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Sustaining Fisheries In The Region

Vince Winkel
Cap. Dave Tilley hangs up some catch from the Atlantic at his pier in Carolina Beach.

Hurricane Florence added stress to North Carolina’s fish industry. That was the consensus of marine scientists with UNC Chapel Hill and UNCW. While experts say the industry recovered from the storm, there remain challenges for those who make a living from the sea in the Cape Fear Region. 

Overfishing plays a leading role in the decline of fish populations in the Atlantic Ocean, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That’s why governments establish catch restrictions.

To counter that up north, off the New England coast, fisheries have been regulated for years.

But that’s not the case in North Carolina.

“Until the 90s, is when the regulating seafood catch in North Carolina when that started. Before then, it was kind of just not regulated at all.”

That’s Dean Neff, a local chef – who was a James Beard Semifinalist for Best Chef in the Southeast in 2019. He knows a lot about seafood and the industry.

“And I think that the move was made because, it was an effort to preserve the industry. I'm sure there's a lot of mixed feelings. I mean, people make their livelihood in this industry, and so I'm sure there are opinions in a lot of different directions.”

Neff says aquaculture, such as oyster farms, guarantees a species will remain sustainable in the future. He adds that technology in aquaculture has improved in recent years.