CAROLINA BEACH, NC (WWAY) -- Commercial fishing is a $180 million industry in North Carolina. Now a bill in the state House could filet a chunk of commercial fishing and turn it over to recreational anglers.
Both recreational and commercial fishermen agree that North Carolina's coastal fisheries are a precious natural resource that need to be protected, but House Bill 983 would seek to eliminate commercial fishermen from catching red drum, spotted trout and sea bass, and they say that would severely limit the way that they make a living.
"Commercial fishermen and recreational fishermen both want to protect the species. If we don't have any fish to catch, there is no value in the fish," commercial fisherman Joe Romano said. "If people go fishing and they can't catch any fish, no one wants that. When you drive bills like this that literally divide people apart, you're making the situation worse."
Under HB 983, also known as the 2013 Fisheries Economic Development Act, commercial fishermen would be compensated for the financial loss they suffer from the new restrictions. Romano says this is a fishy situation.
"Right now there is a law on the books that says that we have to treat recreational and commercial fishermen the same way in the protection of the species. That's why we have the Division of Marine Fisheries," Romano said. "That's why we've hired scientists to study the species, and so now by letting politicians determine how a fish will be used for the public good, that's a dangerous precedent."
The professionals don't plan to go down without a fight. Some traveled to Raleigh Monday to spawn protest the bill.
If passed the bill would also increase the cost of coastal recreational fishing licenses to pay for inlet dredging.