keeper flounder in an afternoon. That was before the netting ban was lifted. Last year, we didn’t get 5 keepers the whole summer, consistent with the past two summers. Guests to the house used to love to fish off the dock. No longer. Just a waste of time. I can appreciate people’s need to make a living, but let’s be real, the Flounder population has been decimated.


When I was a kid in the 60s, I could catch a spot, whiting, or black drum on almost every cast in the surf, or from the pier. No more. No more fall spot runs. Decades of inshore netting in NC have destroyed our fishermans paradise. Other states have fish. We are the only state that hasn’t banned this destructive activity. My grandkids will never know how bountiful the fishing was in NC, or still could be. We wiped out the buffalo. We have done the same our NC fishing resource.

Opal Beasley

Please leave the commercial fishing license requirements as they are. Having to earn 50% of your income from commercial fishing? If someone is lucky enough to clear (after expenses like, fuel, bait, gear, replacing engines, boats and paying helpers) $10,00.00 from fishing and have to work elsewhere to support their family do you really want them to have to stop working when $10,000.00 is reached to keep the ratio balanced, so not to lose their license? Who can support a family with that amount? Not all commercial fishermen make a lot of money, should they be punished? Not every commercial… Read more »


Knowing person’s with Commercial Licenses that brag about keeping more while recreational fishing just because of their Commercial License offers me to applaud the move.

Back in the Day, 70’s, you could buy a commercial license for $15. When the Fish would start their run [spot,trout,bluefish] set your net, pull it, get to the market 1st, make the hustle. I think that is what the intent of the law or spirit is trying to prevent, help the man who makes his living on the water.

George Hayduke

“There has never been any scientific evidence offered that commercial fishing is harming the state’s fish stocks any more than the damage that may or may not be caused by recreational anglers to those same stocks.”

This is total B.S. Refusing to acknowledge evidence does not mean it is not there. Good job of helping keep the wool over our eyes. Seems REAL commercial fishermen would welcome a regulatory change defining/focusing their profession.

ted midgett

Sammy Corbett….TRAITOR…..put him in the same basket with Laughredge….shake em up…..pour em out….what do you get? Nothing more than a turd! No apologies!

David Sneed

People might be more inclined to believe your story if you took the time to get the basic facts right: the At-Large seats on the MFC are currently held by Mark Gorges and Brad Koury. The seat that was open since Joe Shute resigned at the end of his second term on June 30, 2017 was the Recreational Industry seat. This information is easy to find on the DMF website. No need to let the facts get in the way of a good story though…

Thanks for the input David. We have made a note about the appointments to the commission to the vacant recreation and science seats that were just approved.

glenwood montgomery

The 3 commercial fishing commissioners on our MFC are there to help manage our Fishery in NC. They are also there to make sure that commercials have a voice in the rule making. Have never known one commercial on the MFC that wanted to do harm to our recreational fishermen unlike some of the CCA appointed commissioners that simply hate most of the fishing gear that commercials have used for ages thus putting many of them out of a job. Do not know why our governors appoint these type of individuals to this regulatory commission who’s primary intent is to… Read more »


Why do these corrupt agencies do this to us?

Carter McKay

Commercial fishermen beware of Bob Steinberg!

Cliff Claven

Sounds like the CCA is trying to keep fisherman in business for years by keeping a healthy fish population.