14 Nov CCA NC begins second phase of billboard campaign
New Coastal Conservation Association billboard campaign educates the public
When the electronic billboard on I-85 near Mebane, N.C., clicked on November 6, it showed an endangered sea turtle trapped in a mass of monofilament. The message read, “Gill nets should be a relic of our past, not part of our future.”
It directs readers to a website, saveNCsounds.org. The site explains how gill nets and large shrimp boats pulling four nets each are wasting hundreds of millions of fish every year. It issues a call to action saying North Carolina’s fishery is a “shell of what it once was. The time has come to remove large shrimp trawlers and gillnets from our inshore waters. Our fisheries cannot continue to be abused by user groups that do nothing but harvest from our waters without any consideration for the health of our marine ecosystem.”
The most compelling of three videos on the site shows dozens of wasted red drum, black drum, blue fish and flounder lying dead on wet sand in a gill net that was never attended before the outgoing tide left it uncovered.
This was the opening salvo in CCA NC’s 2015 legislative battle to ban gill nets and excessive trawling from inshore waters. North Carolina is the last state on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts that allows gill nets inshore by both commercial and recreational fishermen.
The billboard is one of 12 on main highways leading to Raleigh from the Piedmont and Coastal Plains sections of the state. Eight will carry the gill net message while four will target shrimp trawling in estuarine waters that are a nursery for juvenile fish of many species. CCA NC has pledged to run the billboards through March until after the General Assembly convenes.
In the 2013 legislative session, a bill to give red drum, speckled trout and estuarine striped bass protective game fish status never got out of committee. The vast majority of legislators didn’t understand the issue, deferring to coastal representatives who labeled it “a local bill” not worthy of consideration.
“The campaign is partly to educate members of the legislature that this is a significant economic resource being wasted,” explained Greg Hurt, chairman of CCA NC. “We also want the public involved from the saltwater anglers on the coast to bass fishermen in the Piedmont and trout hunters in the mountains. Fishermen across the state, whether CCA members or not, have to get involved for this effort to succeed,” Hurt said.
The campaign will add to the overall fight for control of the state’s marine resources that moved to the courts in late 2014 when the North Carolina Fishermen’s Association, representing the commercial industry, sued the state. The complaint demands that the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries either abandon all Incidental Take Permits regarding sea turtles or shut down recreational fishing until a similar plan can be applied to hook-and-line anglers. CCA NC has not yet filed any action to join the suit.
“The commercial fishing industry will again attempt to paint this campaign as an ‘anti-commercial fishing’ effort when it is quite the opposite,” Hurt continued. “CCA NC has always promoted sustainable fishing practices that will lead to a more abundant fishery for both recreational and commercial fishermen. We feel strongly that all North Carolinians have a stake in the future of our coastal waters and should be educated about the effects this type of destructive gear is having on our coastal marine fish, sea turtles and birds,” he concluded.