Interviewee: Jess Hawkins

Role: NC Division of Marine Fisheries staff

Date of Interview: October 7, 2016

Collection: 1997 North Carolina Fisheries Reform Act

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

Abstract: Jess Hawkins served as NC Division of Marine Fisheries liaison to the NC Marine Fisheries Commission during development and implementation of the Fisheries Reform Act. He was interviewed about the development and passage of the act, and about the successes and shortcomings of the act as a framework for managing coastal fisheries resources.

Transcript: I was born and raised in a little town called Bath. It's the oldest town in the state and I grew up fishing and hunting and had a love for outdoors life and fish, and went to school to become a marine biologist and ended up working for what's called the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries. I was a fisheries biologist. The last part of my career, I was the Marine Fisheries Commission Liaison. The Marine Fisheries Commission makes the laws or the rules for the state of North Carolina concerning coastal fisheries, and I was that contact person for the Division and the Commission. And that's how I became involved in the Fisheries Reform Act. The Fisheries Reform Act re-organized the Commission, empowered that Commission with different duties, and so I was involved in development of the Fisheries Reform Act and the study by the Moratorium Steering Committee, which studied how to re-organize the governance structure for managing coastal fisheries in North Carolina.

Fisheries in North Carolina are very important to the cultural fabric of the state, and they're very important economically, and then of course, we're a unique state, biologically. We have a lot of different types of fish species and we have the largest estuary in our state, so there were a lot of fisheries issues that were starting to come to the forefront and the way the Division dealt with them. The Division of Marine Fisheries is a scientific arm, or the management arm, and they also enforce the rules that the Commission passes.

It was a very exciting time. You felt like you were making your state a better state, and you were trying to do something to make it better for the people that utilized the resource, both recreational and commercial fishermen, make it better for the fish, and make it better for the tax payers in having a fair and accountable system to manage those resources.