|The following letter from Britt
Shackelford explains the history and on-going issues of the NCWU.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the NCWU, interested parties, and those just
looking for something to read,
Welcome to our updated website. We hope that as you peruse our
information, a few things will become evident to you. The first thing
we hope becomes evident is that our website and our outlook is to
better keep our membership up-to-speed on issues that surround the
professional watermen of North Carolina, the people that depend on the
watermen and the educated fishermen who understand that we have four
stakeholders in our Fisheries Resources. Four? You say? That is
correct. We have charter/headboat fishermen, commercial harvesters,
recreational fishermen and consumers.
The consumers? Isn’t that a little far-fetched to try to give
Q. Public a say in Fishery regulation? After all, the chance of any of
them even living on the coast is a long shot. But, I believe that our
consumers are the most important user of our country’s
Fishery Resources, and I do not think they are even considered when
directors try to manage the resources.
The final regulation that forced our membership to react by creating an
advocacy group, the North Carolina Watermen United (NCWU) was the
passage of the Coastal Recreational Fishing License (CRFL). While we
were out on the ocean fishing, we received a phone call informing us
that the Senate in North Carolina’s General Assembly had
Bill to force the creation of a Fishing License. Not one question had
been asked about the consequences the CRFL would have on our
charter/headboat businesses - not one committee, not one survey, not
one questionnaire. It was if the charter/headboat fishermen sector and
the recreational fishermen sector did not even exist.
We rallied the troops and came within a few votes of defeating the CRFL
in the North Carolina House. Many of us had taken days off from fishing
to go to Raleigh, the capital, to speak with our Legislature; every
elected official was spoken to directly – either in person or
the phone - about the negative impact the CRFL would have on our
charter/headboat businesses and consequently, the state’s
Many Legislators had not understood what an important part of the
Tourist Industry fishing plays. The charter/headboat sector brings
millions of dollars into the state with people who come just to fish.
Many recreational fishermen also come to the state to take advantage of
our excellent fishing. Then there are the many people who do not fish,
but come to our state to take advantage of our excellent locally-caught
seafood. Our commercial harvesters play a valuable role in the
state’s economy and the Tourist Industry – without
person out on a boat to fish!
Consumers come to the state to catch fish; consumers come to the state
to eat fish. Charter/headboat fishermen, commercial harvesters and
recreational fishermen are supported by consumers who come to
state for no other reason than fresh, locally-caught fish? Interesting!
Like the ad, we have “Come a long way, baby!” On
April 15, 2005, a group of twenty-seven North Carolina watermen met in
Wanchese and voted in favor of a recommendation to create an
association as a means to unite and to protect the North Carolina
culture and heritage of its watermen.
Nets at Ocracoke
The next meeting was in Hatteras on April 23, 2005. Thirty-four men and
women confirmed the need to establish the NCWU. The group
to proceed and formed the organization as a Legislative and Regulatory
Advocacy Association to protect and defend the right to make a living
on the waters of North Carolina.
At its inception, the NCWU hired a lobbyist. T. Jerry was very
effectual, but the money we were spending kept us from keeping our
membership informed about meetings, votes, trends and what –
exactly - we were doing. Early in 2008, the Board of Directors sat down
and charted a different course. As an all-volunteer group, we were so
busy putting out fires that we were distancing ourselves from our
lifeblood-membership. We made a difficult decision to put the lobbying
“On Hold” and hire an executive secretary and a
director. We extend a welcome to Melba Milak, Executive Secretary and
Robbi Viveiros, Marketing Director.
Welcome! to a whole new page for the NCWU.
Welcome! Corporate Sponsors.
Welcome! Restaurants, marine supply businesses, marinas, boat
builders and friends.
Welcome! Members who believe that charter/headboat fishermen,
harvesters and recreational fishermen
with the consumer in mind– can better play a factor in Fishery
Management as a
whole than only a very narrow special-interest bent.
Welcome! to the new age of Fishery Management!
Welcome! to the NCWU! Your NCWU.
Our Board of Directors is purposefully made up of a variety of
fishermen who utilize a variety of gear-types. The majority of the
Board are engaged in charter/headboat fishing, but we also have a
dedicated long-liner, a multi-gear fisherman, a fish house owner, a
boat mate and a boat builder. Although we have had disagreements, we
understand that by sitting down at the table together and working
through our differences, the Fishery Resource is going to be the
winner. We feel very strongly that this attitude is a more noble
pursuit than attempting to put someone out of business for selfish
gain. Every group that opposes us is characterized by this one simple
(Un)truth…that the supposed
nothing more than Special Interest masquerading as conservation,
although the one goal has been to eliminate the historical use of our
state and nation’s Fishery Resources.
We can tell you all you want about our past, but the past is history.
Five minutes ago is in the record books. Look at our past. Rom
Whitaker, NCWU’s first president involves himself in Fishery
Management at the Federal level. Rom has done as excellent job steering
us to where we are today. I really don’t know how he did it!
Our second president, Ernie Foster, is the living encyclopedia of
modern sportfishing. His father, Ernal, and the Albatross Fleet were
the pioneers of sportfishing in North Carolina way back in 1937.
As you can see, we are rooted in the past as we chart a course for the
future, and we hope you feel like coming along for the (boat) ride. We
can use your help. Our vision of the future involves education and
grass roots local activism. Weather, fuel prices, breakdowns and a
quarry with fins and tails are small things in the mind of a fisherman
compared to an uncertain future.
With your help, a little old-fashioned Good Luck (I’ll take
luck every day!) and some of the Lord’s blessings, we are not
just going to survive, but THRIVE, as we charge into the 21st century.
Welcome Aboard, and Hold onto your Hat!