1997 NC Fisheries Reform Act Collection Available

The thirteen interviews conducted for the 1997 NC Fisheries Reform Act: An Oral History Perspective are now available on NOAA's Voices from the Fisheries website. 

Click here to access the collection.

The collection will be featured in a multimedia exhibit later this year.

The Voices from the Fisheries Database is a central repository for consolidating, archiving, and disseminating oral history interviews related to commercial, recreational, and subsistence fishing in the United States and its territories. Oral history interviews are a powerful way to document the human experience with our marine, coastal, and Great Lakes environments and our living marine resources. Each story archived here provides a unique example of this connection collected from fishermen, their spouses, processing workers, shoreside business workers and operators, recreational and subsistence fishermen, scientists, marine resources managers, and others --all among NOAA's fishery stakeholders.


Dr. B.J. Copeland was interviewed by Mary Williford for the project.  (Photo by Mary Williford.)

Podcast Preview: 1997 Fisheries Reform Act

Interested in marine fisheries management?  Enjoy listening to first-hand accounts of how public policy is made?  Curious about how oral history can help bring scholarship into the public square?

 You are invited to attend a special preview airing of a new podcast exploring the NC Fisheries Reform Act. 

The podcast features the voices of fishermen, scientists, environmental advocates and resource managers instrumental in crafting and implementing the 1997 Act that brought far-reaching change to the way NC manages coastal fisheries.  It is one of a three-part series based on thirteen oral history interviews conducted last year as part of the 1997 NC Fisheries Reform Act: An Oral History Perspective project funded by the North Carolina Sea Grant Community Collaborative Research Program.

 A guided discussion with project developers and narrators will follow the airing.

 Three podcast previews will be held:

 Wednesday, February 22, 2 to 3 p.m., in Newport, NC

Wednesday, March 1, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., in Wanchese, NC

Tuesday, March 7, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., in Raleigh, NC

 The event is free but pre-registration is required, as space is limited.

 Please contact Susan West (westontheridge@gmail.com, 252-995-4131) for more information or to register. 


Locking Horns with the Future

Though commercial fishing is an uncertain bet, a new generation of Hatteras watermen is willing to take the chance.

The headlines tell the story of an American industry on the brink. Pounded by tightening regulations, escalating expenses, stagnant or declining fish prices and shrinking working waterfronts, the future of commercial fishing seems caught in a seismic wave of uncertainty.

Yet even as old fishermen lament the passing of the industry they have known and loved, a new generation of commercial fishermen has emerged in places like Hatteras Island.

These younger men aren’t afraid to lock horns with the future. They adopt innovative ways to run businesses that provide fresh, wild-caught seafood, and they scale their operations to meet regulatory, environmental and economic challenges.


Jeremy O’Neal is 28 years old and the father of two little girls. He started fishing shortly after graduating from Cape Hatteras Secondary School; he was offered a job as mate on the Miss Megan, a gill net boat working out of Hatteras village.

Last year O’Neal bought his own boat, the Goose, a 25-foot Downeaster that he uses to net Spanish mackerel, bluefish, dogfish, king mackerel, croaker and sea mullet in the Atlantic and in Pamlico Sound.

Read the rest of the story in Outer Banks Magazine.


Business As Usual: Fishing for a Living

Few women in North Carolina set their sights on fishing for a living.

Current statistics show only 5.5 percent of the 5,449 commercial fishing license holders in the state are women. That rate varied little over the past decade, according to the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries. Anecdotal evidence also indicates that female deck hands, much less captains, are rare.

Women working in commercial fishing, however, see few obstacles unique to their gender. They say they face the same challenges as their male counterparts — long hours, hard work, rough seas, mechanical problems and fluctuating catches.

“Commercial fishing is punishing and dangerous work, and many ‘greenhorns’ — men or women — quit after the first trip,” notes Sara Mirabilio,  a North Carolina Sea Grant fisheries specialist.

“But if a woman proves herself not weak of spirit and a quick learner, she will be accepted. I don’t think there’s gender inequality.”

Yet women’s varied roles may not be as visible. Along the North Carolina coast and beyond, women have a tradition of working in the commercial fishing industry — hanging nets, picking crabs, shucking scallops, building pots, selling fish, attending fishery management meetings, and working nets and lines.

“Fishing is often seen as a male activity, but the paid and unpaid labor of women that goes toward sustaining fisheries and fishing communities often is not recognized,” Mirabilio adds.

Some women working in the industry come from generations of fishing families, while others are newcomers. Take some time to meet a few who work the waters for a living.


Shannon Dunn skippers her family’s 32-foot fishing boat from a creek-side berth in Hatteras Village to offshore fishing grounds in search of Spanish mackerel, king mackerel and other fish.

Read the rest of the story in Coastwatch, a NC Sea Grant publication.