North Carolina's fisheries and coastal habitats were in disarray in the early 90s. Rapid development, overfishing and pollution gravely threatened fisheries and coastal communities. Government management of the resource was in chaos, and a string of massive fish kills that received national news had North Carolinians from east to west up in arms. In 1994, the General Assembly placed a moratorium on the sale of new commercial fishing licenses and fishery regulation, and began a three-year research and planning process to find a direction forward. Passions and tensions were high as a citizen-group of commercial fishermen, sport fishermen, scientists, policy makers, and environmentalists traveled around the state seeking public opinion on fishery policy.
The result: the most significant fisheries legislation in North Carolina history signed into law by Governor Hunt in 1997.
2017 marks the 20th Anniversary of the 1997 Fisheries Reform Act — a far-reaching piece of legislation that changed how North Carolina's coast was fished and managed. The story behind how and why the act came to be is filled with drama: fish kills, cultural clashes, and a colorful cast of characters all of whom had a stake and say in the final reform. Over the next month, Bit & Grain is bringing you that story through a special 3-part season* of our podcast Lo & Behold.