Interviewee: Frank Tursi

Role: Winston-Salem Journal reporter

Date of Interview: May 24, 2016

Collection: 1997 North Carolina Fisheries Reform Act

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

Abstract: Frank Tursi covered fisheries issues for the Winston-Salem Journal in 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: I was very, very fortunate, looking back on it all now, to have worked at a time in American journalism when getting the story was really all that mattered. There certainly were budgetary constraints, but you were expected to go out and get the story and I was very fortunate to have worked for a series of editors who let me follow my nose. I wrote a series of stories on the conflict between recreational and commercial fishing. It was this conflict that originally drew me to this whole policy issue. And I think it was the conflict that fueled that issue. Certainly there are probably very few commercial fishermen in Winston-Salem, but there certainly are many, many recreational fishermen who would be affected by reforms in the law. So that was the newspaper's interest, informing a great percentage of its readers about policy changes that would affect something they enjoyed doing.

The coastal habitat protection plan is a wonderful concept, but that's all it is. Nothing's ever been done, to my knowledge. They update the plan, they were supposed to integrate permitting and I don't really see any evidence of that. So again, it was a good concept and well-intentioned, but in the work-a-day of permitting and the way business gets conducted, I don't really see it as much of an influence. I never hear it in any discussion about why something shouldn't be done because it violates a habitat protection plan.

I think much of the conflict you see between recreational and commercial fishermen deals mostly with gear. I don't think it's so much particular species; I don't know how you get around that issue, and that's the tough one, and that's where much of the conflict is. It's not over species. It's how those species are caught and what recreational fishermen perceive to be the inequities in the catch limits and the size limits, where commercial fishermen are allowed certain percentage of undersized fish.