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Citizens Science
PO Box 1469
Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480

 
VIA US MAIL AND EMAIL

Mr. Braxton Davis, Director
Division of Marine Fisheries
North Carolina Department of Environment
and Natural Resources
Post Office Box 769
Morehead City, North Carolina, 28557-0769


RE: Notice


May 18, 2017



Dear Director Davis,

On June 5th, 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife (FWS) Service’s Chief of Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, Michael Piccirilli, formally notified the Division of Marine Fisheries of possible compliance findings. Dr. Louis Daniel inquiring upon FWS about proposed legislation and how it relates to the states Pittman-Robertson, Dingle-Johnson and Wallop-Breaux funding acts.

North Carolina’s 1.2 Million sportsmen remain the largest single funding source of conservation funding for NCWRC and NCDMF by way of the above federal acts.

In total, it’s this hunting and fishing Constituency Group whom regularly funds $20-$30M to these agency’s, all at no cost the States. 

 
Mr. Piccirilli informed the Division:    “After a careful review of S.B. 821, we have determined that the proposed language under the Bill Title (“An Act to Direct the Director(s)…”) and Section 2 conflicts with 50 CFR 80.11.”

Further stating:   “It is our understanding that license revenue will be the required funding source. Based on our interpretation, this action would constitute a loss of control of license revenue by the Director of the NCDMF and NCWRC."  

"50 CFR 80.11 clarifies that a State becomes ineligible to receive the benefits of the Acts if it”… (c) Diverts hunting a fishing license revenue from: (1) the control of the State fish and wildlife agency”…””

 
Dr. Daniel requested guidance from FWS on additional proposed legislation relative to a dredging mandate, FWS commented:

“We also reviewed your request for our determination on the proposed legislative mandate to the Directors of the NCDMF and NCWRC to fund dredging and maintenance activities of the State’s coastal inlets.”  

“If the intention of the Bill is for the dredging and maintenance activities to be funded using fishing license revenues, we believe the action would also be considered a diversion of fishing license revenue.”  

"In accordance with current applicable laws and statues, any decisions to fund dredging activities using license revenue are to be made independently by the NCDMF Director or the NCWRC Executive Director.”  

“Legislation mandating NCDMF or NCWRC to fund dredging would constitute a loss of control of fishing license revenues, thus rendering the State ineligible to receive the benefits of the Acts.”



Legislatively Mandated Jobs

Given the clear provisions contained in federal rule 50 CFR 80.11, and FWS past notice, how does the Division intend on addressing the “Legislatively Mandated CRFL Jobs”?

These apparent non-compliant jobs total:

     2012 – 2017          $2,632,740.00  

     2018 – 2022          $2,743,803.00 
     Total                      $5,376,543.00 

 
Job 4

Title: Minimizing Fisheries Related Habitat Impacts

Related to Job 4, the Division misstated key facts under statute 113-131(b). On page 18 of its recently approved Five Year Plan for Obligated Funds, the Division stated:   

“The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries (NCDMF) and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) are specifically authorized by law [(GS) 113-131(b)] to “comment on and objects to permit applications submitted to State agencies which may affect the public trust resources in the land and water areas… to conserve and protect the public trust rights in such land and water areas.”” 

Yet, nothing contained in 113-131 states the Division of Marine Fisheries shall (must) comment on and object to permit applications…”, rather 113-131 grants each simply the ability, to “comment on and object to permit applications which may affect…”. 



The Division attempts to justify these CAMA jobs stating:

“Staff routinely discusses concerns directly with applicants and provides and opportunity to modify projects which can reduce permit times and applicant cost.”  

We have been unable to find any fact suggesting it was the intent of North Carolina’s 400,000 Anglers to fund a Memorandum of Understanding to “reduce permit times” and “applicant’s cost” to benefit CAMA.

Documents obtained by Citizens Science seem to suggest the Division of Coastal Management (CAMA) may have at times, utilized “Fish” as political cover to deny permits at the cost of applicants and North Carolina’s 400,000 Anglers, who since 2012 have funded these jobs. 


These additional apparent non-compliant jobs total:

     2012 – 2017          $ 698,603.00  

     2018 – 2022          $ 768,711.00 
    

     Total                      $1,467,314.00


Joint Legislative Commission on Seafood and Aquaculture of the North Carolina General Assembly

Anglers - Expectations of Coastal Licensing Fees – 

Early in 1994, the North Carolina General Assembly enacted a moratorium on the sale of licenses, effective on July 1 of that year.  The legislation was due to a wide range of concerns.  Subsequently, nineteen public meetings were held across the State during August and September, 1996 to solicit public comment on the Committee’s draft recommendations.  Based on extensive public input, final revisions were made to the Committee’s proposals and a Final Report was adopted by the Committee on October 24-25, 1996. 



“The License Subcommittee has found the concept that coastal fisheries license revenues should be paid into a dedicated state fund that can only be used for the purpose of protection and enhancement of coastal fishery resources meets with virtually universal approval.”

“The legislation creating the Fund shall specify that the base funding for the Division of Marine Fisheries will not be diminished or replaced with the revenues from the sale of coastal, recreational fishing licenses, and shall provide adequate start-up funding to implement the new licensing program.”

“The Secretary shall be required to report annually to the General Assembly regarding the performance of the Coastal Fisheries Licensing System and the Use of Monies from the Recreational License Marine… Trust Fund.  This recommendation is intended to ensure that the Legislature and the public are kept informed as to the effectiveness of coastal fishery resource enhancement brought about by the creation and administration of a fund dedicated to resource improvement.” 


The legislation creating the proposed North Carolina recreational fishing license shall contain a Sunset Clause that causes the state requirement for each coastal recreational fishing license to expire automatically if and at such future time as the General Assembly diverts monies contained in the recreational License Marine and Estuarine Resources Enhancement Trust Fund to purposes other than the management of coastal fisheries, repeals the legislation creating the Fund or causes the Fund to cease to be a dedicated fund.  The Moratorium Steering Committee found widespread support for coastal recreational fishing licenses, but only so long as the entirety of the funds generated by those license are dedicated to coastal fishery resources enhancement.

Based on the strong public sentiment, the License Subcommittee makes the Sunset Clause contained in the above recommendation an integral part of its license-restructuring proposal.

We would ask that you consider utilizing this meeting as an opportunity to address this, and call a special public meeting in Raleigh to address these issues in depth.

North Carolina’s Anglers trusted the Division to act as the trustee of their funds, that trust remains eroded. Hopefully soon, operational risk safeguards can be put in place to ensure we halt this reoccurring trend.

As recommended in 1997 by the State Auditor and 2012 statements by the Legislative Research Commission, Co-Chair favorable in transferring Marine Fisheries oversight to Wildlife Resources Commission, it seems Marine Fisheries and the constituent’s it serves would immediately benefit from sound management oversight from the Wildlife Resource Commission.

We respectfully request your consideration of the above, serving to afford proven enterprise wide risk management oversight, thus bolstering the management of the Division of Marine Fisheries.

It should not be understated anything other than significant action will likely only further eroded confidence among North Carolina’s 1.2M funding sportsman.

With $6,843,857.00 Million of license funds in question, in summary –

Sportsman simply need to trust the trustee -

 
Regards,

 

Citizens Science - 



cc:  Secretary Michael Reagan (DEQ)

       Director Gordon Myers (NCWRC)

       Beth Wood (NC State Auditor)

       Dale Falwell (NC State Treasurer)

       Senator Harry Brown