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.
Dan Whittle was born on October 10, 1962, in Glasgow, Kentucky. He grew up in a small farming town in western Kentucky named Ridgefield. After his parents divorced when he was in third grade, he moved to New England, New Hampshire, where he spent the school year in Manchester and the summers on their farm in Kentucky. Whittle attended Manchester public schools and later decided to go back South for college. He attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. After taking a couple of years off to wait tables and work as a fishing guide in Alaska, he went to Law School at the University of Colorado - Boulder. Whittle's career has been focused on environmental law and politics. He has been involved in North Carolina politics and has worked on issues related to commercial fishing in the state . He has also worked on issues related to the perception of the government's role as regulators in the fishing industry.
Scope and Content Note
This interview with Dan Whittle, conducted by Mary Williford on July 21, 2016, in Carrboro, North Carolina, covers a wide range of topics related to Whittle's life, career, and views on environmental law and politics. The interview begins with Whittle's childhood and education, including his upbringing in Kentucky and New Hampshire, his college years at Vanderbilt University, and his time at the University of Colorado - Boulder Law School. The conversation then shifts to Whittle's career in environmental law, with a focus on his involvement in North Carolina politics. He discusses his first day on the job for Governor James B. “Jim” Hunt, dealing with a situation involving a fishing boat from Wanchese, North Carolina, that was fishing in Alaska. Whittle also shares his views on the future of commercial fishing in North Carolina, comparing heritage fisheries in North Carolina to those of Indian tribes he worked with in the Pacific northwest. He discusses the potential for commercial and recreational fishing interests to align and the lessons that can be taken away from the moratorium and Fisheries Reform Act process. The interview also delves into the negative perception many commercial fishermen had of the government's role as regulators and the points of view expressed by recreational fishermen at meetings. Whittle discusses the difference between what commercial fishermen told him one-on-one and what people said in public hearings, as well as the role of the North Carolina Fisheries.
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