Gov. Pat McCrory has reappointed three members of the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission, but it was his fourth appointment of Nov. 2 that has commercial-fishing interests seething and recreational fishing interests cheering what appears to be a super-majority on the nine-member board for recreationals.
Six days before the election, McCrory re-appointed commissioners Allison Willis, Mark Gorges and Chuck Laughridge, Willis to a commercial seat. Gorges and Laughridge swapped chairs, with Gorges now in a recreational seat and Laughridge in an at-large seat. The fourth appointment, to an at-large seat vacant since the resignation of Wilmington restaurant owner Keith Rhodes last November, went to Brad Koury of Burlington.
The appointment of Koury, described as a “businessman, sportsman and conservationist” certainly didn’t sit well with the commercial fishing industry.
"The appointments announced by Governor McCrory on Nov. 2 are astounding," said Jerry Schill, president of the N.C. Fisheries Association, a trade group representing commercial fishermen. "The two at-large seats were filled by recreational fishermen, meaning that the (Commission) will now be three from the commercial perspective, five recreational and one scientist. Rather than fill the at-large seats with individuals from a different viewpoint, such as a restaurant owner or seafood consumer, the governor assures the continuing decimation of commercial fishing communities along our coast.”
Schill was also unhappy with the reappointment of Gorges and Laughridge. A lawsuit filed earlier this fall to which the NCFA was a party, alleged that several Commission members violated the N.C. Open Meetings Law, and Schill questioned whether commissioners named in the lawsuit should have kept their seats on the board.
Sammy Corbett, chairman of the nine-member Commission, echoed Schill’s comments about Koury’s appointment, but had no problems with the reappointments.
"I'm disappointed with the appointments. I really was hoping for more balance on the Commission. I expected Alison, Chuck and Mark to be reappointed. That's good. We have worked with them and have a good relationship,” Corbett said. "I just didn't think we needed another CCA guy on the Commission.
"I don't know Brad Koury and haven't had an opportunity to talk with him yet. He may be a really nice guy, but this gives the Commission six of nine members with recreational backgrounds. I didn't make the appointments but will work with whoever the governor appoints and try to do the best job possible.”
On the other hand, David Sneed, executive director of the Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina, was pleased.
"The CCA NC Government Relations team has been voicing support for these appointments since the beginning of this year and thanks each of these commissioners for their willingness to serve and for their support of a resource-first direction for fisheries management. It is our hope that this is just the beginning of a sea of change for the conservation of our public trust resources,” he said.