Pratt scolds state’s herring plan

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 14, 2005

WINDSOR – Before there even was a Bertie County, locals enjoyed an annual rite known as herring fishing.

By the time the dogwoods bloomed in the spring, that species made its annual migratory run from the Atlantic Ocean to the shallow waters of area creeks to deposit their eggs, allowing for the next generation of these bony, but tasty, fish.

Now that way of life is threatened.

Last week, Bertie County native Terry Pratt addressed the county’s Board of Commissioners, expressing his concerns over a state proposal to completely do away with herring fishing.

&uot;What the state wants to do is take something away in the county that has been here before there even was a Bertie County,&uot; Pratt said. &uot;That’s not right. It’s not right because they are basing their proposal on flawed data.&uot;

Over the past few years, the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries (NCDMF) has placed a limit on the daily creel limit as well as the total number of pounds that herring fishermen can catch in a single season. That total now stands at 300,000 pounds statewide – 200,000 for pound nets on the Chowan River, 67,000 pounds for gill net fishermen at Wanchese and another 33,000 pounds for NCDMF director to use at their discretion.

Pratt, who serves as president of the Albemarle Fisherman’s Association, said each herring fishery in the statewide system should be considered individually. Because they are not is why Pratt thinks the Chowan River herring data is flawed.

&uot;There’s a mindset at the state level to impose a total moratorium on herring fishing statewide,&uot; Pratt said. &uot;What they don’t understand is that the NCDMF can double the current catch to 600,000 pounds and it will not cause an impact on the herring population. The process they are using is not working. The Fisheries Reform Act they put into place is not working.&uot;

Pratt continued, &uot;They just want to get rid of us (the herring fishermen). I think the time has come for us to stand-up and tell them to look at what’s going on in the real world. Let’s look at the real data.&uot;

While Pratt admitted upfront that his purpose at the meeting was not to seek action from Bertie’s governing board, Rick Harrell, chairman of the Bertie Commissioners, did respond.

&uot;From your presentation, it sounds like it’s very tough for a man like you to stay in business with a moratorium limiting or completely doing away with the fish you can catch,&uot; Harrell said. &uot;Please keep us updated on this issue.&uot;

Pratt agreed to appear before the Commissioners when new information concerning herring fishing in county waters warrants an update.