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Fishing License Changes Possible

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RALEIGH — February 25, 1996, 12:05 p.m., ESTA proposal that would generate funds for fisheries management and water quality monitoring in North Carolina generated debate Saturday among fans of recreational fishing. They came to the fifth N.C. Marine Recreational Fishing Forum at N.C. State University to register their views.

Being considered is a new mandatory three-tier license system for sport fishing. Commercial fishing concerns would pay $25 yearly, plus up to $500 more depending on the fishing equipment used; sport fishermen would pay $15 a year to fish with a rod and reel, and $35 to fish with limited commercial gear.

Opponents of the proposal caution that it could hurt tourism on the coast, and that it would be an inconvenience for Piedmont residents who go to the coast on weekends and might be unable to buy a license when they arrive late Friday. The license changes were also objected to on the grounds that the fees would be too high for people who fish only once or twice a year.

The new regulations, drafted by a steering committee appointed by the General Assembly in 1994, will be subject to public hearings this summer. The legislature could look at the proposal next January.

Proponents of the three-tier system estimate that it could raise between seven and eight million dollars for use by the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries. Fisheries management, water quality monitoring and improvement, research and law enforcement would all benefit from the funds.

The steering committee is exploring how to make the licenses available on a 24-hour basis at the coast by use of machines, and by enabling people to buy the licenses at retail outlets across the state.

The licensing changes are among dozens of possibilities being considered to reverse the steady decline in coastal fish stock

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