Questions arise over commercial license fees collected for flounder fishery observers

Watermen want to know what happened to commercial license fees that were collected to fund observers required by law for flounder fishing when sea turtles are spotted in area waters. Few answers were provided at a meeting of the North Carolina Commercial Fishing Resource Funding Committee on Jan. 4. Records show that $1.3 million was allocated for the observers in the 2015-2016 fiscal year, but only $608,065 was spent. Dewey Hemilright, who attended the meeting, asked how so much could have been spent on the Section 10 permit program when the flounder fishery was closed much of the season. “Expenses need more accountability,” said Hemilright, a long-line fisherman. “This doesn’t affect me, but I’m willing to pay the extra money if it allows others to fish. But if there’s more being paid in than is needed, then it should be returned to the fishermen.” An additional license fee was imposed after a state appropriation to cover the cost of complying with the federal permit’s conditions was eliminated. One condition requires the observers, who monitor interactions with endangered sea turtles and sturgeon. Read the rest here 15:53