A Fishy Semester
by Nicole Carlozo -- January 31st, 2012
No matter the weather, time of day, or mode of transport, traveling over the small Beaufort drawbridge always lifts my spirits. Blue sky meets the water and boats and docks line the waterfront in all directions. To my eyes, downtown Beaufort has always been a quaint tourist area with seafood restaurants, antique shops, and local character. But in the 1970s, the commercial fishing industry had not yet conceded defeat to tourism and recreation. Remnants of the town’s commercial fishing history are found in the ruins of Beaufort Fisheries, the last menhaden factory in North Carolina.
Beaufort, it seems, has changed a lot over the years. And where does this new-found knowledge come from? Nothing other than a local tour with my Fisheries Policy class.
Exploring the Coast
After weeks learning about the science, policy, social, and cultural aspects of fisheries management, it was nice to get out of our cramped conference room. Our class happily piled into a van and drove off to explore fisheries management and practices along Core Sound.
Our first stop was the Division of Marine Fisheries in Morehead City, where we talked to facilitators, communicators, managers, and enforcement officers about the everyday trials of fisheries management. Then, we ventured to a local clam fishing operation in Down East, NC.
Down East is known by many for its remoteness. As we drove down a bumpy dirt road and up to an isolated waterfront home, I agreed with the generalization.
I assumed that we’d learn about fishing practices and fisher involvement in management decisions. After exploring the clam aquaculture site and a small crab shedding operation, however, it was hard not to talk about climate change. The crab shedding tanks were being replaced and reinforced following damage from last summer’s Hurricane Irene. “Sea level rise,” threatens these homes every time a storm rolls through. The Down East fishermen, however, are doing the best they can.
Our tour ended with a trip to Harkers Island, where we nosed around some commercial fishing boats and got a taste for the gears in North Carolina waters. I even saw my first Turtle Excluder Device (TED) on one of the trawls!
Reflecting on Management
As we muddled through the world of fisheries management, I couldn’t help but think about my future career. It was becoming increasingly clear that the term “management” actually entails much more than science-based decision making. The never-ending conflict between recreational and commercial fishers is just one example of the social and cultural wars occurring within coastal communities.
A degree in Environmental Management. Huh… Sometimes I wonder how I talked myself into that.