by Tom Siciliano
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association January 2005 Newsletter)
The end of the year is fast approaching and so is the end of my term as President of the JCAA. I can’t believe how fast the time has gone by. At the December meeting you will elect a new President to lead you. Two years seemed like plenty of time to accomplish the goals I set as your President. I have managed to complete most of them but there is still a long way to go. I have learned a lot about the world of fisheries management and like many things; the more you learn the more you realize how much more there is to learn.
Here are some of the things that have been accomplished during my tenure. I can’t take personal credit but they did get done with the help of the volunteers who make the JCAA what it is.
The JCAA is now a 501c(3) charitable organization. This means that any donation you provide is fully tax deductible as a charitable contribution.
The JCAA helped with informing anglers about The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS) advisory on consuming those species of fish in which high levels of PCBs have been found. We also attended a focus group conducted by the NJ DEP to improve the dissemination of information.
I conducted a brainstorm session to chart the future of the JCAA.
Your JCAA worked to obtain subway cars for deposit on New Jersey Reefs, but due to political influences beyond our control was unable to influence a decision in a timely manner so that New Jersey received only 250 of the 1300 subway cars that were available. In addition, there were so many restrictions on the acceptance of the subway cars that New Jersey will be unable to take advantage of new opportunities in the future.
The NJ DEP released its Draft Artificial Reef Plan for Public Review. The JCAA provided extensive comments with the goal of improving the document. The 12th and 13th annual Fluke tournaments were a huge success with over 1000 boats entered. This year we included a socioeconomic and catch/effort survey as part of the tournament. The survey provided a one-day snapshot of information on Fluke fishing throughout New Jersey. The information from this one tournament provided more information than could possibly be obtained by any other means and the NMFS will use it as a model to improve the collection of data.
The Sportsperson of the Year Awards Dinner/Dance was the opportunity to honor people who have made a difference for the environment and fisheries. Greg Kucharewski was the honoree in 2003 and Len Fantasia in 2004.
I joined other JCAA members along with environmental leaders from various environmental and conservation groups in meetings with the Governor and his staff where he talked about increasing the penalties that polluters would pay for the environmental damage they cause.
The JCAA is one of the sponsors of the Governor’s Surf Tournament, which continues to be the biggest surf fishing event drawing close to 1000 people, many of them families enjoying a day together.
The JCAA had a booth at the Raritan Sportsman Show and the Atlantic City Boat Show where we distributed our newsletter and discussed fishing and environmental issues with the attendees. The Youth Education Committee gave seminars and provided handouts to the children.
The fight continues for beach access. In Absecon we spoke to the township committee about the boat ramp fees. The Brigantine Town Council wanted to stop fishing in a prime area so our members provided input to stop that. The building is underway for a new Mantoloking Bridge joining Brick to the barrier island at Mantoloking. The plans are to leave 150 feet of the old bridge in place to be used as a fishing pier.
The Township of Berkley opened up its beach to beach buggies providing uninterrupted access from Seaside to Island Beach State Park.
The fence went up at Sandy Hook and thanks to the quick action of a few JCAA member surf fishing clubs and the intervention from Frank Pallone the fence immediately came down.
A new reef site off Townsend inlet is in the process of being approved providing another area for additional fishing opportunities.
The Windmill issue to provide an alternate energy source off the coast continues to be an area where the JCAA will work. While we are not against alternative energy sources, we must insure that fishing access will not be a problem.
I gave presentations to fishing clubs on the work of the JCAA in the areas of fishery management, environmental improvements and clean water.
We continue to work with NJPIRG on the Clean Water Campaign to insure that more New Jersey waters are protected and cleaned up.
The JCAA provided public comment to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council on various management plans including fluke, striped bass, weakfish, scup, sea bass and others. Upcoming is the meeting on January 5 in Belmar on the winter flounder plan, which will severely restrict the fishery, if enacted. The JCAA will be there but you are all a part of the JCAA and we need to fill the room to overflowing.
Striped bass regulations have required a large effort this past year and will continue to do so into 2005. It looks as though the EEZ will be opened to fishing but we will continue to work to keep it closed. The current size limit is a matter of concern as there will be no bonus program next year if it stays the way it is. There is no funding for the Division of Fish and Wildlife to continue the program. We will continue to work for funding for the Division not only for the bonus program but also for their many other needs.
As you can see, there are numerous opportunities to provide input into the fishery management system. We can use all the assistance we can get to cover the meetings and come up with recommendations. You can make a difference by going to meetings and making sure that the voice of the recreational angler is heard.
Here are some of the things that I have learned during the past two years:
· For every recreational angling organization there are 10 environmental and conservation organizations that believe they have all the answers to the worlds woes.
· The fishery management system is more political than scientific by a wide margin.
· The economic impact of recreational restrictions is not given the same weight as the economic impact of commercial fishing.
· There are a lot of recreational anglers who are frustrated by the current system of fisheries management. They cannot understand why the legal size limit keeps increasing on many fish while the bag limits are decreased. They see a large discrepancy between the commercial catch and the recreational catch.
· They cannot understand why recreational catches are restricted on species that have been depleted by rampant over fishing by the commercial sector. A few examples:
o Fluke - In NJ a recreational 16 ˝” size limit and eight fish bag limit when on the commercial side a 14” fluke can be kept and sold. Other states like New York and Virginia have even more stringent regulations on sizes and bag limits.
o Cod and whiting - Where have they gone? New Jersey had a great winter fishery for these tasty fish. The Long Branch pier was the place to go on a cold winter’s night and load a bucket with whiting. The party boats could leave the dock go out the inlet a quarter of a mile and in a few hours on a winter evening you could catch dozens of whiting. There is no way recreational anglers can be blamed for the lack of these fish. There have been a few cod caught this year and hopefully that is a good sign.
o Tuna – I can remember back in the 60’s going out on the charter boat “Honey Bunny” to the Klondike and catching a mess of tuna. I remember one day when the charter boat “Islander” caught a white marlin on the Klondike.
o Bluefish – gone are the days when you could catch burlap bags full of bluefish. The recreational anglers heeded the warnings that they were taking too many bluefish so they started taking only what they could use and releasing most of the fish to fight another day. The stocks are still not back to the glory days but conservation and releasing fish is the order of the day and most anglers only keep one or two blues when the limit is 15 fish. Recreational anglers are angry when transferring the unused portion of their catch to the commercial sector rewards their conservation efforts. Isn’t it logical that the stock will rebuild faster if those fish are left in the ocean to propagate rather than going to the fish market?
· Statistics – What is the population guesstimate for various species? The numbers seem to be totally unrealistic. Data is ignored when the scientists do not record it. What is scientific data? What is anecdotal data? Is the difference in who records the data? I’m sorry, that is not scientific. If data is observed and recorded in a logbook and signed it becomes scientific data and it cannot be disregarded. There are numerous species of fish where the data is just not accurate enough to base decisions.
· No one, not even the National Marine Fisheries Service, believes the catch data for recreational angling. Instead of developing a more realistic measurement tool they continue to rely on the Marine Recreational Fishery Survey (MRFS) data. Simply put they are not even close to enough data points to guesstimate the recreational catch. The catch data from the logbooks of Party and Charter Boats have been required for many years. This data that clearly shows the day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, season-to-season and year-to-year variation in catches is not even studied. Contrary to what many would like to believe THIS IS SCIENTIFIC DATA. It is observed, measured, recorded and signed. It should be the first place that the NMFS should be looking to see how many fish are caught by recreational anglers.
What does the future hold? The PEW Commission Report & President’s Ocean Commission Report make sweeping recommendations for the future of the management of not only fisheries but all uses of the Oceans. There are many positive parts of these reports. However, there are other parts that are of concern. The JCAA will work fervently to insure that the good is incorporated into any new legislation and that the bad is not. We will be asking for you your help in writing letters and calling your senators and congressmen.
Even though I am stepping down as President I will continue to work on environmental and fishery management issues. Your new President can use your help working on the myriad of issues that must be covered.
Keep your line tight, let the little ones go and some of the big ones too, and don't forget the JCAA is your organization, so get involved!
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