Commercial fishermen on Outer Banks oppose “gamefish” bill

Outer Banks, N.C. – Commercial fisherman on the Outer Banks are sounding off over a bill that would limit what fish they can catch in North Carolina waters.

Bill 983 in the North Carolina House of Representatives would designate red drum, striped bass and speckled trout as coastal gamefish – which would prohibit commercial fishermen from catching them in North Carolina waters.

Benny O’Neal, who owns O’Neals Seafood Harvest in Wanchese, says the impact could be awful for commercial fishermen.

“It would completely take them off our restaurants, out of our retail and out of the livelihood of commercial fishermen,” O’Neal said Tuesday. “The entire commercial industry in our state would be totally devastated.”

Proponents of the legislation say it would protect the fish species and prevent overfishing.

O’Neal says that can be done without harming the livelihoods of hundreds of fishermen.

“We don’t want to take anything away from recreational anglers – we’re recreational anglers ourselves- but we do need access to these fish which are being properly managed by the NC Marine Fisheries with the management plan that they have,”O’Neal explained.

This is not the first time the measure of gamefish regulation has been brought up, but previous bills have failed.

A public forum on the bill was held in Raleigh on Monday.

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