143B-289.54. Marine Fisheries Commission - members; appointment; term; oath; ethical standards; removal; compensation; staff.

(a) Members, Selection. - The Marine Fisheries Commission shall consist of nine members appointed by the Governor as follows:

(1) One person actively engaged in, or recently retired from, commercial fishing as demonstrated by currently or recently deriving at least fifty percent (50%) of annual earned income from taking and selling fishery resources in coastal fishing waters of the State. The spouse of a commercial fisherman who meets the criteria of this subdivision may be appointed under this subdivision.

(2) One person actively engaged in, or recently retired from, commercial fishing as demonstrated by currently or recently deriving at least fifty percent (50%) of annual earned income from taking and selling fishery resources in coastal fishing waters of the State. The spouse of a commercial fisherman who meets the criteria of this subdivision may be appointed under this subdivision.

(3) One person actively connected with, and experienced as, a licensed fish dealer or in seafood processing or distribution as demonstrated by deriving at least fifty percent (50%) of annual earned income from activities involving the buying, selling, processing, or distribution of seafood landed in this State. The spouse of a person qualified under this subdivision may be appointed provided that the spouse is actively involved in the qualifying business.

(4) One person actively engaged in recreational sports fishing in coastal waters in this State. An appointee under this subdivision may not derive more than ten percent (10%) of annual earned income from sports fishing activities.

(5) One person actively engaged in recreational sports fishing in coastal waters in this State. An appointee under this subdivision may not derive more than ten percent (10%) of annual earned income from sports fishing activities.

(6) One person actively engaged in the sports fishing industry as demonstrated by deriving at least fifty percent (50%) of annual earned income from selling goods or services in this State. The spouse of a person qualified under this subdivision may be appointed provided that the spouse is actively involved in the qualifying business.

(7) One person having general knowledge of and experience related to subjects and persons regulated by the Commission.

(8) One person having general knowledge of and experience related to subjects and persons regulated by the Commission.

(9) One person who is a fisheries scientist having special training and expertise in marine and estuarine fisheries biology, ecology, population dynamics, water quality, habitat protection, or similar knowledge. A person appointed under this subdivision may not receive more than ten percent (10%) of annual earned income from either the commercial or sports fishing industries, including the processing and distribution of seafood.

(b) Residential Qualifications. - For purposes of providing regional representation on the Commission, the following three coastal regions of the State are designated: (i) Northeast Coastal Region comprised of Bertie, Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Halifax, Hertford, Martin, Northampton, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Tyrrell, and Washington Counties, (ii) Central Coastal Region comprised of Beaufort, Carteret, Craven, Hyde, Jones, and Pamlico Counties; and (iii) Southeast Coastal Region comprised of Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover, Onslow, and Pender Counties. Persons appointed under subdivisions (1), (2), (3), (4), and (8) of subsection (a) of this section shall be residents of one of the coastal regions of the State. The membership of the Commission shall include at least one person who is a resident of each of the three coastal regions of the State.

(c) Additional Considerations. - In making appointments to the Commission, the Governor shall provide for appropriate representation of women and minorities on the Commission.

(d) Terms. - The term of office of members of the Commission is three years. A member may be reappointed to any number of successive three-year terms. Upon the expiration of a three-year term, a member shall continue to serve until a successor is appointed and duly qualified as provided by G.S. 128-7. The term of members appointed under subdivisions (1), (4), and (7) of subsection (a) of this section shall expire on 30 June of years evenly divisible by three. The term of members appointed under subdivisions (2), (5), and (8) of subsection (a) of this section shall expire on 30 June of years that precede by one year those years that are evenly divisible by three. The term of members appointed under subdivisions (3), (6), and (9) of subsection (a) of this section shall expire on 30 June of years that follow by one year those years that are evenly divisible by three.

(e) Vacancies. - An appointment to fill a vacancy shall be for the unexpired balance of the term.

(f) Oath of Office. - Each member of the Commission, before assuming the duties of office, shall take an oath of office as provided in Chapter 11 of the General Statutes.

(g) Ethical Standards. -

(1) Disclosure statements. - Any person under consideration for appointment to the Commission shall provide both a financial disclosure statement and a potential bias disclosure statement to the Governor. A financial disclosure statement shall include statements of the nominee's financial interests in and related to State fishery resources use, licenses issued by the Division of Marine Fisheries held by the nominee or any business in which the nominee has a financial interest, and uses made by the nominee or by any business in which the nominee has a financial interest of the regulated resources. A potential bias disclosure statement shall include a statement of the nominee's membership or other affiliation with, including offices held, in societies, organizations, or advocacy groups pertaining to the management and use of the State's coastal fishery resources. Disclosure statements shall be treated as public records under Chapter 132 of the General Statutes and shall be updated on an annual basis.

(2) Voting/conflict of interest. - A member of the Commission shall not vote on any issue before the Commission that would have a "significant and predictable effect" on the member's financial interest. For purposes of this subdivision, "significant and predictable effect" means there is or may be a close causal link between the decision of the Commission and an expected disproportionate financial benefit to the member that is shared only by a minority of persons within the same industry sector or gear group. A member of the Commission shall also abstain from voting on any petition submitted by an advocacy group of which the member is an officer or sits as a member of the advocacy group's board of directors. A member of the Commission shall not use the member's official position as a member of the Commission to secure any special privilege or exemption of substantial value for any person. No member of the Commission shall, by the member's conduct, create an appearance that any person could improperly influence the member in the performance of the member's official duties.

(3) Regular attendance. - It shall be the duty of each member of the Commission to regularly attend meetings of the Commission.

(h) Removal. - The Governor may remove, as provided in G.S. 143B-13, any member of the Commission for misfeasance, malfeasance, or nonfeasance.

(i) Office May Be Held Concurrently With Others. - The office of member of the Marine Fisheries Commission may be held concurrently with any other elected or appointed office, as authorized by Article VI, Section 9, of the Constitution of North Carolina.

(j) Compensation. - Members of the Commission who are State officers or employees shall receive no per diem compensation for serving on the Commission, but shall be reimbursed for their expenses in accordance with G.S. 138-6. Members of the Commission who are full-time salaried public officers or employees other than State officers or employees shall receive no per diem compensation for serving on the Commission, but shall be reimbursed for their expenses in accordance with G.S. 138-6 in the same manner as State officers or employees. All other Commission members shall receive per diem compensation and reimbursement in accordance with the compensation rate established in G.S. 93B-5.

(k) Staff. - All clerical and other services required by the Commission shall be supplied by the Fisheries Director and the Department.

(l) Legal Services. - The Attorney General shall: (i) act as attorney for the Commission; (ii) at the request of the Commission, initiate actions in the name of the Commission; and (iii) represent the Commission in any appeal or other review of any order of the Commission.

(m) Transparency. - The Commission shall establish official e-mail accounts for all Commission members. These e-mail accounts shall be used for all electronic communications related to the work of the Commission and those communications shall be considered public records under Chapter 132 of the General Statutes. Other than routine communication sent from Division staff to all Commission members, electronic communications among a majority of the Commission shall be an "official meeting" as defined in Article 33C of Chapter 143 of the General Statutes. Failure to comply with this subsection shall be subject to investigation by the State Ethics Commission as unethical conduct and removal under subsection (h) of this section as misfeasance. Nothing in this subsection is intended to limit or eliminate any privilege existing at common law or under statute. (1997-400, s. 2.1; 1998-225, ss. 1.6, 1.7; 2001-213, s. 5; 2013-360, s. 14.7(b); 2017-6, s. 3; 2017-190, s. 3; 2018-146, ss. 3.1(a), (b), 6.1.)