Focal Point: 'Net Loss'

WRAL News looks at the struggles the state's fishermen are facing and how those problems could change the character of the coast so many North Carolinians treasure.

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Focal Point: Net Loss

Original air date: Sept. 24, 2008

For years, North Carolina’s commercial fishermen have had to fight foreign competition while struggling to survive domestic regulations that limit their catch.

Now, they face skyrocketing fuel prices that keep some fishing boats tied to the dock. And many fishermen can’t make enough off their catch to cover their fuel costs.

As more and more fishermen leave the industry to find work elsewhere, the fish houses along the North Carolina coast, where they unload and sell their catch are disappearing.

Higher property values and taxes are speeding up that process. Nearly a third of the state's fish houses have closed over the last five years – many being replaced with vacation homes and marinas.

This year, seafood processors have also been hit with a labor shortage because of Congress’ failure to renew legislation that allows them to use legal, seasonal workers from Mexico.

As a result, many crab processing facilities have had to cut back on the number of crabs they process, meaning fishermen can’t sell as many crabs.

The commercial fishing industry is struggling as consumer demand for seafood continues to rise. That further opens the market to less expensive foreign imports. About 80 percent of the seafood consumed in the United States is imported.

Fishermen want some rules restricting their catch lifted so they can better compete with imports and rising fuel prices, but regulators fear that could lead to over fishing which could seriously harm the industry’s long term health.

Focal Point: “Net Loss” examines the struggles North Carolina fishermen face trying to stay in business. It looks at the vanishing working waterfront and a new state initiative to save it.

The documentary also examines efforts to stave off the pressures of foreign competition with new marketing programs to increase consumer demand for local seafood.

“There’s only a handful of us left, and every year more and more (people) get out of it," Harker's Island shrimp fisherman John Dyer said. "And nobody lets children get in it, and when we’re done, it’s done, and it seems like nobody cares about the commercial fishermen at all.”

Watch the documentary

Hosted by WRAL News' Lynda Loveland, Focal Point: Net Loss looks at the struggles the state's fishermen are facing and how those problems could change the character of the coast so many North Carolinians treasure.

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Host: Lynda Loveland
Writer/Producer: Clay Johnson
Photographer/Editor: Jay Jennings
Research & Production Assistant: Laura Riddle

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