Interviewee: Beverly Perdue

Role: NC State Senator

Date of Interview: September 29, 2016

Collection: 1997 North Carolina Fisheries Reform Act

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

Abstract: Former Governor Beverly Perdue served in the NC Senate in the 1990s. 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: We would have forums and I can remember one forum--somewhere Down East and I went to the public hearing because I did that kind of thing. I was really a listener and loved the process, and I don't remember who was at the head table but somebody from government was there spouting what the rules and regulations were, and you had this whole side of the hall full of commercial fishermen who'd worked all day in their boots and their fishing clothes, you had their wives there, you had folks who understood the struggles of the industry with the lack of the catch, and on the other side was a busload of sports fishermen that'd come from all over the state, maybe from all over the southeast, to articulate, very aggressively, their positions. And so it was really quite interesting to me, at the time. And even now, in retrospect, to realize that that was the emergence of people, real people, individuals, uniting together and, through some kind of concerted mission, making a huge difference in outcomes.

You also had a Marine Fisheries Division that, from my perspective, was totally incompetent, and a Fisheries Commission that seemed either so pro-commercial or conversely pro-sport that there was never any ability to come together around consensus. You had the lack of the fish, the first numbers where the whole fishing catch, whatever those words are, was declining consistently. You had people like Marc [Basnight] talking about leases, and you had folks like me talking about the next generation of fishing being aquaculture.

And so you had all these things, and folks felt so threatened, and the tension was so high, that the only thing that we could do was move forward with some kind of legislation, I thought, that would at least put a hiatus out there, a brief time out where we could intelligently and, perhaps, without emotion, evaluate where we were and where we wanted to go as a state.

There were just so many ideas out there because, in the early [19]90s and the mid-[19]90s, you began to see the emergence of economic data that was tied very closely to the tourism industry and water quality, and you had the evidence that sport fishermen were critical to coastal economies. And for the first time, that data began to drive some of the decision-making at the local level. You put that in conflict or in tension with commercial fishermen families, who had been making their living from this catch, this hard work. And these were people, salt-of-the-earth people, who were struggling to keep their economy alive. It was no different than a local drug store being scared of C.V.S. It was the same kind of tension. And so all of those conflicting interests, at the time, as conflicting interests in the twenty-first century in our time, make it impossible to leave the emotions at the door and come in and have an intelligent conversation that was geared toward a common solution. There were no common solutions; it was one way or the other one. Close down commercial fishing or close down sports fishing. And that's what the moratorium came from. The tensions were unbelievable.

I was Appropriations Chairman by then, and so it certainly would've involved money, so it came right through my hands. And I had Senator [Marc] Basnight involved with me, and so we were torn, I mean, we knew the impact that any kind of massive reform could have on both industries.