MONDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2003
Charter boat license on agenda
By PATRICIA SMITH-HEUPEL
MOREHEAD CITY - Bill Preast of Jacksonville said he’s not sure how many will show up for an upcoming advisory panel meeting at which state fisheries officials plan to discuss charter boat licensing.
When the issue came up once before, there was a packed house, said Preast, a member of the Southeast Regional Advisory Committee to the Marine Fisheries Commission, which plans to meet Tuesday in Wilmington.
“I know that at that one we had just person after person stand up and state their opinion about what was going on,” Preast said.
All were against bringing back a state charter boat license, especially if criteria for it involved an income requirement, he said.
They may not so strongly oppose the latest proposal for a free permit, established to give state officials a database for catch surveys, though.
“I think most of them will go along with it if it will stay that,” Preast said.
But there is a fear, he said, that a permit is just the first step toward something bigger.
“If it turns into a license with a fee and income requirement, then everybody’s against that,” Preast said.
Three regional advisory committees to the fisheries commission will look at both the license and permit issues at public meetings that begin this week in Manteo. And while the issues are related, they are separate, said Jess Hawkins of the Division of Marine Fisheries.
The division has asked the commission to endorse the establishment of a permit that would be required of anyone who takes people fishing for hire in coastal North Carolina. No fee would be associated with the permit, but captains would have to provide the agency with information such as their name and address, vessel size, a point of contact for the business and normal area of fishing activity.
“What we’re trying to do on that is just to get an inventory of people,” Hawkins said.
North Carolina participates in the Atlantic Coast Cooperative Statistics Program, designed to collect information about fishing in different states by agreed-upon protocols so that more accurate comparisons can be made. One initiative of this program is to get better catch information from the for-hire boats.
The division was already working on this initiative this past summer when the Oregon Inlet Guides Association asked the commission to consider re-establishing a state charter boat license.
The group cited a need to ensure professionalism in the industry and suggested criteria for a license that included documentation of a captains license, boat inspections, liability insurance and an income requirement.
Representatives of the Guides Association have since indicated that an income requirement was not that important, Hawkins said.
The state’s charter boat license, initiated in 1984, was abolished when a new commercial fishing license structure went into effect in 1999, and it would take legislative approval to reinstate it. The commission has not decided whether or not to seek a license through the General Assembly. The division is not asking for one at this time.
Public meetings will be held by:
The Northeast Regional Advisory Committee at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Board of Commissioners Meeting Room, 204 Ananias Dare St., Manteo;
The Southeast Regional Advisory Committee at 6 p.m. Tuesday 25 at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources offices, 125 Cardinal Dr. Extension, Wilmington;
The Central Regional Advisory Committee at 6 p.m. March 4 at Duke Marine Lab auditorium, Pivers Island, Beaufort.