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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - Commercial License Fees

Marine Fisheries

Commercial License Fees Support Vital Marine Fisheries Functions

By Richard Davis
Fish Eye News
March 2009

An annual ritual for commercial fishermen in North Carolina, as certain as hull maintenance or mullets in the fall, is the purchase of licenses and issuance of permits from the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries.

In fiscal year 2008 the division issued more than 23,000 licenses and permits, including Standard Commercial Fishing Licenses, Recreational Commercial Gear Licenses, and Fish Dealer Permits. The license fees collected from these sales play an important role in the division’s mission of ensuring sustainable fisheries.

One vital division operation made possible by license fees is the Trip Ticket Program. This program, which marked its 15-year anniversary in January, requires fish dealers to complete a form for each transaction with a fisherman. It was patterned after a program developed in Florida, and since its inception, the North Carolina and Florida programs have served as models and guides for other states along the Atlantic Coast.

Data provided by trip tickets are an important benefit of the use of money collected in license sales, according to Dee Lupton, deputy division director and formerly chief of the division’s license and statistics section.

“For the division, the trip ticket program exists to help us manage the fisheries better,” Lupton said. She explained that the data allows fisheries authorities to know what are being caught and how much, the types gear fishermen are using and where they are fishing. The data also helps gauge the effort required to catch various species.

Lupton also indicated that the data are valuable in quota management. “It’s good for the state of North Carolina to monitor quotas that have a state-by-state allocation to protect our own fishermen. Because we don’t have lag time, at the end of the day we know where we stand in our quota.”

Another benefit of the trip ticket program was the use of its data to justify compensation awarded to fishermen through the hurricane relief programs earlier this decade. “You had to demonstrate a loss of fishing income due to hurricanes and the only way to do that was to look at landings data,” she said.

“The same was true for crabbers and shrimpers when the federal government provided economic assistance programs. We could target who worked in commercial harvest of shrimp and crabs to see how they qualified for that money,” Lupton said.

Lupton’s statements were echoed by Don Hesselman, current section chief for license and statistics. “The hurricane relief programs were a big benefit. And the data has been a benefit in arguing for more federal quota. It’s been a tool to use for establishing quotas and confirming that we are not exceeding quotas,” he said.

However, while the trip ticket program plays a critical role in the division’s effort to fulfill its mission, it would be an impossible mission without the dedicated staff members whose salaries are funded by license sales. License receipts of $1.9 million are scheduled for use in the in the current budget year by the following sections or projects: Recreational Commercial Gear Program 4 percent, Resource Enhancement and Administrative Services 4 percent, License Administration 9 percent, Trip Ticket Program 17 percent, Information Technology 17 percent, and Marine Patrol 49 percent.

Information Technology staff provide computer support for many division functions. They play a crucial role in license sales by assuring the smooth operation of software and other functions of the division’s centralized database for landings and license information. This database, known as the Fisheries Information Network, or FIN, was developed as part of the restructuring of licenses under the Fisheries Reform Act of 1997. The FIN system serves as the archive where trip ticket data is stored.

The Marine Patrol is the largest recipient of funding from license sales. The monies the Marine Patrol receives are used to help pay salaries of officers and dispatchers and other support staff. License funds also contribute to paying operational costs such as fuel and equipment expenses. These funds occasionally make possible the purchase of a big ticket item like the 2004 Cessna 182 aircraft operated by Marine Patrol’s pilots.

Aircraft such as the Cessna are vital to the patrol’s efforts, given the 2.5 million acres of water and 4,000 miles of coastline it is tasked with covering. While aircraft operations can be expensive, they ultimately make enforcement work more efficient.

As Col. Rex Lanier explained, “One pilot can cover one of our three districts in an hour. He can notify officers and let them know where there is fishing or other activities so they can coordinate enforcement efforts. That ends up saving us a lot of time and expense.”

However, while an aircraft or computer equipment may be a more visible and tangible asset, Lupton said that the data collected through trip tickets, along with the division staff that use it, are one of the greatest values.

“It’s something you really can’t put a price on,” Lupton said. “Without it we couldn’t do our job.”

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632

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