Fisheries Management & Legislative Report
by Tom Fote
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association April 2012 Newsletter)
Hooked on Fishing not on Drugs moves in Senate and Assembly
The Senate Bill S178 and the Assembly Bill A638 that establishes the Hooked on Fishing-Not on Drugs Program in DEP and appropriates $200,000 from the Drug Enforcement and Demand Reduction Fund passed out of the Senate Environmental & Energy Committee and the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee respectively with unanimous votes. It was voted out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee and was given a second reading with amendments. It now needs to be voted on by the full Assembly. In the Senate it needs to be posted and voted on in the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. This committee has historically been the bottleneck. It is usually the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee that has failed to take action. We have several sponsors for the bill who are on that Committee. We need to write to Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney, to the members of the Senate Committee and especially the sponsors, to make sure this bill is given a hearing in the Senate Committee. We are hopeful that Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver will post this bill for a vote by the full Assembly. This is the fourth session this bill has been considered but never passed by both houses. You need to reach out to your elected officials in support of this bill.
Senate Budget and Appropriations Members:
Pots Off the Reefs
The Pots Off the Reefs Bill has been reintroduced both in the Senate and Assembly. The Senate Environment Committee Chairman Senator Bob Smith posted the Bill S1177 and it was moved out of the committee with only one negative vote. It has passed the full Senate with only 3 votes against it. Senators Gerald Cardinale, Michael Doherty and Jim Whelan all voted against the bill. Senators Jeff Van Drew and Kevin O'Tool did not vote. JCAA would like to thank Senate President Stephen Sweeney for posting S1177 so quickly and helping in its quick passage.
We no longer have to focus our attention on the Senate but need to focus all of our attention on the Assembly. We already have over 45 cosponsors in the Assembly for the companion bill A1343. Half the battle is done so we need to put the pressure on Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver to make sure that A1343 will be heard and posted for a vote. This is the only bill that would allow for the use of the Sport Fish Restoration Fund to build artificial reefs.
Elsewhere in this newspaper, John Toth has an article that provides you with information about Assemblyman Albano’s alternative bill (A-2645). It is crucial to know that this bill (A-2645) is just a delaying tactic. Instead of accomplishing anything through legislation, it sends the problem to the NJ Marine Fisheries Council. The NJ Marine Fisheries Council has 5 commercial members and 4 recreational members. The last time the Council, because of its commercial majority, failed to resolve this problem but did drag its heels for 2 – 3 years. The Council could have addressed this issue at any time and we have no faith that will happen. We don’t need another delay. That is all A-2645 does. The only sponsor for this bill is Assemblyman Albano and all the Republican members of his committee abstained. Assemblyman Albano did not attempt to meet with JCAA, Reef Rescue or NJ State Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs before presenting this bill.
Since this bill passed the Senate so quickly, we can give our full attention to the Assembly to guarantee the original bill (S-1177/A-1343) is finally passed. We need to make the problems with NJ reefs part of our history, not a current problem. Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver pulled A-2645 from the Assembly voting list on March 6th. We would like to thank her for taking this action. Now we need to work with her to help post and pass A-1343 which is the only bill that has the JCAA, Reef Rescue, NJOA, and all our member clubs support. As John Toth points out, only one recreational group spoke in favor of Assemblyman Albano’s alternative bill. Today, we need to demand that our local Assemblymen and women contact Speaker Oliver and support A-1343, the bill that a majority of the Assembly, both Democrats and Republicans, cosponsor. If Assemblyman Albano is unwilling to post this bill in his committee, Speaker Oliver needs to move the bill to another committee or post it directly for a vote. It would also be appropriate to contact Speaker Oliver directly, thank her for pulling the alternative bill and ask for her help in passage of A-1343. Sample letters will be posted on the JCAA webpage.
Howard Lab Closing
Bruce Freeman, who worked at the Sandy Hook Lab for 16 years before working at the NJ Bureau of Marine Fisheries, has written an article about the history of the lab that is included in this newspaper. JCAA has joined a coalition to fight the proposed closure. We have the support of every organization in New Jersey that cares about the marine environment and recognizes the importance of the ongoing research that takes place at the lab. Within 2 years the mortgage and bonds for the lab will be retired. New Jersey could then reduce the lease payments paid by the Federal Government. This would greatly decrease the cost of maintaining the lab. JCAA will be working with our Federal legislators as well as Governor Christie and our State legislators to develop a plan to save the lab. Senators Menendez and Lautenberg and Congressman Pallone have already been working to find a funding solution. It would be appropriate to contact your Congressman and encourage him to join Congressman Pallone in his efforts to save the lab. He will be working with the budget committee and needs the support of the entire New Jersey delegation. Congressmen Rothman (9th district) and Frelinghuysen (11th district) are on the appropriations committee. It is especially important that they hear from you even if you are not in their district. JCAA will be sending alerts as necessary.
On March 21, I will testify before the NJ Senate Budget Committee about the funding for the Division of Fish and Wildlife Bureau of Marine Fisheries. My testimony is below.
JCAA & NJSFSC Testimony to the NJ Senate Budget Committee
March 21, 2012
I am testifying today as the legislative chairman for the Jersey Coast Anglers Association. JCAA represents 75 recreational fishing clubs in New Jersey and it has been in existence since 1981 and the New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs that represent 150,000 anglers, hunters and trappers in NJ. I have been testifying before committees about fisheries issues for over 35 years as a volunteer for sportspersons of NJ. In that time one of the most crucial issues has been the lack of funding for the Bureau of Marine Fisheries. In the 1980’s, Director Of Fish and Game, Russ Cookingham, the Governor and the Legislature agreed to an approximate 3.1 million dollar funding for the Bureau. This money came from state appropriations and Federal sport fish restoration money. This was before the onslaught of fisheries management plans that required extensive gathering of information and tremendous staff hours to meet the Federal and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Management Council requirements. For example, in 1981, the only regulations in effect in New Jersey that required state oversight were an 18 inch size limit and 10 fish bag limit on striped bass and a 13 inch size limit on summer flounder. In 1984, the Striped Bass Conservation Act was passed by Congress and required New Jersey to do more research and monitoring of striped bass as we implemented more stringent regulations. In the mid-90’s the Atlantic Coast Conservation Act was passed. This legislation required management plans for all the inshore species that had not been regulated before. With the reauthorization of the Magnusson/Stevens Amendments in 1996, there were many additional requirements placed on the Bureau for the management of species in federal waters. We went from one management plan in 1980 to management plans for almost every species of fish harvested commercially or recreationally in New Jersey. The pressure of this increase of doing more management plans has been immense on the budget and the staff of the Bureau. In 1981, we funded Marine Fisheries for about 3.1 million dollars with about 2.1 coming from state appropriations. In 2011, the Bureau of Marine Fisheries didn’t even have a line item appropriation and received its only state funding from the nuclear fund. The total was less than one million dollars. Clearly the Bureau is being required to do much more with much less money and far fewer staff.
When we talk about marine fisheries in New Jersey, we need to consider the total resource. The Division of Fish and Wildlife is also responsible for oil spill response, and any other issue that impacts on the marine environment. But if we look at the just the value of the marine resource by considering just the commercial, recreational and boating industries, we are talking about 4 billion dollars in economic value. This estimate comes from the National Marine Fisheries Service figures for 2006. The boating industry data comes from Marine Trades in 2006. They estimated the boating industry was worth about 2 billion dollars to the state of New Jersey. The National Marine Fisheries Service estimated the recreational monetary value (which varies from year to year) was worth between 800 million and 1.3 billion. The commercial fishery for fin fish is worth more than 100 million dollars and shell fish, crabs and other species is worth about 400 million dollars. That represents tremendous economic value to New Jersey and many thousands of jobs both direct and indirect (tackle sales, gas, boat repair, beach fees, restaurants, and home sales or rentals in our beach and boating communities). It is also an integral part of the tourism in New Jersey. The sport fish restoration money comes from the excise tax on fishing tackle. Sales tax estimates (NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife) for hunting and fishing in New Jersey are about 120 million dollars. A large part of that money comes from the sale of fishing tackle for marine fisheries. The permits for 4 wheel drive permits for Island Beach State Park are called fishing permits. Sold for 190 dollars the over 5,000 permits generate close to 1 million dollars, more than New Jersey is currently spending on the total management of New Jersey’s marine resources.
Of states that manage marine resources, New Jersey ranks LAST in funding. New Hampshire, that only manages 18 miles of coastline, spends 9 million dollars. No director since Russ Cookingham has been able to get an increase in state funding. Instead, the funding has decreased and is less than half of what it was in 1980. The only resource currently available to the Bureau of Marine Fisheries is a state appropriation. This should come through a budget line item. The marine resource in New Jersey is of such great economic and quality of life value that the Bureau should not be treated like a stepchild. It needs its own consistent, reliable funding through a budget line item. Anything less puts New Jersey’s commercial and recreational fishing industries in jeopardy.
I am one of the three Commissioners to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and from this position I see firsthand how New Jersey is lacking the funding it needs compared to how other states funds its marine resource management. For example, NMFS has listed sturgeon as an endangered species; New Jersey will probably need to spend at least 1 million additional dollars for research to keep some of New Jersey’s commercial fisheries open. Other states have the money to make this happen but not NJ. New Jersey has also just been forced to close every river in New Jersey to the harvesting of river herring because we don’t have the money to do the research that is necessary to prove the herring runs are sustainable. Other states had the money and their fisheries will remain open. These are just two examples of how a lack of funds inhibits the necessary research that impacts on our availability of fish to harvest. We are now seeing examples of other states getting more favorable allocations because they can provide the research to support their management plans. You cannot allow this to happen to the recreational and commercial fishing industries of NJ. The only solution is a consistent, reliable funding for the Bureau of Marine Fisheries through a budget line item. We need sufficient funding to hire the staff and pay for the research. At the very least we need an appropriation of 3 million dollars solely for the Bureau of Marine Fisheries. We would still be at the bottom of the funding list but at least we would be headed in the right direction.
Summer Flounder History in the JCAA Newspaper Part Four
February 2008 - September 2011
Fluke Season Lasts One Day in New Jersey
by Kirk Moore
(from Gannett News Service on 1/6/2008)
Shoppers will find lots of fresh New Jersey fluke in their local fish cases this week. But it won't last for long.
Fishermen who put their nets out just after midnight early this morning will get just one day's haul of 7,500 pounds out of the January commercial season for summer flounder, or fluke as it's also called, before it closes Monday. Relatively speaking, they're OK with that as a way to both conserve the resource and help fishermen survive the economic fallout.
"Our January-February season is crummy no matter what. At the same time, North Carolina opens up, so it's the lowest prices of the year," captain Jim Lovgren of the Fishermen's Dock Cooperative in Point Pleasant Beach said.
With the East Coast federal quota for flounder set at a new low of 15.77 million pounds for 2008, the agreement with state officials to conduct a one-day season will help keep enough fish available for later in the year when prices are higher, Lovgren explained.
"The bottom line is there's not enough quota. But there are enough fish," co-op manager John Cole quipped. "There should be a 30 million, 32 million-pound quota."
The annual fishing limit is set using a complex biological analysis that accounts for the species' reproductive success, and for numbers of flounder taken by fishermen. Weeks of uncertainty ended New Year's Eve when the National Marine Fisheries Service published a final rule setting the 15.77 million-pound limit for commercial and recreational fluke catches. Under pressure
The agency had been under pressure from environmental activists to set a lower quota limit, 11.64 million pounds, which scientific advisers had recommended as a way to speed progress toward a goal of nearly doubling the flatfish population by 2013.
"We're disappointed. For precautionary reasons, they should have adopted the recommendations" of advisers, said Lee Crockett, who heads federal fisheries reform efforts with the environmental arm of the Pew Charitable Trusts.
"They're hanging their hat on more optimistic scenarios that haven't panned out in the past," Crockett added. "So we'll see what happens."
Fishing advocates doubt further enormous growth is achievable in the fluke spawning stock and say the economic consequences of trying are just too much for the commercial and recreational industries to bear. The controversy has so split environmental and recreational groups, one influential national organization, the Marine Fish Conservation Network, could not agree on the quota, network executive director Bruce J. Stedman said.
"There was a wide diversity of opinion on the subject so we chose not to comment," Stedman said of the public comment period that led up to the NMFS decision. "So in this case, our individual members are speaking for themselves."
One longtime network member, the Jersey Coast Anglers Association, argued strenuously in December against the network taking a position in favor of the lower quota, said Thomas P. Fote, the JCAA's legislative chairman. Strong case
The New Jersey recreational anglers' arguments won over the International Game Fishing Association and American Sportfishing Association.
"Had we not been at the table, the network would have sent a letter to NMFS that reflected the positions of some of their members who don't fish and lack understanding about recreational issues," Fote wrote in his group's January newsletter. It's a prime example of why recreational groups should stay engaged with the environmental movement, even when the two sides disagree, he says.
The exact 2008 fluke rules for New Jersey's recreational anglers will be worked out before the season starts in May. It's one of the most crucial parts of the party and charter boat business, where summer flounder accounts for about 40 percent of the trade, according to industry advocates.
"We're going ahead on flounder," said Dick Herb, a Cape May charter captain and member of the state Marine Fisheries Council as the group met Thursday in Galloway. Proposals to impose across-the-board fishing limits were defeated and states can still set their season and catch limits within the federal quota, he said.
But with good weather forecast, boats will be out of the gate today, fighting for a share of the market with diesel fuel high at $3 a gallon, and flounder prices at the dock likely to be around $2 a pound to the boats, fishermen said.
"Tons and tons of fluke out there. It should be going to the people," said Jesus Sante, a captain with two boats at the co-op and 55 years of experience fishing out of Spain, Africa and the Americas. "I've got $1 million at the dock here. Who's going to pay my bills?"
Regulators Make Fluke Anglers Very Anxious
by John Geiser, Correspondent
Every day that is crossed off the calendar from now on leaves fluke anglers increasingly worried about what the regulators will allow them to fish for this year.
John Toth, president of the Jersey Coast Anglers Association, got some attention on the problems of the fluke fishery when he addressed the December joint meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's summer flounder, scup and black sea bass board.
"After testimony from the angling community who protested about how these regulations are ruining the industry, and this testimony seemed to fall on deaf ears, I decided to take a different tactic," he said.
"I told the management councils that they should impose the lowest quota, stop fishing during July or August, and close the fluke season for all of next year (2009)," Toth said. "This way, in a few years down the road, the waters will be teeming with fluke, but there will be no marinas left or boats to fish for them since they will all be out of business.”I said this is the scary scenario we are facing with marinas already in financial trouble . . . developers would love to buy them to make high-priced condos that adjoining towns would like to see for increased ratables," Toth said. "Once these marinas are gone, they are not coming back."
Toth also told the two management bodies that, while management must fashion rules to abide by the Magnuson-Stevens Act, it also is incumbent on them to inform Congress that these regulations are destroying the fishing industry.
He emphasized that there needs to be a pause in the enforcement of these regulations to see if more flexibility can be incorporated in them.
Toth finished his testimony with the repeated warning: "We all see a train wreck coming, and that something needs to be done to stop it."
Toth also said that, during testimony at the hearing, it was mentioned that, despite the fact that the National Marine Fisheries Service has the final say on regulations, not one study has ever been done by NMFS and other management bodies on the socioeconomic impacts of their regulations on the angling community.
This, in fact, is not true, but it is wholly accurate in substance. NMFS, in particular, is always careful to include a few lines in most plans about the socioeconomic impacts it has evaluated.
This is designed as shirttails to cover them when a judge or congressman happens to start shuffling through the pages of the plan.
The trouble is that they always find that the impact will be hardly noticeable or it is has been determined that there will be no impact.
The latest analysis of proposed fluke cutbacks, for instance, is that strict regulations will not affect angler participation, and impact on the party and charter boat industry will be negligible.
The JCAA, like so many other organizations, trusts neither the data nor the techniques that drive the management process, and Toth said it will do more than talk about it.
"The JCAA membership has recently approved $15,000 for the hiring of several scientists to evaluate the information and the analytical techniques used by the National Marine Fisheries Service in developing stock assessment for fluke quotas in 2008," he said.
The scientists expected to participate include Bruce L. Freeman, former marine research scientist with the state Division of Fish and Wildlife; Dr. Eric Powell and Dr. Ken Able, both of Rutgers University; and Dr. Brian Rothschild, University of Massachusetts.
Toth stressed that the JCAA supports a complete and independent review of the statistics and methods used to determine fluke stocks, and NMFS has agreed to a benchmark review of the information and analysis that goes into the setting of fluke quotas. This will be done in June.
"Our group of scientists will be participating in it (Benchmark Assessment Workshop)," he said. "More money most likely will be needed to fund this project and other fishing groups have expressed interest in assisting us."
Fisheries Management & Legislative Report
by Tom Fote
(from JCAA September 2008 Newsletter)
Summer Flounder, Black Seabass and Scup
Bruce Freeman and I have included our thoughts on the MAFMC Science and Statistical Committee and Monitoring Committee meetings in the press release below. I could not attend the joint meeting of MAFMC and ASMFC when they voted on the quotas for summer flounder, black sea bass and scup for 2009. John Toth and Bruce Freeman were there and briefed me on the meeting.
I was very disappointed that the NMFS Northeast Regional Director Pat Kurkel opposed 19.02 million pounds for summer flounder that was approved by the SSC and the Monitoring Committee. She knows the 19.02 represents significant conservation and significant probability of maintaining the goals of the plan. It can only appear that NMFS remains hell bent on destroying the recreational fishery for summer flounder. For many years NMFS personnel, both on and off the record, have stated that limiting recreational fishing is one of NMFS’ goals. What better way to accomplish this goal than to make people so disgusted with the limits that they give up fishing altogether and find other pursuits. They have already driven party boats, tackle stores and charter boats out of business and chased away hundreds of thousands of anglers. This may be the only success they can claim!
At the joint meeting they also voted to greatly reduce the black sea bass quota. They know that there is no approved stock assessment for black sea bass or scup and we are not closer to having one than when I advocated for the stock assessment as the Governor’s Appointee to ASMFC in 1992. What is even more disturbing is the fact that they are retiring NMFS former research vessel and bringing a new one on line. The information gathered by the original vessel is what NMFS uses to establish the present quotas since it is the “best science” they have available. They are currently trying to develop a mathematical model that will allow comparisons between the information gathered by both boats. One wonders why they bother since the information has been rejected for use in setting quotas for years.
Some people might think I am being hard on NMFS and ASMFC but both of these groups knew we had problems with these stock assessments in the early 90’s. Now in 2008 they have not spent the money or effort required to develop reliable stock assessment data. NMFS always has their fall-back position – the “best science available.” That means we are stuck with lousy science again and again. We could joke about their failings except that their decisions have a negative impact on the lives of many of our citizens.
JCAA Press Release
Bruce Freeman and I attended the Mid-Atlantic Marine Fisheries Management Council Science and Statistical Committee (SSC) and Monitoring Committee Meetings. This SSC meeting represented the SSC’s first opportunity to set the total allowable catch for scup, summer flounder, sea bass and bluefish. It was an interesting process to observe. Bruce and I were the only recreational people in the audience for the two days of meetings. There were also some commercial fishermen from Virginia and North Carolina and Greg DiDomenico from Garden Seafood Association in attendance for the SSC meeting. Because of the scheduling and the short notice, many members of the SSC were not in attendance. I had expected to see a more diverse group of SSC members, representing universities and the states. However, I was surprised to find that many of the SSC members are NMFS employees. These members were for the most part from other regions of the country but I am still concerned that they are part of the NMFS system. State governments generally develop committees for monitoring that have at least the perception of independence and objectivity. We all know how important perception is to the acceptance of any decisions. I am not questioning the integrity of any of the committee members, I am just concerned about the public perception about the decisions they will make.
The benchmark assessment did accept a higher mortality rate than the plan is currently using. I want to point out some important information. In reviewing how the new stock assessment impacts on the fisheries management plan for summer flounder, I asked, “When we are fully recovered and we reach the new goal, what is the maximum sustainable yield we can harvest?” To my surprise, the answer was 28.2 million pounds. In 2005 the quota was as high as 30 million pounds. We still had stringent regulations in place in most of the states. Even with the new plan using the new mortality rates, we’re never going to be allowed to harvest 30 million pounds under the current system. When I looked at some of the earlier recreational catch figures, we were as high as 12 million pounds in the mid 90’s. For the most part that was on 14 inch fish. We are now going to harvest 1/3 the number of fish. They will be bigger fish, mainly females but that means the success rate for the average angler will be down considerably. It also means that the hook and release mortality will probably grow. The thing that is driving this whole system which is so unusual and is causing all the problems is that even with having a spawning stock biomass almost 5 times what it was in 1994, we have not increased recruitment based on available surveys. The bottom line is that as we have increased the spawning stock biomass we have not seen an increase in recruitment. This is totally outside of what we would normally and historically expect and should cause us to reexamine all of the factors that may be impacting on summer flounder. On a positive note, members of the benchmark stock assessment and the SSC have acknowledged that there is currently no reliable relationship between spawning stock biomass and recruitment. The problem remains, what to do next. We need to fill the data gaps with new scientific, environmental and biological information. That new data will allow us to use the model to develop appropriate projects and ultimately appropriate quotas. My bachelors and masters degrees are not in biology but in business. In business school we learned that money spent developing reliable projections is money well spent. The only way to do reliable projections is to invest in the data.
The SSC and Monitoring Committee report on bluefish contained few changes. The biggest change is that the recreational projections are forecasting that we will maximize or exceed our quota. There will be no transfer of unused recreational quota to the commercial quota under these recommendations. The committees’ recommendations are status quo for scup but calls for a reduction in the sea bass fishery by 50%. I cannot tell you what those reductions will be if this proposal is accepted by the Council and ASMFC because we don’t know yet what this year’s recreational catch is.
The SSC has expressed the same frustration on sea bass and scup that Bruce and I have experienced since 1992. In 1992 the Council and Commission proposed fishery management plans for sea bass and scup and indicated we would have a stock assessment available. It is now 2008 and we still don’t have a valid stock assessment for either species. The SSC recognizes that it is questionable to base a plan and quotas without a valid stock assessment. I wish, with the passage of the new Federal Law, I could promise you that in the immediate future we would have a peer reviewed stock assessment. I am not confident that will happen.
Below is Bruce Freeman’s report on Summer Flounder. A more detailed report will be available after the Council and Commission make their decisions next August 5 & 6.
Bruce Freeman's Report on Summer Flounder
The Science and Statistical Committee (SSC) met July 31 to review recommendations of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s staff (Council) concerning the fishery quotas for fluke, bluefish, sea bass and scup for 2009. Recent additions to the Federal Fishery Law now require the SSC to review changes in annual quotas to make certain they are supported by the best scientific information. In addition, the Council must follow the recommendations of the SSC.
The SSC agreed with the recently completed assessment of the coastwide fluke stock that supports a change to the model used as well as change to a key variable used in the predictive fishery model. These changes, together with the most recent survey data, now indicate that the fluke stock is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring. This means that the fluke resource is more than 75% restored to its maximum sustainable level and at the existing catch rate, we should see a complete recovery of the fluke spawning stock to 151 million pounds by the fall of 2012. Federal Law requires the stock to be rebuilt no later than 2013.
The SSC recommended a total allowable catch level for the 2009 fishing year of 19 million pounds which is divided among recreational fishermen (7.6 million pounds) and commercial fishermen (11.4 million pounds).
The 2008 coastwide recreational fishery has been held to about 6 million pounds because of concern that the fluke stock will not be fully restored over the next 4 years. The updated analysis and change in model variables now indicate the stock is more improved than previously indicated and that the recreational catch for 2009 could possibly be increased to 7.4 million pounds, a 19% increase, yet be fully restored by 2013.
Fisheries Management & Legislative Report
by Tom Fote
(from JCAA March 2011 Newsletter)
As you read in the President’s Report, we now have the summer founder options. Please read that column before the next meeting so JCAA can take a position.
I want to focus on the Connecticut 2011 Summer Flounder proposal. One of the options Connecticut proposed is a smaller fish allowed for shore-based anglers. This is something JCAA has been calling for, for years. When we raise size limits on any species, the most affected are the shore-based anglers. That includes our fellow anglers who can’t afford a boat, a charter or a party boat ticket. This is a man, woman or child who stands on a dock and tries to catch something they can take home to eat. We have greatly limited their ability to do so. The larger fish are not so available at the dock, in the canal, on the pier or from the shore. They are also the anglers who have not caused any of these problems because of their limited ability to target the fish where they are feeding, spawning or congregating. Connecticut considered the data that showed that they had basically eliminated the shore-based anglers from taking home summer flounder. I am hoping that in 2012, after looking at the results of the Connecticut pilot project, ASMFC and all the federal fisheries management councils will make this a coastwide priority. New Jersey needs to look at the same type of proposals for many of its managed species. We need to stop using discriminatory fisheries management practices. I was proud to make the motion and fight for its passage.
Fisheries Management & Legislative Report
by Tom Fote
(from JCAA September 2011 Newsletter)
I have included this year’s quotas and motions below. Every year I come home from this exercise even more discouraged than I was the year before. We keep rebuilding stocks to all time high levels and yet we are not allowed to fish as if the stocks were recovered. We did get increases in the overall quotas for summer flounder and scup. Because of the omnibus amendment passed by the Mid-Atlantic Council, I am not sure what the actual increases will be. The jump in the scup quota will actually give us some opportunity to change the regulations in New Jersey.
Some people will be praising the quota increase but it will not be as great as it seems for the recreational fishery. Because of the omnibus amendment, when we set the quota for the recreational catch limits in December, there will be more factors to deduct from the approved quota. The recreational sector will have their quota reduced because of the regulatory discards forced on them by the crazy regulations. Summer flounder was never meant to be a catch and release fishery. This is a fishery that is for catch and eat, not catch and release like other fisheries. The ASMFC and the Mid-Atlantic Council have turned this into a fishery in which the regulatory discards equal the amount of fish kept by the recreational sector. This is unacceptable in a fishery that is not a primary catch and release fishery. We now release a large number of fish to get one keeper. It gets worse each year and nothing is done. We talk a lot, we make suggestions but nothing happens. Because of these onerous regulations we are now forced to kill at least one fish for every one we take home. In my opinion, the quota is way below what is appropriate and the abundance of fish sets up the recreational community for failure. If I was a teacher grading the NMFS on their management for summer flounder, they would get an “F”. We have rebuilt the stocks because of the sacrifice of both the recreational and commercial communities but nowhere do we see any benefit from this sacrifice. The sacrifice gets lost in all the wrong data. What we should be looking at is the actual number of summer flounder anglers take home to eat. At most, we now take home less than a quarter of the fish we used to because the regulations require us to keep larger fish. The anglers who catch a big fish take one home but the majority of the anglers are forced to catch and release. The shore-based anglers are taking almost no fish home because of the size restrictions. We have virtually eliminated the pier, the canal and the beach anglers. You should not manage fisheries by playing one group of anglers against another.
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