Conservation Priorities

Sound Solutions Marine Resources Reform and Management

For decades, conflict, intense arguments of opposing opinions and stakeholders, and inability to unite for a common good has hindered effective fisheries management in North Carolina. Studies have been heaped upon studies. Proposals have progressed and withered. In the wake of this fisheries management stalemate, North Carolina’s fisheries and marine ecosystems are collapsing. Yields of four key species – weakfish, spot, Atlantic croaker and Southern flounder – declined by almost 20 million pounds from 1997 to 2017. The time to act is now. Read more...

Guided by the Public Trust Doctrine and North American Model of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, we maintain that North Carolina’s marine resources and wildlife are public trusts and, as such, must be protected and sustained for the use and benefit of all citizens, present and future. NCWF’s Sound Solutions campaign is a force for effective conservation of marine resources through education, raising awareness and taking action in political and local arenas for true change with a balanced, SOUND approach to the challenges facing North Carolina waters.

We recognize the importance of both commercial and recreational fishing, and the complexities of marine and estuarine ecosystems. It is apparent that current practices are unsustainable and unacceptable if our waters are to support a robust natural environment and economy in our state. Our approach to conservation is simple, scientifically sound and economically forward thinking:

Foundational Tenets of Sound Solutions

  1. Habitat: Strengthen protection of the waters and habitats that make up North Carolina’s inner coast, as well as those that flow into our sounds.
  2. Management: Impact change in the way NC’s marine fisheries and habitats are managed and regulated.
  3. Gear: Influence changes to destructive fishing gear and unsustainable methods.

Sound Goals

  • Safeguard against habitat loss, degradation of water quality and loss of natural resources.
  • Improve long-term health and balance of NC’s marine resources, habitat and fisheries.
  • Impact changes in policy and regulations related to the management of North Carolina marine fisheries, marine life and habitat.
  • Reduce the annual bycatch loss of fish in North Carolina’s inshore waters.

Sound Tactics

  • Present public policy recommendations to address key issues contributing to the damage and destruction of our marine resources and coastal habitats.
  • Promote and support implementation of sound, science-based conservation and management.
  • Support responsible, sustainable fishing practices (recreational and commercial).
  • Educate the public about the consequences of current, unsustainable practices and methods.

Let 'em Spawn

Let 'Em Spawn and Sound Solutions News and Updates

HB 483 Historic Leglislation passes in the House!

HB 483 Let Them Spawn Fact Sheet

Here are the bills and the up to date sponsors:

Let Them Spawn.

Fostering reproduction is the most basic tenet of population biology, so let them spawn at least once in their lifetimes.

Set size limits for all species to protect juveniles until they reach a size at which 75 percent of the stock has reached maturity and have the opportunity to spawn at least once. Just once.

Could the solution to the current paralysis over North Carolina fisheries be this straightforward - without complicated rules and complex gear regulations? Simply put. Yes.

Such a bedrock policy will significantly - and quickly - add to the populations of declining and collapsing fish stocks. A healthy spawning class of adult fishes will increase yield to the fishery and create resiliency when environmental conditions are unfavorable.

It only makes sense and certainly can't be too much to ask. Animals that die before they reproduce are unable to contribute to their population numbers. Reproduction is key to sustaining healthy fish stocks. If abundance is high, populations may be able to withstand some bycatch waste. But when populations are low - as is the case with many commercial and recreational fish species in North Carolina - every fish counts. And with every dead juvenile fish we lose the potential of untold numbers of progeny.

This isn't just poor public policy. This is simply foolish.

The only way to sustain healthy populations is to protect reproductive potential. Commercial fishermen know this. Recreational anglers know this. Fisheries biologists know this. So why the delay? Politics and money. Size limits inconvenience people. Net mesh sizes will have to be a little larger. Some fish will have to be released. And the harvest of juvenile fish for market will have to stop.

But then, those fish will grow. And those fish will spawn. And their progeny will do the same, and support what North Carolina has not seen in at least a generation: sounds and rivers and seas filled with healthy numbers of fish for everyone. Let 'Em Spawn - Before They're Gone.

In addition we have put forth a legislative solution to the licensing for coastal fishing. Does it make sense that one person may hold as many commercial fishing licenses as they want?  Does it make sense that any commercial fishing license may be transferred to anybody-such as out of state vessels? Our license reform bill solves these capacity issues and provides for better data collection of our fish stocks.

Take Action

NCWF has a balanced, SOUND approach to the challenges facing our sounds. We recognize the importance of both commercial and recreational fishing, but today’s practices are unsustainable. Without stewardship, NC’s marine resources will deplete until there’s nothing left for anyone.

Please click on the bill links below to see who has already sponsored and co-sponsored the bills and ask your elected officials for their support.

If you are not sure who your representative is:

  1. Email us at or
  2. Here is house membership roster which also includes each representative's email and phone

Here are the bills and the up to date sponsors:

The North Carolina coast is home to roughly 2.5 million acres of estuarine waters, 1.5 million of which are within the Albemarle-Pamlico Sound. It’s here where hundreds of species of fish and other marine life grow and feed until old enough to venture to the ocean or migrate along the coast.

This network of sounds, wetlands and waterways is the largest lagoon on the East Coast and the 2nd largest estuary in the U.S. But we’re becoming more known for ineffective policy, mismanagement and unsustainable fishing practices. Increasing pressures, including habitat loss and water quality degradation, are threatening our fisheries.

According to the NC Division of Marine Fisheries, the long-term sustainability of many NC fisheries is in jeopardy. Some of our most important fish are already “depleted,” including Southern Flounder and Speckled Trout. Many more are headed that way.

For decades, reform has been thwarted because parties on opposite sides of the debate cannot agree. Potential policies are so opposed by one side or the other (often without any understanding of the proposal) legislators won’t touch them.

Sound Solutions Marine Resources Reform and Management
Net Results: The Dark Side of inshore shrimp trawling

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