Interviewee: Bob Lucas

Role: NC Marine Fisheries Commission chair

Date of Interview: August 9, 2016

Collection: 1997 North Carolina Fisheries Reform Act

Click on the link below to play the audio clip from the interviewee.

Abstract: Recreational angler Bob Lucas served as chair of the NC Marine Fisheries Commission and the NC Fisheries Moratorium Steering Committee during the 1990s. He was interviewed about the development and passage of the Fisheries Reform Act, and about the successes and shortcomings of the act as a framework for managing coastal fisheries resources.

Transcript: We came up with the idea of a moratorium to stop it all and try to bring the best minds together. Some of those were people on the commission; some were not. Some were commercial fisherman, recreational fishermen, people on the Marine Fisheries Commission, people from habitat and water quality backgrounds, professors, scientists. I was named Chairman of the Moratorium Steering Committee. And I was Chairman of the Marine Fisheries at the same time, which was a kind of a balancing act.

It was nothing to be on the front page of the News and Observer. So, we got a ton of coverage, much more probably than it deserved. And it was very controversial. In fact, one time I asked Governor Hunt, 'Is there anything in state government that's more controversial than fisheries?' He said, 'Hazardous waste. That's it.' I thought, well, aren't we in some kind of company!

I would say there were degrees of unity. I think everybody was united in wanting it to work, particularly once we got into it. And I think most people could see that this isn't just an exercise, this is going to turn into a law.

Now, probably the closest that came to derailing the process probably wouldn't surprise you, and that is: politics. When you have certain politicians that mean well, maybe somebody sees something's not going to their way so they're going to bypass the process and go to the politician to get it done. There was some of that. But what kept that from happening was the broad base, the broad base of the group.

So, the first thing was: mandate the Fishery Management Plans. That was key. But, as I said, you've got to have the habitat and water protection, as well. So, it also mandated the development of coastal habitat plans. And that was done in other commissions. And so, it was an effort on our part to acknowledge that the problem with fisheries is not just 'Bob Lucas and everybody else catching too many of them;' there are other problems, such as water quality and habitat. So. that's why those plans were mandated.

But, you know what? All of that is worth the paper it's written on unless you provide the funding to do it. And, and the people have to go do it and they don't need to take forever to do it; go do it. And I don't want to get on too much of a soapbox, but the blueprint, if you will, of the [Fisheries Reform] Act, to me, even today--and I'm not saying this because I had a small part to play in it--but it will work. It will work. But you've got to follow it! And even though it's there, there's still that human inclination to want to bypass it.