Dare commissioners oppose NOAA amendment, joined by Congressman Murphy

Published 8:27 am Sunday, September 24, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

“We’ll continue fighting for you,” said Dare County Board of Commissioners Chairman Robert L. Woodard to Dewey Hemilright, a pelagic longline waterman from Kitty Hawk.

At the Sept. 6, 2023 meeting of Dare’s commissioners, Hemilright protested the proposal that pelagic watermen pay for all electronic monitoring equipment and operation.

In an email, Jeff Oden, another longline fisherman, accuses the National Marine Fisheries Service of creating a major contraction of the fishery.

Get the latest headlines sent to you

Both Oden and Hemilright call attention to the already dwindling numbers of longliners. In the last 20 years, says Oden, 80% of the fleet has been lost. In 2000, “we numbered 430 vessels. Today, its 82 and falling.”

The amendment establishes a cost of $280 per set, “resulting in an estimated $1,700 additional cost per trip on average;” states the resolution passed by the commissioners. Fishermen must pay all the costs, writes Oden, including installation of two cameras, repair and purchase. He estimates between $15,000 and $20,000 for those costs.

Oden brings up another point, the gentrification of working waterfronts. He writes Hatteras village 25 years ago had eight fish houses; today, it’s two. Wanchese, 20 years ago, had up to 10 fish houses. It now has four.

Oden writes “we are quickly heading for the day when it will be Day at the Charter Docks …”

Commissioner Steve House told the commissioners the amendment took five years to write and now only three months provided for review.

As to the issue of electronic monitoring, the resolution opposing Amendment 15 Section F, Sub Section F2, spells out that NOAA has previously paid for the electronic monitoring, which was added in 2015, with the federal agency footing the bill. In 2019, procedure titled “Cost Allocation in Electronic Monitoring Programs for Federally Managed Fisheries” was put in place. Electronic monitoring continued to be funded with federal funds.

The resolution states that the Dare County Board of Commissioners “strongly opposes Draft Amendment 15, Section F, Subsection F2 as this would add an overwhelming and unsustainable financial burden on our already overregulated commercial watermen and seafood industry in Dare County specifically and on the pelagic longline fishing industry of the East Coast of the United States in general.”

On Sept. 15, 2023, a congressional voice was added to the chorus of opposition.

Congressman Gregory F. Murphy, who represents the Third Congressional District, expressed his deep concern and opposition to Draft Amendment 15, Section F, Subsection F2 …”

Murphy sent his two-page letter to Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator Richard W. Spinrad. The letter was copied to North Carolina’s two U.S. Senators Thom Tillis and Ted Budd and Representative David Rouzer from Wilmington, N.C.

Murphy writes “My constituents within North Carolina’s Third Congressional District and I are deeply concerned that Amendment 15, as drafted, mandates that the costs associated with data collection be borne by the very fishermen who are collecting the data, rather than by NOAA, the agency that is responsible for managing the fishery and requiring this data to be collected in the first place.”

Murphy asks that Amendment 15 be reconsidered and that NOAA engage in meaningful dialogue with stakeholders.

Murphy copied the Dare County Board of Commissioners on the letter.

The Dare County resolution was passed unanimously by six commissioners. Commissioner Jim Tobin was excused from the meeting due to health considerations.