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NCGA Chambers Battle Over Sale of NC Ocean Jurisdiction


Through a provision within the House-proposed state budget, some NC lawmakers are urging the adoption of a Joint Enforcement Agreement (JEA) between NC Marine Patrol and the federal government. Adoption of the agreement would mean that the NC Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) will receive federal funds (previously estimated at $150,000 – $200,000 annually) in exchange for state officers jointly enforcing federal regulations of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

A 2010 NOAA enforcement document cites “state constitutional reasons” for North Carolina’s failure to adopt Joint Enforcement heretofore. Commercial fishermen assert that North Carolina should remain a lone holdout state, arguing that the agreement would undermine North Carolina’s sovereignty over in-state waters.

The North Carolina Watermen United, a commercial fishing advocacy group, contends that federal corruption also makes Joint Enforcement a bad idea. A press release from the group points to a potential conflict of interest generated by the terms of the agreement. “A recent investigation by the Inspector General of the US Department of Commerce of NOAA’s Fisheries Enforcement Programs and Operators (Final Report No. OIG-19887) was very critical of the Agency’s regional Enforcement operations; Joint Enforcement would hamper any efforts for North Carolina to exercise its rights against the Agency,”  the release states.

Proponents of JEA say the federal funding is needed. At a February meeting of the NC Marine Fisheries Commission, NC DMF Director Louis Daniel described the necessity to adopt the agreement in order to pay salaries owed to the state’s enforcement officers. Daniel stated that the division is in debt $350,000 to Marine Patrol. The North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) later voted to submit a formal request for state adoption of the agreement. The JEA proposal within the budget followed.

The Joint Enforcement Budget Battle

The NC Senate-proposed budget prohibits the NC Division of Marine Fisheries from entering into a Joint Enforcement Agreement with the federal government. The House version takes the opposite stance, striking the Senate prohibition and replacing it with a provision to enter into the Joint Enforcement Agreement. It also removes some NC DMF officer salary funding from state budgeting in anticipation of the federal dollars filling the gap.


No Joint Enforcement Agreements

SECTION 14.11. G.S. 113‑224 reads as rewritten:

“§ 113‑224. Cooperative agreements by Department.

… (b) The Department may not enter into a joint enforcement agreement with the National Marine Fisheries Service.”

  • 6/02/2014 The Senate version of the budget was sent to the House Chamber for a hearing.
  • 6/11/2014 The Senate’s version of the legislation was amended within the House Appropriations Committee to meet the House JEA adoption intention. The committee-amended legislation was brought before the House, reading:


SECTION 14.11.(a)  G.S. 113‑224 reads as rewritten:

“§ 113‑224.  Cooperative agreements by Department.

… (b) The Fisheries Director or a designee of the Fisheries Director shall enter into an agreement with the National Marine Fisheries Service of the United States Department of Commerce allowing Division of Marine Fisheries inspectors to accept delegation of law enforcement powers over matters within the jurisdiction of the National Marine Fisheries Service.”

SECTION 14.11.(b)  G.S. 128‑1.1 is amended by adding a new subsection to read:

“(c2)     Inspectors of the Division of Marine Fisheries of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources may also assume law enforcement powers granted to the National Marine Fisheries Service as set forth in G.S. 113‑224(b).”

Amendment Proposed on House Floor to Remove JEA from House Budget

  • 06/12/2014 The House voted on an amendment from Eastern NC Rep. Michael Speciale to strike the JEA language from the committee-amended budget, giving constituents an opportunity to see which legislators within the House favor the provision for Joint Enforcement.

While it is unclear from whom within the Appropriations Committee the JEA language was proposed, it is of note that none of the committee chairpersons voted for the Speciale amendment to remove the provision. Three chairpersons voted against the amendment and two abstained from the vote (Appropriations Committee Chairs in bold on the amendment vote record below), indicating that none of the chairpersons are willing to oppose the adoption of Joint Enforcement. The Speciale amendment failed 30 – 85:




Representative(s): Tine

Representative(s): Bell, J.; Brawley, R.; Brody; Catlin; Cleveland; Collins; Davis; Elmore; Faircloth; Ford; Hager; Hardister; Hastings; Howard; Iler; Jeter; Jordan; Malone; McNeill; Moore, T.; Pittman; Presnell; Riddell; Setzer; Shepard; Speciale; Steinburg; Torbett; Whitmire


Representative(s): Adams; Alexander; Baskerville; Bell, L.; Brandon; Brisson; Carney; Cotham; Cunningham; Earle; Farmer-Butterfield; Fisher; Floyd; Gill; Glazier; Goodman; Graham, C.; Graham, G.; Hall, D.; Hall, L.; Hamilton; Hanes; Harrison; Holley; Insko; Jackson; Lucas; Luebke; Martin, G; Meyer; Michaux; Mobley; Moore, R.; Pierce; Queen; Reives; Richardson; Terry; Tolson; Waddell; Wilkins; Wray

Representative(s): Arp; Avila; Blackwell; Blust; Boles; Brawley, W.; Brown, B.; Brown, R.; Bryan; Bumgardner; Burr; Conrad; Daughtry; Dixon; Dobson; Dollar; Fulghum; Hollo; Horn; Hurley; Johnson; Lambeth; Langdon; Lewis; Martin, S; McGrady; Moffitt; Murry; Ramsey; Ross, S.; Saine; Samuelson; Schaffer; Stam; Starnes; Stevens; Stone; Szoka; Turner; Warren, H.; Wells; West; Younts

Not Voting:

Representative(s): None

Representative(s): Holloway; McElraft; Tillis (SPEAKER)

Exc. Absence:

Representative(s): None

Representative(s): Jones; Millis

  • 6/17/2014 The Senate failed to concur with the House-amended version of the legislation. Unable to reach an agreement over the conflicting budgets, the legislation is now being heard in conference committee.

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