MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina officials are trying to figure how to describe commercial fishermen because of numbers that show that most people who buy licenses don't sell their catch to dealers.

Sam Corbett, the chairman of the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission told The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Virginia, that the evidence is in the numbers. In 2017, nearly 3,000 licensed fishermen sold seafood to dealers totaling nearly 60 million pounds worth $94 million. But about 4,000 others who bought commercial licenses didn't sell to a seafood dealer, he said.

"They're going around the bag limits," Corbett said. "It's such a crazy issue."

A committee will meet Thursday in Morehead City to discuss who should be allowed to get a commercial license. The report will go to the state's commission and then to state lawmakers, Corbett said.

The definition could cover a wide range of rules including requiring a certain number of fishing trips or a minimum amount of income earned from seafood sales, Corbett said.

Representatives of other fishing groups oppose the move. "I don't believe they have the right to determine how often somebody goes out," said Glenn Skinner, executive director of the North Carolina Fisheries Association , which represents commercial fishermen.

Skinner said he believes the effort is a ploy to further restrict commercial fishing.

It doesn't make sense for recreational anglers to buy a commercial license just to catch a few more fish because of the difference in cost, said Sandy Semans Ross, president of Outer Banks Catch , an organization that promotes seafood caught locally in the wild. A commercial fishing license costs $400 compared with $15 for a state resident recreational license, she said.

Many who buy a license also work as farmers, wait tables in restaurants or guide hunters. Several work for other fishing operations and sell the catch under someone else's license. Their license does not get recorded for the transaction, she said.

"It's going to force people out of the industry," she said.


Information from: The Virginian-Pilot,