Buffalo, ducks and fish

Published 4:57 pm Sunday, June 8, 2014

To the Editor:

Two hundred plus years ago we thought our buffalo herds were never ending; then they were hunted to near extinction to be sold for their skins only. The American Indians could not accomplish this with bows and arrows even if they wanted to. But the white man with his powerful reloading rifles and wagons and trains were able to decimate the herds in a matter of years. The money made by doing this was soon spent. All that remained were the sunbaked bones scattered across the Great Plains. Improved technology made this possible.

Back East and years later, market gunning of waterfowl became profitable with these birds being sold in fine restaurants of big cities in the Northeast and Chicago.  Gunning began with shooters using 8 and 10-gauge single shot shotguns. It probably did not seem too bad at first considering the take they could accomplish with these firearms; besides, the skies were black with waterfowl as far as the eye could see. But with money to be made, technology improved.

Punt guns were developed. These were small cannons mounted on the bows of boats; the ducks were baited with corn in shallow water and the punt guns loaded with several pounds of birdshot, killing hundreds of waterfowl with each shot, several times a night. Improved technology again.

Federal Laws were passed which outlawed market gunning and there was much conflict in the Chesapeake Bay between Federal Officers and Market Gunners who would not stop. Lives were lost on both sides and far too much blood was spilled. Market gunning was stopped eventually but sadly the skies blackened with waterfowl have never been seen again.

Moving forward in time, we observe commercial fishing in our coastal states. Years ago when netting was accomplished by rowing boats to “run” their nets, a netter could only harvest so many fish and shrimp; besides, the waters were filled with this marine life with no end in sight.  (Remember the buffalo and ducks?)

Over much time there arrived outboard motors (10-20 hp) but again, it wasn’t too bad because the small motors and heavy wooden boats limited the fisherman’s range and net capacity.  Still…no big deal…but outboard motors continued to evolve to behemoth motors of 200-300 hp.  The boats also evolved to lighter, faster, and bigger fiberglass boats with great range and net carrying capacity. This is a far cry from the days a fisherman could “fish” a few hundred yards of net.

Now using up to 3000 yards (1.7 miles) of nets, mounted on a great wheel on the stern of the boat, fishermen have the capacity and speed to make large “sets” day or night.  The fish and shrimp have suffered badly. Again…our technology has surpassed anything dreamed of and our waters are no longer filled with fish and shrimp – a far cry from it.

What has been done about this new technology enhanced horror? With proper marine management, every state on the East and Gulf Coast has stopped gill-netting and shrimp trawling in the estuaries, bays, and sounds.  EXCEPT NORTH CAROLINA…one state now being the “chump” for all the other states… especially are we Louisiana’s “chump”. They protect their prized redfish and purchase North Carolina’s redfish to sell in their famous “redfish restaurants”. Their “reds” are reserved for the use of anglers coming from all over the world and many times caught on a “catch and release” basis.

When a state often noted for reluctance to change has the great state of North Carolina “outdone”, we must as a state reevaluate ourselves. Our legislators need to do some true “soul-searching” and change our regulations. North Carolina laws need to accommodate for our modern times and technology.

For more information please go to Facebook “N.C. Fishery Management and You”.

Stan Griffith, DVM

Surf City, NC