Megan M. Spencer
The MFC enacts laws pertaining to fisheries, which includes recent rules requiring night soak times for commercial nets.
The MFC enacts laws pertaining to fisheries, which includes recent rules requiring night soak times for commercial nets.
Photo by Megan M. Spencer
At-large seat given to a lifetime member of the CCA.

Governor Pat McCrory announced his selection of three new commissioners to serve on the Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) on Tuesday, July 30, according to a press release from his office. The announcement came just in time for new appointments to be sworn in at a joint meeting of advisory committees and a public hearing on a possible shrimp trawling ban held in New Bern the same day.

Charles “Chuck” Laughridge III replaces former MFC Chair Bob Bizzell for the at-large seat. The governor’s release states he’s an investment advisor and a “lifelong sportsman” who resides in Carteret County.  Info from DMF says Laughridge also co-chaired the first advisory committee on finfish for striped bass in the 1990s. What’s not included in either of the releases is Laughridge’s heavy involvement in the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA).

An internet search for Laughridge produces numerous pages of propaganda, from promoting gamefish status for drum, trout and stripers, to his involvement with the CCA and his for-profit website NC Watermen ( that promotes recreational fishing.

There was no mention on the CCA website, but an article in North Carolina Sportsman said Laughridge had resigned as a member of the CCA board of directors. He was not listed on the director’s board on the CCA website. But, Chuck Laughridge is listed as a lifetime member of the CCANC.

On the homepage of his website,, is an article  that contains “updated economic information” to support gamefish status for red drum, spotted sea trout and striped bass - a move that would ban the sale of these fish in our state.

Moreover, NC Waterman proclaims itself to be  governed by a state-wide board, formed in 2006. The website is maintained by Laughridge’s company The Waterman Group, “a for-profit, limited liability corporation that will retain ownership of the North Carolina Waterman web site” and manage the distribution of information and propaganda of the NCW’s causes. The NC Sportsman dubbs NCW as a site for  “popular support of saltwater resources conservation.”

In 2006, the NCW site listed Laughridge as a “soon-to-be” Harker’s Island resident.

Mark Gorges, of New Hanover County will serve on the recreational seat formerly held by Chris Elkins. According to the governor's release, Gorges is president and CEO of Seaward Action, Inc., a charter fishing company based out of Wrightsville Beach. He is described on the Seaward Action website as a born-and-raised eastern NC fisherman with a family history in commercial fishing.

Bradley Styron , who held the former seat on MFC for commercial fishing, will be replaced by Paul Rose, of Currituck County. Rose will also take the seat as MFC Chairman. The governor’s  release says Rose is a flounder and crab fisherman, as well as a small-time seafood dealer.  He is also a member of Outer Banks Catch, a Dare, Hyde and Currituck county grassroots initiative to serve wild-caught, local seafood in NC restaurants.

The MFC consists of a nine-member board appointed by the Governor, with each member serving three-year terms. The seats are to be held by representatives from commercial fishing, commercial fishing industry, recreational fisherman, sportfishing industry, scientist, and two at-large.

Right now, Mikey Daniels and Rose represent commercial fishermen; Joe Smith represents the commercial industry; Kelly Darden and Gorges represent recreational fishermen; Joe Shute represents the recreational industry; Allyn Powell serves as a scientist; and Laughridge and Vice Chair Anna Beckwith fill the at-large seats.

Commercial fishing advocates are worried the representation for commercial fishing is lacking, since both the at-large seats are filled by commissioners with recreational fishing interests. Beckwith’s husband is a recreational fishing captain with Pamlico Guide service out of Morehead City.

The MFC is charged with managing, restoring, developing, cultivating, conserving, protecting and regulating marine and estuarine resources within the state’s jurisdiction. The MFC also implements laws relating to coastal fisheries and other marine and estuarine resources enacted by the General Assembly.

The commission is mandated to meet quarterly, but can hold additional meetings at the request of the chair or least four members. Three of the MFC’s quarterly meetings must be held in one of the coastal regions.

The next meeting of the MFC will be August 28-30 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Raleigh-University-Brownstone, Raleigh. The meeting begins with public comment on Wednesday, August. 28 at 6 p.m.

The new board will consider a possible ban on trawling of most internal waters of NC, as requested by a petition by Tim Hergenrader. Because the rule is not recommended by four MFC advisory committees, officials speculate the trawl ban will likely not be enacted.