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PETA Seeks End to University Lake Fishing

University Lake, which UNC built in 1932, rents out boats and fishing supplies to Orange County residents.

The lake, located in Carrboro, has recently gained the attention of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

On Aug. 15, PETA sent a letter to officials at Orange Water and Sewer Authority asking them to ban recreational fishing at the lake.

"It's mostly an educational campaign," said Daniel Shannon, fishing campaign coordinator for PETA. "We're trying to get the word out to people that they should reconsider this.

"People consider this a very benign activity and there's this misconception that fish don't feel pain," Shannon added. "Fish, like any other animal, possess the biological and neurological capacity to feel pain."

University Lake, which UNC built in 1932, is now operated by OWASA on a long-term lease with the University. The facility is open from March to November for recreational fishing and boating.

The lake rents out boats and supplies to residents of all ages.

On the dock, Jack Griffith loads up a rented boat with bait and provisions. Griffith clasps the green and white life vests onto his 6-year-old son, Nick, and then onto 7-year-old Ian.

"Today we decided to come out here to fish," Ian Griffith said, excitedly.

"We enjoy fishing," Jack Griffith added. "I'm sure they're people that perhaps don't. For these guys it's a great chance for us to get together. I work everyday so this is a great opportunity."

Greg Feller, spokesman for OWASA, said the lake exists to benefit residents.

"We're a public nonprofit water resource agency," he said.

"Recreation is something we provide. We don't operate it like a private business would."

Feller said the plant's board of directors was informed of PETA's request at its most recent meeting. He said the board will most likely address the matter at an upcoming meeting.

"There was no discussion about how to respond," Feller said. "It was just simply brought up."

Shannon said PETA members are waiting to hear back from OWASA before pursuing other methods of getting their point across.

"They promote fishing on the lake, they rent boats so people can take them out and go fishing," he said. "We're asking them not to do that because A, it's cruel to the fish, and B, it's not safe for the environment."

If OWASA refuses to acknowledges PETA's request, Shannon said the group will seek other ways to restrict fishing.

"We'd continue to work with (OWASA)," Shannon said. "We'd try to convince them. They're entitled to their opinion but we're going to try and convince them of ours."

Pennsylvania native Hal Hopper, who has fished at University Lake, said he would rather PETA focus on other issues and leave fishing alone.

"I don't have a lot of sympathy for PETA," he said, adding that he is both a fisher and a hunter.

Meanwhile, Tim Willink helps Pablo take the crappie off his hook and throw it back into the water. The fish disappears into the dark water.

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"We talk about respecting everything," Tim Willink said. "We put everything back.

"It's the approach you take. If you respect wildlife, then I don't see a problem with it."

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