Fishing communities along North Carolina's coastline struggle to maintain a viable fishing industry. No one points to any one thing contributing to the decline of the fishing industry, but to a collection of events and conditions that make it impossible for local commercial fishermen to sustain a livelihood. Drawing on the theoretical orientation of political ecology, we engaged in ethnographic research during the summer of 2006 in Carteret County. We interviewed fishermen, fish dealers, consumers, and restaurant owners to learn more about the political economy of the environment and the shared waters and fish. We learned from the research that regulations are in place that protect the waters and impose limits on who can fish when and the catch limits, but less protection is available for the fishermen and their families, who for many generations made their living by working in the fishing industry.

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