FISHERIES MANAGEMENT & LEGISLATIVE REPORT
by Tom Fote
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association December 2001 Newsletter)
AS you know the Assembly passed the Menhaden Bill (S2252/A3512) prior to going on recess. Now the Senate has an opportunity to finally move on this legislation. The Senate Environmental Committee voted this bill unanimously out of committee on Monday, November 18. We would like to thank Senator McNamara, for posting this bill and voting for the bill. We would also like to thank the other members of committee for voting to recommend the bill to the to the full Senate for passage. The other Senators voting to support the bill in committee were Senator Andrew Ciesla, Senator John Adler, Senator Anthony Bucco and Joseph Vitale. Please let them know you appreciate their vote. Now it goes to the full Senate for a vote as soon as it is posted. We are so close to getting this vital legislation passed but if it is not completed in this lame duck session, we have to start all over again. Given the many crucial issues the new legislature will have to deal with, it could be a long time before they get around to the menhaden bill. You must contact your senators immediately. There is no time for delay. They could vote on this legislation within a week. Contact Acting Governor and Senate President Donald DiFrancesco and tell him you want this bill posted promptly. He has always been a supporter of this legislation and all he needs is a reminder. Thank him for his support. Write, fax, email or send mail to your Senator today. You can get mailing information from the NJ Legislative homepage at < http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/>. If you want updates, send your email address to email@example.com. Remember, this legislation has taken twenty years. We cant afford to let up now. Thank you for all your hard work. Here is the Acting Governors web address and mailing address:
Acting Governor Donald DiFrancesco
P.O. Box 001
State House, Trenton, NJ 08625-0001
I guess the season of tough decisions is upon us. In the next few months we will make tough decisions on striped bass, weakfish, summer flounder, tuna, and many other important recreational species. I guess in the early eighties, when I first got involved in JCAA, I had a dream. My dream was that the recreational community along the east coast would work together. I thought by 2000 we would be well-organized and winning battles. I thought striped bass would be a gamefish along the entire coast. I thought there would be an equitable plan for sharing the fish available between the recreational and commercial communities. I thought all of us would benefit as stocks were rebuilt.
Were not even close. We were actually closer in the mid nineties than we are now. And before we blame all our problems on agencies and commercial groups we need to take a long look inside our own house. We are frequently our own worst enemy. In the early nineties there were no national organizations along the east coast and the existing collaboration of state organizations was functioning with increasing effectiveness. We recognized our differences but concentrated on those battles we had in common. We were able to have meetings where we would freely discuss our concerns and find common ground. We left our egos in the parking lot and supported one another in every way possible. We attempted, whenever we could, to speak with one voice but recognize individual concerns. We were careful when we disagreed to keep the differences in-house and not attack one another publicly. We always gave credit to the hard work done by each organization and allowed each other to take the lead in our home states. We had no interest in making one another look bad to accumulate power, money or members. We shared our successful organizational strategies because we knew that stronger local and state groups ultimately made all of us stronger and more effective.
We have entered, I fear, the 21st Century with more organizations but less civility. There are more of us actively involved but the communication and coordination among groups is at an all time low. People are reluctant to speak freely because they are afraid theyll find their name maligned on a message board or in the press. Keeping discussions and disagreements in-house seems to be a thing of the past. I have been reluctant to bring this discussion into print but I am so disillusioned and frustrated that I feel I have no choice.
Choices on striped bass will not be made on what best serves the resource and the recreational community but on what organization can use this for headlines or fundraising. And what is really obvious is that some decisions are supported just to make other organizations look bad. Enough is enough. We have two national organizations that have to learn to work together or they are of little or no use to the rest of us. Their bickering causes more problems and few solutions. We spend more time worrying about and responding to them than we do actually problem solving. I understand that starting and maintaining a national organization is difficult. Different states have different needs and different agendas. Add to the mix recruiting members and raising money while competing with another organization and you have a recipe for trouble. This needs to stop. We have so many battles to fight and our opposition in well funded and well organized. We have plenty to do to fight the commercial organizations, the agencies that regulate us, and, most recently, some environmental organizations. We cannot afford to fight each other.
It is the time of year again when we set the recreational size and bag limits for summer flounder, scup and seabass. Some people were hoping with the small increase in summer flounder quota that the regulations would be relaxed. I was not optimistic. As I have pointed out before, the quota should be much higher than it has been in recent years. We keep making the regulations more stringent and the recreational anglers are harvesting larger and larger fish. In some years we have actually landed less fish but because of the increased size, we have gone over quota. From the preliminary data that has been reported to me, we are going to be over quota again this year. The technical committee continues to tell us that the stocks are not rebuilding at the rate necessary to increase the quota dramatically. They continue to tell us that there simply are no large summer flounder available. Yet our own observations and catches contradict their findings. We are seeing plenty of five-year old fish and are fishing on stocks the technical committee thinks dont exist. Even while fishing for striped bass in mid November, there are summer flounder over 18 inches long caught. On November 15th a party boat reported a summer flounder over 10 pounds caught on jigs while striped bass fishing. I have landed many flounder in the surf in mid November, all over legal size. Ten years ago I dont remember seeing or hearing reports of summer flounder that size in New Jersey at this time of year. Remember, were not targeting summer flounder or using the techniques that are normally used. Of course, anecdotal data doesnt count so we will need to live with the decisions of a technical committee that uses models that are ultraconservative and rely more on art than science.
What does this mean for this year for summer flounder season? It means a tightening of regulations, especially in New Jersey and Virginia. Preliminary data suggests that both states are over quota, even fishing on larger fish. According to the data gathered by the Marine Recreational Survey, even Delaware with a 17-inch size limit, is over quota. The seasons and bag limits will be decided at the meetings listed below. Please call to check on dates since meeting schedules can be changed. You can also email to request additional information. New Jerseys recreational industry took a huge hit last year because of the summer flounder decisions. It looks like we will take another hit and the only choice we have is how to distribute the quota were allowed. We need to insist on decisions that provide whatever benefit possible to the recreational fishing community. Unlike the environmental community, we dont have the deep pockets necessary to sustain a lengthy lawsuit.
Regarding summer flounder there are two meeting dates to keep in mind:
|Advisory Panel Meeting||Wednesday December 5th||Holiday Inn BWI||10:00AM|
|ASMFC Summer Flounder, Scup & Black Sea Bass Management Board Meeting||Tuesday December 11th
||Sheraton Society Hill, Philadelphia
||8:00AM - 12:00PM
The seabass seems to be in good shape recreationally. However, we appear to be over quota on scup. Most of the overage appears to be from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York. We will have to see how this plays out. JCAA will be in attendance at all of the meetings listed below. We will pass on additional information by email as it becomes available. If you are not on our email list send your email address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
November 28 MAFMC & ASMFC Summer Flounder Scup and Seabass Monitoring Committee Meeting at Holiday Inn, BWI, 890 Elkridge Landing Road, Linthicum, Maryland (410-859-8400)
November 29-30 ASMFC Summer Flounder Regulatory Discards Workshop
Meeting at Holiday Inn, BWI, 890 Elkridge Landing Road, Linthicum, Maryland (410-859-8400)
MAFMC & ASMFC Joint Meeting on setting up the 2002 Recreational Summer Flounder, Scup and Seabass seasons, size and bag limits will be at the Sheraton Society Hill, One Dock Street, Philadelphia, PA (: 215-238-6000) on December 12. Here is the preliminary schedule, summer flounder 8:00-12:00, scup 1:00-3:00 and sea bass 3:00-5:00.
For more information, to check the date and time of a meeting or get materials before the meeting, contact the following:
1 The ASMFC Summer Flounder, Scup and Seabass Fishery Management Plan Coordinator - Michael Lewis. You can reach him at 202.289.6400 or email him at email@example.com
2. The MAFMC Summer Flounder, Scup and Seabass Fishery Management Plan Coordinator - Chris Moore. You can reach him at 302-674-2331 or email him at <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Many of you may have read in the paper that we lost the summary judgment on the yellowfin lawsuit. With a thank you to Paul Turi, I have included below how a summary judgment works.
Here is how a summary judgment motion works. The attorneys for both sides will present whatever evidence they have to the trial judge along with briefs arguing their positions. The judge will read the papers and then hear oral argument from the attorneys. The judge will make his decision based on those papers and the oral argument (no oral testimony will be heard). Under the law, if the judge finds there are no material issues of fact in dispute, he can decide the case himself and either rule in favor of the plaintiff or the defendant and the case is over, or he can find that there are material issues of fact in dispute, and in that instance a trier of the facts would have to hear oral evidence and decide the case either in favor of the plaintiff or the defendant. The trier of fact can either be a jury or the judge himself, depending on what court the case was filed in and whether or not the plaintiffs made a demand for a jury trial. So, in its simplest form, if the judge feels there are material issues of fact in dispute, it goes to a full trial. If he feels there are no material issues of fact in dispute, he decides the case on the motion and the case is over.
This means the judge has ruled there is no reason for a trial on the original lawsuit about the yellowfin tuna regulations. This is a decision in favor of the defendant (National Marine Fisheries Service). We have the right to appeal this decision. This is what the environmental groups did when they were dissatisfied with the original rulings on summer flounder and they were successful. But we dont have the deep pockets of the Pew Foundation to fund our lawsuits. JCAA has not met with the other plaintiffs yet to discuss our next move. The information I have received from the RFA suggests they are not anticipating appealing due to the cost. The RFA put up a substantial amount of money for the original lawsuit. The overall fundraising, however, has been very slow. JCAA contributed an initial $500 and then urged individual clubs and members to send money to the RFA fund. Many JCAA members made individual contributions and many of our clubs did so as well. Most of the money raised for this lawsuit came from New Jersey anglers. We could not convince other states that this was about more than the three fish bag limit. Clearly, for us, this lawsuit was about principle, not numbers. The judges decision allows the National Marine Fisheries Service to continue to arbitrarily set recreational bag limits without supporting science. Thats what this lawsuit was about and thats what we lost. If an appeal is not made this ruling stands. We will feel the effects of this ruling for many years and for many species. JCAA had committed another $3,000 if other organizations would match our contribution. After the summary judgment, JCAAs board agreed to increase that amount to $5,000. But understand, $5,000 is not enough. We need to raise well over ten times that amount. And we cant expect the RFA to fund the rest. It is a shame that other national and state organizations didnt join the lawsuit and encourage their members to support this effort financially. Unless our fairy godmother suddenly appears with a lot of money we will have to begin again with the next outrageous action by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Its only a matter of time. We would like to thank Phil Kozak and the National Fishing Association for their support and contribution. They were one of the driving forces behind this lawsuit.
As you read in the indigestion column, no formal decisions have been made about Amendment 6. JCAA will be soliciting for a striped bass committee to look at positions on this issue. We have not changed our position on one size limit in the producing areas and the coast. If New Jersey can maintain a single size limit in our producing areas and the coast, there is no reason other states cannot do the same. I am afraid that people will argue over the minutia and lose sight of the big picture. It is crucial that we stay focused. In some states recreational anglers are so frustrated with their inability to deal with the commercial illegal fishery, bycatch and size limits, that they are talking about further penalizing their recreational colleagues. This makes no sense at all. New Jerseys anglers are often accused of hogging the fish because of our bonus program allowing for a third fish. I will repeat: we catch less than 8,000 pounds of the 225,000 pounds available. JCAAs members have made it clear that they would gladly give up the bonus program if the other states just did away with their commercial fisheries. All the other states have to do is follow our lead and make striped bass a gamefish. Until then, we will continue to fight for this quota even though we take so little advantage of it. At least it keeps the 225,000 pounds here in New Jersey so the quota cant be gobbled up by other states commercial fishermen. I have not heard discussion from a single national group of its plans to work to cut back the commercial fishery. I am particularly concerned about the quota being over the base years in the Chesapeake Bay and the Delaware Bay.