Illegal and rigged MFC vote allows striper kills to resume, again
February 14th, 2011 1:11 pm ET
Despite a mountain of evidence concerning striped bass waste and a host of public outcry to the contrary, the NC Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) has voted to order the director of the Division of Marine Fisheries to reopen the striper fishery to the same small contingent of trawlers that have killed thousands of wasted stripers already.
This was done so the trawlers could take the very last bit of the quota that remained to them, and so MFC member Mickey Daniels and his family, who own one of the trawlers and have huge interests in the fish houses, can continue to profit at the expense of recreational anglers, small-time commercial fishermen, and NC taxpayers everywhere.
Mikey Daniels, a comm representative, broke NC ethics laws by participating in the debate and vote. He even seconded the motion and consulted with a commercial fisherman in the audience to get exactly what they wanted, in front of everyone, while the meeting was taking place. MFC Chairman Rob Bizzell, knowing full well Mr. Daniels’ conflict of interest, allowed him to participate and even argued with him in the motion, in an obviously rigged and pre-prepared way, fully encouraging Daniels to break the law.
The actions of both men were so bad that in the last few years NC state public officials in non-fisheries areas have been put behind bars for such crimes. That is what Bizzell and Daniels deserve, though it is not likely to come to that.
It is possible, however, they might at least have to face up to their actions because I know of at least one lawsuit that may be filed against these men for their crimes and it is my hope the NC State Ethics Board takes up this matter.
I drove half-way across the state to sit in the front row and watch the debate and the vote. I was stunned by what I saw. I came away convinced that recs, small comm fishermen, and NC taxpayers have no greater enemy in NC than the rouge, rigged, and totally unethical MFC.
Let me explain exactly what happened:
At the beginning of the meeting, as required by law, Chairman Bizzell asked if any member had a conflict of interest. Mikey Daniels, who has a HUGE conflict of interest in these matters (you can even see his red trawler hovering over fields of dead stripers in many of the pictures) said nothing but sat there smiling. Bizzell then let the meeting go on without questing him, to the gasp of many in the audience (I was too stunned to gasp, although my cell phone did go off at that moment, so that was at least some kind of protest).
The first to speak on stripers was Dr. Louis Daniel, the DMF director who has the power to re-open the fishery by proclamation or simply let it lapse. Dr. Daniel, however, must do as the MFC requests, and it was clear he knew the legal score at least. He had state lawyers present there to consult with him while the meeting took place (no dummy, Dr. Daniel) and declared at the outset he would not reopen the fishery unless the MFC ordered him too.
It was very apparent Dr. Daniel wished they’d leave it alone and as it became clear they wouldn’t he looked sicker and sicker, finally putting his head in hands at one point.
After this MFC member Bradley Stryon made a motion to simply ignore all the public outcry and re-open the fishery like nothing had happened. Although I disagreed with the motion, of course, Stryon is a comm rep who seems to lack Daniels’ direct involvement in the fishery, so there was nothing legally wrong with his actions.
Mikey Daniels actually seconded the motion however, since no one else spoke up to do it. It made me wish my cell phone would go off again.
During the debate (if you can call it that) it was clear that Styron, Daniels, and Chairman Bizzell himself (who might as well be called a comm fishing super-vote on the MFC) had arranged the vote beforehand.
At one point, after Dr. Daniel (being very careful and looking more and more sick) asked them to specify exactly how long the new drags would be, Stryon turned to Daniels and asked him how long they should be. Daniels (and I am NOT making this up) then turned to the audience and asked a commercial fisherman how long he needed!
That was incorporated in the motion that passed. You heard that right: the MFC motion to order the striper trawlers back out again was in part written BY THE TRAWLER INTERESTS themselves in open session of the MFC!
Read that last paragraph again, please.
Two MFC members spoke up trying to do the right thing. First Mac Currin, a rec representative, made what was the most common sense speech of the entire debate. He was sitting right in front of me, and I got the opinion that like I did he could already see how this was going to go.
So instead of dwelling on the dead stripers (which it was obvious the majority of the MFC didn’t care one whit about at all) Currin made the argument I would have made: he implored the MFC not to order the DMF to re-open the fishery this year just to avoid the terrible negative publicity they were all getting. Currin himself was totally ignored, unfortunately, but at least to his credit he tried.
Also to her tremendous credit Anna Beckwith, an at-large member, tried several times to amend the trawler fishery to change it to a hook-and-line season. Beckwith looked about as disgusted as I felt about what was happening, and I can’t speak for her but I do know what I was thinking: that at least would have taken some of the sleezy direct money out of Mickey Daniels’ pockets.
This was the only time in the whole debate that Stryon, Bizzell, and Daniels looked a little worried and Bizzell insisted they had to wait until “next season” (yeah, right) to even consider hook-and-line because it was impossible to know if it’d work as well as trawling. Beckwith’s amendments failed with only her voting for them, and she spent the rest of the striper debate standing up as if she couldn’t stand sitting through this mess anymore. I felt like that too.
In the end the final vote to allow the striper trawlers back out passed 6-2 with only Currin and Beckwith voting against. And yes, Mikey Daniels voted for his own trawler interests.
I could go on and on about how illegal this vote was, but you get the idea. Just read the state ethics laws. Now Dr. Daniels will be forced to let the trawlers back out to get the rest of the quota and, by the way, kill a bunch more stripers that will go belly-up in the ocean. Mikey Daniels will make a lot more money off a resource that should belong to all NC fishermen.
The MFC may consider hook-and-line next year, as there was a token vote taken to refer Beckwith's suggestion to the DMF for study, but I can tell you right now the MFC is a farce and there is NO chance they will pass it, unless Mikey Daniels decides to take a pay cut…which is unlikely considering the contempt he holds other fishermen in.
And you, the taxpayers of NC? You just got screwed, in public, by Rob Bizzell and the MFC, and further cheated out of your own resource. It won’t be the last time.
You can contact MFC Chairman Rob Bizzell at 252-527-1081 and [email protected]
and MFC member Mikey Daniels at 252-473-5001 and [email protected]
You can find instructions for filling your own state ethics complaint about either man at http://www.ethicscommission.nc.gov/C...tructions.aspx
. Feel free to print out my article and use it as proof since I was there through the entire vote and documented the entire debate.