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STOP COMMERCIAL MENHADEN NETTING

SAVE OUR POGIES; where we're at - 09/06/2005

Finally, we are at a point where we can openly discuss what we have been "trying" to do with our SAVE OUR POGIES  effort and where we need to go forward from here. Basically, here is the story.

At our failed Legislative hearing, we found that our elected officials don't choose to listen to their constutients, but rather listen to powerful lobbyist. After the hearing, I saw Jules Wheatley, owner of Beaufort Fisheries, back slapping and smoking cigars with Rufus Edmisten, former State Secretary of State. Rufus, coincidently, is an old friend of mine back when he was Sec of State. We spoke, he introduced me to Wheatley, and not until that moment did I know that Rufus was the lobbyist who was representing Omega Proteins and Beaufort Fisheries. I contacted Rufus shortly thereafter and expressed to him that SOP wasn't going to go away, that we were all business people who were well versed in problem solving, and that if his clients didn't deal with our concerns in Brunswick and New Hanover counties, that their problem could spread statewide. From that conversation began a series of discussions between us and Representative Bonner Stiller. The end result was that Omega agreed to enter into an agreement that they would not come to our waters. At that point we were encouraged that we would have a solution to the issue, however Jules Wheatley at Beaufort Fisheries refused to sign the agreement. You may remember at the Legislative hearing when asked how many menhaden does he attempt to catch and his reponse was "all of them". His unwillingness to go along with Omega put an exclamation point on his earlier comment.

In the meantime Rep Stiller had kept our bill alive and he attempted to reserect it by turning it into a "Study Bill" which would have used the guidlines in the Dare County bill which restrited menhaden netting in Dare County, as the basis for study. The intent was to keep the pressure on Beaufort in hopes they would sign the agreement with Omega. The bill passed the House, however the Senate adjourned without voting on it, therefore the bill died.

So, what does all this mean? Omega agreed not to come into our waters. Beaufort does not agree. Not a solution, but a beginning. In the meantime I have heard that Beaufort has sold their property therefore they may not be an issue. Haven't confirmed that yet.

What do we do now? There is another path to follow which is to encourage the Director of Marine Fisheries, Preston Pate to declare by proclamation that our area of the State is closed to menhaden trawling. He has that power and can use it if he so chooses. Our issue is localized depletion which clearly occurs as we all know. Pate's position is the mass of menahden are not over fished and therefore there is no problem. As relates to the entire US coastline he may be right, however North Carolina and Virginia are the only 2 states that allow netting, so obviously, to look at the entire population when only fish located in 2 states are being targeted is ridiculious. We need to pound on Mr. Pate to be concerned with his state's citizens, and not an out of state company. We need to contact him via email at Preston.Pate@ncmail.net or tele # 252-726-7021.

In the meantime, I think we should establish a spotter network, and if one of the pogy boats leaves Morehead or is seen coming down the coast, we need to use the various web sites to sound the alert. Where these boats stop to net apparently will be an excellent place for sportfishermen to fish as we all know the predador fish will be where the bait is at, therefore if a large group of fishermen choose to fish at the exact spot where the pogy boats attempt to do their netting; well maybe Mr. Pate will recognize there is a "user conflict" which is one of the justifications he can use to close an area by proclamation.

That's the story, everyone's help has been greatly appreciated, and if a solution doesn't occur before the next Legislative session, we'll start over.

Thanks again. Rube McMullan 



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