by Tom Fote
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association April 2004 Newsletter)
Anglers Scoff at Fence Claims (John Geiser, Asbury Park Press 2/27/04)
Fishing - Poignant Plea: Don't Fence Me Out! (Al Ristori - Star Ledger Staff, Feb 26th 2004)
As you can see from the two articles included in this newspaper, there was a problem created when the Coast Guard erected a fence on Sandy Hook. This was thoroughly discussed at the February JCAA meeting and the clubs in attendance developed and approved a plan of action. We contacted Senator Frank Lautenberg, Senator Jon Corzine and Congressman Frank Pallone. We also contacted NJ DEP and asked them to check to see if the Coast Guard followed the rules. They all were instrumental in resolving this issue quickly and to our satisfaction. We have not yet been informed if the Coast Guard will approve an additional 300 yards of access but the fence is down. I would also like thank Commissioner Campbell and DEP for enforcing the rules and informing the Coast Guard that they had not followed procedures.
Congressman Frank Pallone’s office hosted a meeting with the clubs involved. Legislative aides from Senator Lautenberg’s and Senator Corzines’s offices were in attendance along with the representatives for the Coast Guard and the Gateway National Park Superintendent. Once the fence issue was resolved we discussed other issues of interest to all parties. I feel we opened a good dialogue. Special thanks is due to the members of the Surf Kings, Asbury Park Fishing Club, Shark River Surf Anglers and Berkeley Striper Club. The letters you wrote and the petitions you signed were a big help.
Prior to our meeting with the Coast Guard Congressman Pallone hosted a meeting with me, representatives from DEP, Joe Pallotto of the Asbury Park Fishing Club, Greg Hueth and Jerry Kelly from Shark River Surf Anglers to discuss the flume at Deal and Spring Lake and the pollution of Spring Lake. I left this meeting feeling that the flume may be resolved by the end of the year by DEP. I also feel that DEP is committed to finding solutions to the pollution in Spring Lake.
Although it doesn’t happen very often, it is so rewarding to leave a meeting feeling that issues were seriously discussed and solutions were reached. This would not have happened without all the hard work beforehand and the support of all the clubs involved.
Surf fishermen are not buying the Coast Guard’s claim that anglers do not need to fish the tip of Sandy Hook.
The Coast Guard’s erection of a fence extending out into the water to prevent anglers from using the beach opposite The Rip has created a storm of protest, and the tension is mounting as the striped bass season approaches.
Greg Hueth, a spokesman for the Shark River Surf Anglers and a fisherman who has caught stripers from the tip of the Hook since he was a boy, said anglers do not understand the government’s action. “It’s a great fishing spot and there aren’t many of them left,” he said. “It’s unbelievable that the government would raise our permit fee (access to Gateway National Recreation Area) to $50 this year and then take away access to The Rip. “We can all understand the need for security, but to erect a 1,000-foot fence with barbed wire on top doesn’t keep terrorists out, it only keeps fishermen out,” he said.
Hueth attended a meeting of the Jersey Coast Anglers Association Tuesday night, and that organization was united in its opposition to the fence. “We’ve requested a meeting with the Coast Guard,” Hueth said, explaining that anglers support legitimate security measures, but are hard-pressed to grasp the need for a fence that denies foot traffic, but does not prevent a small boat from landing.
Their contention is that a fence erected parallel with the beach allowing surf fishermen access to the water’s edge would be far more practical, and the Coast Guard would benefit from anglers’ presence 24 hours a day.
Fishermen believe that watchful anglers would report anyone on the wrong side of a parallel fence. If backed up by cameras and Coast Guard personnel, security would be enhanced, not diminished.
Thomas P. Fote, legislative chairman of the JCAA and the New Jersey Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, said both organizations are opposed to the erection of the fence, and put together a petition that asks the Coast Guard to remove it. “We’re worried about beach access,” he said. “Every year we have to fight a new battle with the federal government over access. It’s getting harder and harder for fishermen to find a place to fish. “When the government holds public lands in trust as they do at Sandy Hook, their primary concern, whenever possible, should be to give the public use of that public property.”
Sens. Jon S. Corzine and Frank R. Lautenberg, both D-NJ, and Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-NJ, were asked by the JCAA and the federation to intercede on their behalf. Fote pointed out in a letter to the lawmakers that the Coast Guard and surf anglers have coexisted on the beach without incident since the days of Fort Hancock. “If the Coast Guard is truly concerned about security around the station, why not work with the fishing community rather than against it?” Fote asked. “What better than to have at any given time, half a dozen to a dozen fishermen who treat this area as their own backyard, armed with cell phones ‘on duty’ watching the area. And it’s free. “All we ask in return is the right to be there,” he added.
Pallone has written both the Coast Guard and the state Department of Environmental Protection, seeking access for fishermen. In his letter to Bradley M. Campbell, commissioner of the DEP, Pallone reminded that the fence prevents access to about a mile of open beach. “I understand that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is reviewing the Coast Guard Station fence through a federal consistency determination under the Land Use Regulation Program,” Pallone said.
Campbell announced Wednesday that the Coast Guard has been served with a notice of violation that the fence is illegal and must be removed or the agency must apply for and obtain the appropriate DEP permits. “I appreciate the Coast Guard’s concern for security, but I believe the construction of this fence is not consistent with providing public access for the many fishermen who have traditionally benefited from having access to those waters.”
Michael Doebley, deputy director for government affairs for the Recreational Fishing Alliance, said the state’s congressmen—senators and representatives of both parties—are weighing in on the fence problem. “The RFA has asked Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) to look into this,” Doebley said. “He’s the chairman of the Coast Guard Subcommittee, and he’s been involved in this type of thing before.” Doebley explained that a somewhat similar situation arose in Cape May, and LoBiondo was able to persuade the Coast Guard to permit limited access to a jetty and beach.
“I was in the service and I understand the reason for security areas,” Doebley said. “But I also know that on military bases security areas can be set up around sensitive facilities, and hunting and fishing still be allowed where they do not compromise security. “In this respect, the RFA believes that alternatives can be offered that can satisfy the Coast Guard concerns at Sandy Hook and still provide fishermen access to the water,” he said.
by Al Ristori - Star Ledger Staff
Surfcasters are up in arms over the unannounced construction of a fence from the Coast Guard Station at Sandy Hook right to the surf. That fence cuts off the traditional access to the tip of Sandy Hook, where anglers can fish the rip area as well as other waters that are among the most productive along the entire coast.
The Surf Kings and Shark River Anglers brought this sudden development to public notice, and the Jersey Coast Anglers Association (JCAA) is spearheading an effort to have access restored. Tom Fote, legislative director of the JCAA, said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) has contacted the Coast Guard, and Senators Jon Corzine and Frank Lautenberg have indicated that they will look into the situation.
It's odd that additional security would be required so long after the Sept. 11 attacks, especially when there's nothing to stop boats from dropping people off on the point and even the fence can be skirted in the surf at low tide.
Fote, a disabled Vietnam vet, expressed the opinion of the JCAA to Pallone and our senators as follows: "I am writing to protest the loss of beach access to the Sandy Hook Rip. The Rip, located at the northeastern point of Sandy Hook peninsula, has historically been considered the single most famous and recognized surf angling destination in the state of New Jersey. To quote the book 'The Outdoor Heritage of New Jersey,' 'Thousands of fish at Sandy Hook afford diversion to fishermen, particularly in the vicinity of Sandy Hook Point.'
"That book was published by the New Jersey Fish and Game Commission in 1937. Public access to the tip of Sandy Hook in the Gateway National Recreation Area has been restricted by the placement of a fence extending into the Atlantic Ocean, effectively barring all access to this important fishing area. The United States Coast Guard, without public hearing or comment, has erected this fence complete with barbed wire and without the appropriate permits as required by the State of New Jersey.
"The USCG and surf anglers from all along the coast have coexisted on this beach since the days of Fort Hancock without incident. If the Coast Guard is truly concerned about security around the station, why not work with the fishing community rather than against it? What better than to have at any given hour half a dozen to a dozen fishermen, who treat this area as their own backyard, armed with cell phones "on duty" watching the area. "And it's free! All we ask in return is the right to be there.
"Shore-bound anglers have lost much of our access to beaches at the hands of private developers. Losing access to the traditional and historically public and productive tip of Sandy Hook to the government, which should be holding public resources in the public trust, is unacceptable. The limited amount of beachfront resources must be accessible to the public.
"How many times have we seen the commercial and heard the phrase 'New Jersey and You' touting the recreational opportunities in our state? By closing this area, our government is further denying the public the opportunity to enjoy a healthy, wholesome, safe and clean recreational opportunity that is surf fishing."
Dear Senator Jon Corzine, Senator Frank Lautenberg and Congressman Frank Pallone:
I am writing to protest the loss of beach access to the Sandy Hook Rip. The Rip, located at the northeastern point of the Sandy Hook peninsula has historically been considered the single most famous and recognized surf-angling destination in the State of New Jersey. To quote the book The Outdoor Heritage of New Jersey “Thousands of fish at Sandy Hook afford diversion to fisherman, particularly in the vicinage of Sandy Hook Point”. This was published by the New Jersey Fish and Game Commission in 1937!
Public access to the tip of Sandy Hook in the Gateway National Recreation Area has been restricted by the placement of a fence extending into the Atlantic Ocean effectively barring all access to this important fishing area. The United States Coast Guard without public hearing, or comment has erected this fence complete with barbed wire and without the appropriate permits as required by The State of New Jersey.
The USCG and surf anglers from all along the coast have coexisted on this beach since the days of Fort Hancock without incident. If the Coast Guard is truly concerned about security around the station why not work with the fishing community rather then against it? What better then to have at any given time half a dozen to a dozen fisherman, who treat this area as their own backyard, armed with cell phones, “on duty” watching the area. AND IT’S FREE! All we ask in return is the right to be there.
Shore bound anglers have lost much of our access to beaches at the hands of private developers. Losing access to the traditional and historically public and productive tip of Sandy Hook to the government who should be holding public resources in the public trust is unacceptable. The limited amount of beachfront resources must be accessible to the public. How many times have we seen the commercial and heard the phrase “New Jersey and You” touting the recreational opportunities in our state? By closing this area our government is further denying the public the opportunity to enjoy a healthy, wholesome, safe, and clean recreational activity that is surf fishing.
I respectfully request that your office investigate this situation, and take appropriate steps to have the fence removed.
Thomas P. Fote
Legislative Chairman JCAA & NJSFSC
As usual, this was an interesting month for striped bass issues. The two big events were the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Striped Bass Board Meeting and the Congressional Hearing on the Reauthorization of the Striped Bass Conservation Act.
First, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. New Jersey went to this meeting with a proposal for our 2004 fishery. The board delayed action on this proposal until the Striped Bass Technical Committee completes a review. This proposal will be discussed at the next Striped Bass Board Meeting scheduled for the last week in May. We will have further discussion of this at the JCAA monthly meeting. The JCAA Striped Bass Committee must meet to discuss the current striped bass issues and develop plans for 2005. I envision a JCAA Striped Bass Committee meeting with club representatives some time in April. I asked last month for each interested club to find a striped bass representative. Please email me your club’s striped bass representative with an email address and phone number so I can be in contact.
One of the other issues not resolved at the ASMFC meeting is the impact of Amendment 6 on the producing areas. Bruce Freeman and I shared many facts that ASMFC needs to consider. Some of the facts are included in our Congressional Testimony included in this newspaper. Please read my testimony for important information. At the ASMFC meeting I stated that if the Delaware and Hudson Rivers are no longer considered producing areas then spawning area closures are not required. Some of the commissioners responded that this would not be their interpretation. One of the commissioners commented that he would not open his spawning area because of the location near an urban center. He is concerned that the city’s residents would be able to harvest too many fish. I did not respond to his statement immediately but on reflection I realized that, although he meant well in protecting the spawning fish, he really wasn’t looking at the big picture and considering all the residents of his state. Please remember that whatever good may be intended, we need to take a serious look at the results. What this commissioner is saying, in effect, is that the residents of his largest city should not be allowed to harvest large fish because they may be spawning. But when those fish are in transit, either before or after, it is just fine for anglers from other states to catch these same fish. The result is that his urban anglers should give up the opportunity to catch a trophy fish without any compensation. Please read my testimony for more information on this issue.
On March 18th I testified at the Congressional Hearing on the Reauthorization of the Striped Bass Conservation Act. My testimony and also some information received from Oceana are included in this newspaper. With my testimony I also included an article from our February newspaper written by Ed Cherry dealing with the Menhaden issue in the Chesapeake Bay. You can get a copy of Ed’s article from our web site.
At the ASMFC meeting there was a lengthy discussion about New York’s summer flounder overages and the necessary reduction. I fought hard for a motion that would give New York some relief. Some people asked me why I fought so hard to a solution that was not allowed for in the plan. The implication was that I had not fought as hard when other states faced reductions due to overages. My reply is that times are different and the situation is different. My responsibility as commissioner is to look at each issue individually and consider the current situation. Circumstances change and in this case there were some outstanding reasons why I changed my mind. In 2002, because of the issue of paybacks, states were being very conservative on the implementation of changes in their fluke regulations for 2003. Most states made a good faith effort to develop regulations that would keep them in compliance with their targets. They used the available data conservatively in developing their regulations. None of us were told there was a problem with the 2002 Marine Recreational Statistical Survey. New York, New Jersey and other states used those figures as though they were calculated in the same way as the figures from 2000 and 2001. Even though we know none of these figures are accurate we expected some consistency from year to year. The National Marine Fisheries Service should have told us about the problem with the data for 2002. It is irresponsible to punish a state for developing regulations when they were given inconsistent data. Right now, New York is required to take a 47% reduction in the summer flounder fishery. This will have a devastating economic effect on the marine recreational fishing industry in New York and impact on the quality of life for recreational anglers. If this happened in New Jersey the impact would be even more devastating and I am not sure what actions we would need to take. We just can’t use the Marine Recreational Statistical Survey to do quota management. It was not designed for this task and continues to create problems throughout the system. We are encountering the same problems in scup, sea bass, tautog and any other species that uses this data.
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