MFC plays bait-and-switch on commercial fisherman definition

By on February 15, 2018

The North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission’s quarterly meeting in Wrightsville Beach on Wednesday and Thursday was full of controversy, but it was the approval by a majority to ask Gov. Roy Cooper to consider replacing all nine members immediately that left heads spinning at the Blockade Runner Resort.

After being blind-sided earlier in the day by a previously-unseen proposal on how to change the eligibility requirements for a standard commercial fishing license, the request was a rare win for the commission’s commercial industry representatives.

Just before adjourning Thursday afternoon, commissioner Janet Rose of Currituck, who represents the commercial industry, presented a motion to send a letter asking Gov. Roy Cooper “to examine the current membership of this commission and, if need be, make changes to ensure this commission functions as intended.”



Rose was referring to the imbalance of recreational members who, in addition to filling seats designated for recreation, also hold the at-large seats meant to be filled by consumers or other general members of the public.

The day before, Jerry Schill, director of Government Relations for the N.C. Fisheries Association, cited data during the public comment session that the board has been one-sided for nearly all of the last three decades, but the current commission is the worst he has seen.

“You should all resign immediately and allow Gov. Cooper another shot at it,” Schill said. “Or allow the General Assembly to fix what the governor has messed up.”


Many who have long bemoaned that the makeup of the commission does not reflect the intention of the 1997 Fisheries Reform Act, which required a balance of membership between commercial and recreational interests and inclusion of other residents, were shocked when the request passed on a 5-4 vote.

The motion was seconded by recreational member Cameron Boltes of Washington, who was just appointed by Cooper and was attending his first meeting.


Boltes and Mark Gorges, a recreational fisherman filling an at-large seat, voted with Rose, chairman Sammy Corbett and Allison Willis, who are also other commercial members.

Transparency appeared to take a holiday Thursday morning when the board was to discuss the issue of defining a commercial fisherman, as the original proposal from a three-member committee tasked with creating a recommendation was never discussed.

Division of Marine Fisheries liaison Nancy Fish began the presentation by briefly describing past efforts to create a definition of a commercial fisherman.

She noted that out of approximately 150 comments received on the committee’s recommendation, about 136 opposed the submitted definition and the remaining comments either supported or didn’t state a position.

Dozens more gave their thoughts on the proposal during the public comment session Wednesday afternoon.

“I must admit I was taken aback when I first learned of this proposal being considered by the commission and can think of no legitimate purpose for its consideration that could lead to a positive outcome for those individuals who supplement their incomes or retirement through commercial fishing,” said Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Edenton, who also serves on the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

“This proposal seems to suggest a punitive action against an industry that has endured much over the last 30 years,” Steinburg said.

After briefly discussing why only three commissioners were on the committee, chairman Corbett said it was clear that 99 percent of the fishermen were opposed to committee’s recommendation.

Public comments on the issue were accepted the night before and addressed the recommendation that had been advertised.

“Now, we can try to come up with something,” said Corbett.


But before the discussion of the panel’s recommendations could begin, Pete Kornegay of Camden, a retired fisheries biologist just appointed to the scientist seat, presented an entirely different document that he said was created by the North Carolina Wildlife Federation.

He previously was hired to review the federation’s controversial Sound Economy Plan and to speak in public in support of it.

The document presented Thursday, which laid out an entirely new list of requirements to be eligible for a commercial license, had not been previously shared with the full commission or its legal counsel.

Commission attorney Philip Reynolds quickly noted that the issues contained in the document were different from what the committee, which was composed of Corbett, recreational member Chuck Laughridge and former scientist Mike Wicker, had been tasked with.

One of the items stated that to hold a commercial fishing license, one must first obtain a crew license and work for three years in that capacity.

“These issues are different from the committee’s charge,” said Reynolds. “You can’t require effort from the past.”

Reynolds also noted that the issues were different and far reaching. “I’m not prepared to comment on this at this time,” Reynolds said.

Corbett also objected because the N.C. Wildlife Federation’s proposal included major changes to the recreational fishing license but recreational fishermen had not been given an opportunity to comment on it.

Kornegay said that he had discussed the plan with Laughridge and made a motion to adopt that was seconded by Laughridge.


“The committee met to discuss definition of commercial fishermen and this has nothing to do with that,” Corbett objected.

On at least two occasions, Division of Marine Fisheries staff suggested that some changes could be made by rule instead of sending the motion to the General Assembly to set into statute, but those recommendations were ignored.

The motion passed 5-4, with recreational fisherman Brad Khory voting against along with Corbett, Rose and Willis. The changes, which still have to gain the approval of the General Assembly before they can go into effect, include:

  • Develop a new commercial fishing license based on criteria to qualify current commercial license holders. Current license holders must demonstrate a minimal level of participation in the fishery as reported by landings (1,000 pounds of seafood products) or effort (15 trips) through the DMF trip ticket program during any two out of five continuous calendar years.
  • Only allow license transfers or assignments to members of the immediate family or corporation of a licensed commercial fisherman.
  • Create a Crew license for individuals to apprentice with commercial fishermen for three years after which time they would be eligible to purchase a standard commercial fishing license. The annual fee for the Crew license would be $100.
  • Cap the pool at 100 and establish a new pool to receive licenses that are not renewed each year. Any non-renewed licenses would be transferred into the new pool and used to fill new commercial fishing license demand for qualified applicants. Inactive licenses may be reactivated for a fee.
  • Inactive Standard Commercial Fishing Licenses that do not have requirements set forth by the legislature would go back into a special pool and these licenses may be reissued to the original holder without going through the Eligibility Pool.
  • Create a Heritage Standard Commercial Fishing License that families may want to maintain that are inactive that may be maintained for $100 per year and may be reissued one time to a family member without going through the Eligibility Pool or any of the requirements listed above. If reissue is not wanted, a one-time fee of $100 will retire that license number.
  • Graduation or completion of work at community colleges offering a commercial fishing program will be recognized as having served an apprenticeship eligible for an Eligibility Pool license.
  • All references to recreational licenses including the prohibition of gill nets allowed to those with a Recreational Commercial Gear License were removed, as was a provision to allow commercial fishermen to use hook-and-line in an effort to “expand opportunities.”

    Initially, the proposal called for limiting only one license per commercial fisherman, however, after discussion about why some fishermen need multiple licenses, that was deleted.


  • BuddyRoe

    Tax posterity to be eligible to receive heritage?
    Price of heritage now valued at $100.
    What sick joke.

    Friday, Feb 16 @ 8:58 am
  • Ray Brown

    Your article has a major error. The suggestion definition submitted by the NC Wildlife Federation was available for public review on the DMF website as well as being part of every MFC members briefing book which was also available for the public to review on line. The NCWF submitted their public comments, as did I, and as did more people than some at the meeting did and all were available for the public, and the media, to review two days before the meeting began.

    Far from a bait and switch. Only those who did not read what the DMF had provided were surprised or, those complaining, are trying to find something other than the subject at hand to have the casual public focus on.

    Friday, Feb 16 @ 4:55 pm
  • Sam Walker

    In response to a previous comment, the document cited was submitted as part of the written public comments to the commission which were available for review here:

    They are the second of a two-page letter from the NCWF, on pages 193 and 194 of a 261 page pdf file.

    It was not included in the normal agenda packet, nor in the committee reports that were part of the agenda packet in the area that is associated with the agenda item, under the Committee Reports section, pages 129 to 137 of this 690 page pdf file:

    There is a place holder page in the agenda packet at the end of the committee report section on commercial fishing licenses, with the text:

    That placeholder page is placed in the full document to allow for the addition of materials in each of the breifing book sections, and allow for information, etc. to be presented to the commission at the time of their meeting.

    We stand by our story that the proposal submitted and voted on at Thursday’s meeting was not material which had been formally proposed by the committee or made available for review during the public comment period prior to the meeting.

    We appreciate your comments,
    Sam Walker, News Director

    Friday, Feb 16 @ 5:49 pm
  • Seal

    Stacking the deck ????

    Friday, Feb 16 @ 4:58 pm
  • Ray Brown

    And I stand by my point that any comment or suggestion made to the MFC for deliberation at their meeting, including this one, was available for any interested party to see prior to the meeting. If interested parties did not avail themselves of that information ahead of time, especially the interested media, then calling this a bait and switch itruly wrong.

    The information was there. I saw it, as did many. I can’t help it if you or others didn’t. The state of NC paid good money for all to see it in advance of the meeting as they always do with public comment and suggestions. You act like this format of advanced notification is a surprise.

    Friday, Feb 16 @ 7:42 pm
  • Sam Walker

    This is not how open government is supoosed to work, especially in the 21st century.

    It is obvious a majority of this body, which you are a supporter of from your previous comments on our site and the wild, wild west of fishing message boards, successfully subverted the accepted process of conducting the people’s business to push this through.

    It should be obvious that the majority of the MFC, and its puppeteers, have no desire to operate in the spotlight of open government by the fact that it took years to force the members to have state email accounts. This is NOT how open government works.

    It will be interesting to see of the governor decides its time to end the MFC as we know it…for the best of both the recreation amd commercial industries.

    Sam Walker

    Saturday, Feb 17 @ 3:15 pm
  • Ray Brown

    Are you talking about the motion made by the MFC member who by their own admission does not qualify for the seat they hold? Ask the NCFA why they are not seeking the resignation of Mrs. Rose in the same way they sought the resignation of former commercial seat holder and MFC chairman Jimmy Johnson when he sold Washington Crab Company and no longer earned 50% of his income from commercial fishing? Why the double standard?

    I tend to agree that it is time the MFC and WRC are both shut down and one entity formed to manage all our natural resources from the mountains to the the three mile limit with equal representation on the commission from every part of NC with no labels of commerical or recreational. Just citizen stakeholders of whom we all have equal say.

    Saturday, Feb 17 @ 8:14 pm
  • Sam Walker

    Nice job of trying to change the subject when you know what happened Thursday was unethical and immoral. You made an accusation, and I have shown why our headline and lede were correct.

    I will be glad to continue this conversation directly. Feel free to call me at 252-202-4511.

    Saturday, Feb 17 @ 10:15 pm
  • Manteoer

    You go Sam!!! If those seats were filled with all comercial interest individuals it would have been cleared up a long time ago. It goes back to groups like the cca. That is how this mess got started now isn’t ? Special interest groups. They pay and get there way.What a joke. the govonor has to babysit a bunch of toddlers? Fill the seats with the appropriate people all the time. Keep it fair always. Yall are a joke and discrace.

    Saturday, Feb 17 @ 9:27 pm
  • Browny Douglas

    Ray, are you referring to the same Mrs Rose that lost her husband when he was the MFC chair? The same Mrs Rose along with her entire family that informed Dr Louis Daniel to tell Commissioner Chuck Laughtridge that he was not to attend her husbands funeral? Is that the same MFC member that you refer to, Ray? If so, have you ever wondered why that was?

    The Coastal CONsevation Association must be proud of Mr Laughridge. They paid to get him reappointed Nov 2 2016. Not surprising to those of us who were around when the CCA was spawned here in N C.

    Browny Douglas

    Sunday, Feb 18 @ 1:25 am
  • Mike

    Why are people who don’t even live on the coast ,allowed to influence the policies of commercial fishing?

    Sunday, Feb 18 @ 2:10 am
  • Browny Douglas

    I failed to point out, in previous comment, the fact that Nov2, 2016 was midway of early voting. That is significant so as to understand how the CCA works its agenda. Its called $$ and the purporting of assurance votes if they give the order. They buy the Governor, get what they want from him/her and move on to the next Governor. At present the CCA is in cart blanc control of the N C DMF because of Governor Coopers sellout to CCA for more controlling MFC appointments.

    Browny Douglas

    Sunday, Feb 18 @ 2:47 am
  • Sean

    My govonor better get to work on this right now. I want to see some great govorning skills and get this NORTH CAROLINA MESS RESOLVED NOW. AS IT IS, EMBARRASSING as a nc citizen. lead MY state by setting great examples. Not mismanaged mess that it is. I think political who accept money from lobby groups should be charged with receiving gifts for favors. Always. Then they’d be more likely not to take the money. Don’t you already have enough money you greedy bast.

    Sunday, Feb 18 @ 10:11 am
  • Scales of Balance

    Ahh, the sweet breath of fresh air that comes when action, ulterior in intent, meets the sunlight of rigorous journalism.

    Sunday, Feb 18 @ 12:48 pm
  • Sean

    Well its Monday morning when the govonor opens his office door this morning this must be the first thing on his agenda. After thinking of this all weekend if he agrees the board is unbalanced and he firescthem all I want his explenation on how this UNBALANCE can happen in MY STATE. And to set laws in place so if this happens in the future… heads will roll. and as a citizen, I feel I’m not being represented by the people we have elected as or state manangers. POOR JOB…

    Monday, Feb 19 @ 7:42 am
  • NativeDaughter

    Amen, Sam Walker!! I agree Manteoer and Mike. I for one wish we had more journalist with Sam Walkers ethics and morals. I’ve never known him to not report the truth, even when its not what I want to hear!!

    Monday, Feb 19 @ 8:16 pm
  • Myron Smith

    Thanks Janet Rose for making recommendations for more Commercial Fishermen to have more MFC MEMBERS representing Commercial Fishing Industries of NC. Too Many CCA members on MFC! Contact Governor Cooper and NC State Representatives!!!!

    Monday, Feb 19 @ 9:46 pm
  • maurice mann

    i think that only commercial fishermen should have commercial fishermen on that board,,and have only recreation on that board,and sports fishing on that board,and then everone get on board

    Wednesday, Feb 21 @ 10:55 pm
  • Sean

    Ok Mr govonor I see you working on the oil drilling off our coast. Now it time to work on a bigger mess right in your back yard. It’s time for your thought on this so we see where you stand on this. Or are you receiving your campaign contributions from cca?

    Thursday, Feb 22 @ 8:39 pm
  • Ray Brown

    Mr. Walker, I do apologize for not getting back to you sooner, but I had not seen your offer for me to call until last night. I will do so before the week is out, but I have a cold/flu scenario right now that has reduced my voice down to a whisper.

    As soon as I recover my voice I will gladly call and I sincerely appreciate the offer to talk.

    Tuesday, Feb 27 @ 2:48 pm
  • Sam Walker

    Of course. Get well soon.

    Tuesday, Feb 27 @ 4:03 pm
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