Interviewee: Sandy Semans Ross

Role: NC Fisheries Association communications director

Date of Interview: June 17, 2016

Collection: 1997 North Carolina Fisheries Reform Act

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

Abstract: Sandy Semans Ross was communications director for the NC Fisheries Association, a commercial fishing organization. She 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: A good bit of my time was going out to all the small fishing groups and talking to them, and fisheries varies so much from the Virginia line to South Carolina line that each one has unique problems and situations, and sometimes gear differences. So I would go out and talk to them and explain what they could do in a rational, reasonable, proactive way to affect fisheries reform and I would ask them what their top three priorities were, what things they could live with and what things were just going do them in. And there was only one common denominator from north to south, and that is no matter what they do, if they don't take care of habitat and water quality, we will have no fisheries. So that was a major thing that we pushed.

There was already discussion on putting a cap on the number of licenses, which is what would've put value on them as far as selling your license to someone else. They were afraid that their children would be shut out of the fisheries, that they wouldn't be able to get in there. The older men who were only fishing part-time or wanted to feel like they could start fishing again at any time if they got out were concerned about keeping their licenses, if they had to show a certain amount of poundage a year. There were concerns about gear limitations and whether just removing some of the gear was going to shut them out of fisheries.

When the idea of habitat and water quality protection plans was brought up (at mark-up), everybody at the table agreed with it. It was just a no-brainer. But when we got to the part about the habitat and water quality protection plans, that they were to be developed and implemented, there was no effective date. And I said, 'Wait a minute,' I said, 'this doesn't have a hammer, there's nothing in here to make this happen, it just says There Shall Be. It could be 200 years from now.' And there was absolute silence at that table; no one would speak up and say anything.

If you don't have good water quality and good habitat for fisheries, they don't spawn. If you don't have those things in place to keep pollution out of the water, they don't live. And so what happens is that species decline, and when species decline, the ones regulated are not the polluters, they're the fishermen. And a lot of the fisheries regulation that have gone into place in the last twenty years are directly a result of pollution and habitat degradation rather than fisheries actions. You can't keep mitigating loss of environmental things needed by clamping down on the fishermen.