The 1997 NC Fisheries Reform Act: An Oral History Perspective


The Fisheries Reform Act is the most significant fisheries legislation in NC history. 

In 1994, the NC General Assembly approved a moratorium on the sale of new commercial fishing licenses and established the 19-member Fisheries Moratorium Steering Committee to oversee study of the state's entire coastal fisheries management process and to recommend changes to improve that process.  The Moratorium Steering Committee included legislators, fisheries managers, scientists, commercial fishermen, and recreational fishermen. The committee commissioned six research studies and reviewed a broad range of issues, including fishing licenses, fishing gears, habitat protection, agency organization, and law enforcement.  The committee issued a draft report in late summer 1996, held 19 public meetings across the state, and adopted a final report in October 1996 that formed the basis for the Fisheries Reform Act.   Governor James B. Hunt signed the Act into law on August 14, 1997.

The 1997 NC Fisheries Reform Act: An Oral History Perspective was made possible by the North Carolina Sea Grant Community Collaborative Research Grant Program.



In 2016, thirteen oral history interviews were conducted with fishermen, scientists, environmental advocates, and resource managers instrumental in crafting and implementing the Act.  The interview recordings and transcriptions are available online on the Carolina Coastal Voices and NOAA's Voices from the Fisheries websites.


There are 3 podcasts in the series.  Part One: Troubled Waters examines the state of fisheries in NC prior to the moratorium on the sale of commercial fishing licenses.  Part Two: Fishing As Religion explores the path from the moratorium to passage of the act.  Part Three: Hindsight is 20/20 looks at the successes and shortcomings of the act.

Discussion Guide

This guide includes a description of the project, additional resources, and questions to use as a starting point for discussion about the coastal fisheries management process and the Fisheries Reform Act.