Focal Point: Net Loss

Documentary shows how the problems faced by the fishing industry could change the character of the coast that so many North Carolinians treasure.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — 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. WRAL’s new Focal Point documentary “Net Loss” examines the struggles North Carolina fishermen face trying to stay in business. The documentary is hosted by WRAL-TV Anchor/Reporter Lynda Loveland and airs Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2008, at 7 p.m. on WRAL-TV.

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 our coast where they unload and sell their catch are disappearing. Higher property values and taxes are speeding up that process.

The North Carolina News Network recently produced a series "Net Change on the Carolina Coast" about the fishing profession in NC. Listen here.

Nearly a third of our state’s fish houses have closed over the last five years. Many are 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.

Our 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” looks at the vanishing working waterfront and a new state initiative to save it. The documentary examines efforts to stave off the pressures of foreign competition with new marketing programs to increase consumer demand for local seafood. It shows how the problems faced by the industry and its fishermen could also change the character of the coast that so many North Carolinians treasure.

Watch "Focal Point: Net Loss" Wednesday night at 7 p.m. on WRAL-TV.

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