Selected tag(s): North Carolina

Last Stop – Sea Breeze, NC

Queen Quet with Gullah Geechee fishermen and other listening session attendees in Sea Breeze, NC.

Queen Quet with Gullah Geechee fishermen and other listening session attendees in Sea Breeze, NC.

During the past few months the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition and EDF have held listening sessions with African-American fishermen in the South Atlantic – from South Carolina to Florida and Georgia. The sessions provided us with the opportunity to listen and document the concerns of these fishermen working in commercial and subsistence fisheries.

Our series of listening sessions concluded last weekend in Sea Breeze, North Carolina. Fitting of its name, Sea Breeze once hailed as a popular beach destination for African-Americans in the Wilmington area. Members of the community recollected that on any given Friday night, Sea Breeze was alive with the sound of music and smell of cooked seafood. Our gathering was certainly reminiscent of the past, as local fishermen gathered around a feast of fresh seafood to discuss the important role fishing has played in their lives and how that has changed over time.

Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee nation and founder of the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition, led the meeting of nearly 30 participants. Although many do not continue to fish today, everyone in the room indicated they used to fish at one point in their lives. “Fishing was natural because the whole family did it,” explained attendee Mrs. McQuillan.

Only four men in attendance still remain in the commercial fishing sector with the years of experience varied among them. Fishing partners Luther McQuillan and Joe Farrow have been fishing for 60 and 70 years – a way of life that began when they were mere children. According to the four fishermen, Southeastern staples like shrimp, oysters, clams, and crabs were some of the more sought-after fish, in addition to croaker, mullet, red drum, and whiting.

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Ancient Deepwater Coral Ecosystems of the Southeast

Deep water corals - South Atlantic U.S.; Photo by Dr. Steve RossAlthough corals from deepwaters of the U.S. Southeast were first reported way back in the 1880’s, more than a century passed before research revealed the breathtaking scale of the deepwater coral reef ecosystems in the region.  Dr. Steve Ross (UNC-Wilmington) and Dr. John Reed (Harbor Branch) have actively partnered with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council over the past decade to ensure that cutting-edge science is translated into strong protection for these world class reefs.

These deepwater reef ecosystems include a dizzying array of mounds and pinnacles covering nearly 25,000 square miles from North Carolina to Florida at depths of 1,000 feet and greater on the Blake Plateau and similar geologic contexts, extending into waters managed by the Bahamas and probably Cuba as well. 

Deep water corals - South Atlantic; Photo by Dr. Steve RossThese reefs are home to tremendous biological diversity, including many species new to science, and including species of potential economic value, both for fishing and for pharmaceutical prospecting.  Individual colonies may be thousands of years old, and some mounds likely exceed a million years in age, creating a record of changing conditions in the deep ocean.

The Council’s Habitat and Environmental Protection Advisory Panel (which I chair) and Coral Advisory Panel have worked tirelessly with scientists, the Council, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and fishermen to create proposed protection zones called “Habitat Areas of Particular Concern,” that will protect these treasures against fishing and other threats.  In particular, EDF negotiated “allowable gear zones,” where traditional fisheries for deepwater animals (golden crab and royal red shrimp) would be allowed, away from vulnerable tall pinnacles.  The Council stands ready to finalize these protection zones at its next meeting in September.

Photos by Dr. Steve Ross

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Fishermen Voices: Willy Phillips – North Carolina

The health and abundance of our oceans have a huge impact on many, from the environment to seafood consumers to the fishermen and coastal communities that rely on the seas for their livelihoods. EDF works diligently with all stakeholders, including fishermen, to end overfishing, protect our oceans, and bring back fish stocks to abundance.

Well designed catch shares are the solution to overfishing and many fishermen agree. We hear their stories all the time, and we intend to share them with you regularly through our “Fishermen Voices” feature on EDFish.

In the interview below, fisherman Willy Phillips of Columbia, NC shares some of his story following his visit to Congressional representatives in D.C. to advocate for catch shares.

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Pound Net Fishing on the Scuppernong River, North Carolina

EDF mostly works on ocean fisheries, but we took some time out a few months ago to meet with Willy Phillips from Columbia, North Carolina to see how he fishes using pound nets on the Scuppernong River. Willy owns Full Circle Crab Company, Inc. and he also fishes for yellow perch, shad and other fish that mostly come to the river after spending part of their life in the ocean.

Pound nets are an ancient fishing method. They’re basically fish traps: fish swim in but can’t swim out. Fishermen simply pull the nets up and harvest the fish. There’s virtually no bycatch or waste because unwanted fish are thrown back unharmed into the river.

Here are two video clips of my trip out on the river with Willy. I was on a rocking boat surrounded by flopping fish and working fishermen who were very gracious to this city boy.

VIDEO 1: This is the start of the pound net fishing process. The fishermen pull the nets up until the fish are close to the surface where upon they can be scooped up with smaller nets.


VIDEO 2: As you can see, the nets are loaded with fish. The herring fishery is closed in North Carolina and herring constitutes most of the fish you see here that are being thrown back into the river.


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