Fisheries Management & Legislative Report

by Tom Fote
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association April 2017 Newsletter)


It has been a long winter and there have been many things going on, some very scary when it comes to protecting the fisheries resources. Below I will cover a number of topics. In March I was in Alexandria and Washington DC for the American Sportfishing Association Government Affairs Committee Meeting. It was good to have two New Jersey groups represented, JCAA and RFA. This was a great opportunity for us to meet with members of the tackle industry, recreational fishing NGOs, agencies, and Congressional staff to discuss important issues impacting on the recreational fishing industry in both the short and long term. I was also able to meet with Congressional and Senate staff. It is always great to have people in the room from all 48 contiguous states, Hawaii and Alaska. We discussed public access on both water and land, fresh and salt water issues and the goal of increasing the number of anglers in the United States to 60 million in 60 months. What I always find fascinating is that even though our fisheries are diverse in both stock and geography, we have many common problems. The most crucial being money.

When we talk about money, below is the economic data for what anglers contribute to the State’s economy. Economic output to the state is 1.9 billion dollars and the state only puts in the marine fisheries budget 1.9 million dollars which is 1/1000th of what recreational anglers contribute to the state’s economy.

NJ Sportfishing Economics

Recreational fishing brings a myriad of economic benefits to communities throughout the U.S. The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and Southwick Associates have released the 2017 update of Economic Contributions of Recreational Fishing: U.S. Congressional Districts, along with a new series of one-page infographics, which depict recreational fishing’s economic impact on all 435 Congressional districts and the 50 states.

The information in the report and infographics use data from the most recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, conducted in conjunction with the U.S. Census Bureau, as presented in ASA’s Sportfishing in America report. The study used mapping and population software to hone in on smaller geographic areas in a way that is particularly relevant to members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The results in Economic Contributions of Recreational Fishing: U.S. Congressional Districts report describe the economic contributions for the respective state economies from anglers who live within each congressional district. The report and Congressional district infographics are available at www.asafishing.org under Facts & Figures.

NJ State Numbers

NJ/ Number of Anglers 1,170,984/ They spent $1.1 Billion/ Economic Output $1.9 Billion/ Jobs 15,386

District (NJ)Resident AnglersRetail SalesTotal Multiplier EffectSalaries and WagesJobsFederal Tax RevenuesState and Local Tax Revenues
1 Donald Norcross87,606$99,701,018$160,891,884$49,615,5831,319$13,652,627$11,878,213
2 Frank A. LoBiondo98,499$112,098,604$180,898,409$55,785,1631,483$15,350,299$13,355,241
3 Thomas MacArthur91,775$104,446,589$168,550,018$51,977,1861,382$14,302,465$12,443,593
4 Christopher H. Smith82,031$93,357,367$150,654,857$46,458,7051,235$12,783,955$11,122,441
5 Josh Gottheimer82,751$94,176,688$151,977,030$46,866,4341,246$12,896,149$11,220,054
6 Frank Pallone74,432$84,708,724$136,698,164$42,154,7621,121$11,599,647$10,092,056
7 Leonard Lance80,367$91,462,615$147,597,213$45,515,7931,210$12,524,496$10,896,704
8 Albio Sires40,838$46,476,461$75,001,093$23,128,717615$6,364,286$5,537,128
9 Bill Pascrell58,388$66,449,576$107,232,581$33,068,212879$9,099,318$7,916,692
10 Donald M. Payne62,575$71,214,848$114,922,507$35,439,620942$9,751,854$8,484,418
11 Rodney Frelinghuysen79,493$90,468,305$145,992,652$45,020,9811,197$12,388,339$10,778,243
12 Bonnie Watson Coleman75,274$85,667,109$138,244,752$42,631,6961,133$11,730,884$10,206,237
Federal Budget

One issue on which we all agree is that there is not enough money in the Federal budget to properly manage this nation’s fisheries. We lack the funds to develop the data necessary to accurate stock assessments. We lack the funds to get reliable recreational catch figures. We are constantly restricting recreational and commercial fisheries because NMFS does not have the data they need which includes data about the impact of global warming. To our shock, it is rumored that NOAA will have at least a 20% budget cut. That means instead of getting better recreational data and better catch figures and stock assessment, the frequency of data collection would be limited. We don’t know how bad this will be but this budget will certainly not contribute to resolving any of these issues. When I visited staff on the Hill to talk about summer flounder, I pointed out that we are complaining about lack of data to manage any of our fisheries but that will only get worse with this new budget. At the ASA panel discussion with the staff from the Commerce Committee, which deals with these budget issues, I explained how scary these cuts are and how much we need their support to avoid these severe cuts. The staff expressed their real concerns about the figures in this initial budget request. I asked them to hold the line and not let this happen. I am sure they will relay this message to their Congressmen or Senators. We know that you have written many letters on summer flounder to the Congress and the President. You need to double your efforts in writing, emailing or phone calling about the budget.

State Budget

I cannot believe that I am singing the same song that I was in the early 80’s. The Bureau of Marine Fisheries Budget is limited to New Jersey tax dollars except for a few fees on the commercial side. When JCAA was complaining about the budget in the 80’s there were very few fisheries’ plans or restrictions for either the commercial or recreational side. Except for some Federal quotas or size limits, there was nothing that needed to be monitored. In the late 80’s the Mid Atlantic Council and ASMFC began working on joint management plans for summer flounder, scup, black sea bass and bluefish. The ASMFC was working on plans that were advisory with no enforcement except for striped bass. There was considerable money coming into New Jersey and ASMFC to fund the necessary stock assessment work and monitoring of striped bass to fulfill the requirements of the Atlantic Coast Conservation Act. When the Atlantic Coast Conservation Act was passed in the 90’s the fishing world changed. The fisheries management plans required gathering much more information which cost money. There were stock assessments that needed to be done for every species. There was quota management that needed to be done for both commercial and recreational. If we were going to manage by quotas we needed more accurate data about commercial catch landings and bycatch and similar data for the recreational sector. As time passed, we realized how little we knew and how difficult it was to implement the plans based on good science and good data. We also realized how expensive this would be. I remember arguing at a 1994 joint meeting of ASMFC and the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council that the data we had on scup and black sea bass was so poor as to be useless. I began calling for better data and was ignored.

We are not in 2017. New Jersey went from few management requirements for both commercial and recreation fisheries to a point where New Jersey needs to gather more and more with less and less money and staff. I will be attending the Assembly and Senate Budget Hearings to plead, once again, for more money for the Marine Fisheries budget. The only thing that has changed is that I no longer go and ask for an increase on the 3.1 million dollar budget but begin by asking them to stop cutting the budget. All the old timers know where we were 25 years ago and how much more complex it is now. In 1981 the budget for Marine Fisheries was 3.1 million dollars. That was in 1981 dollars, supporting a staff 4 times what it is now. We are now trying to do 10 times the work with 25% of the personnel with a budget of only 1.9 million dollars. The hiring at the Bureau of Marine Fisheries was frequently been frozen as it has been for the last few years. This has resulted in a great reduction in staff. The other problem is the staff that began working under the larger budget is now reaching retirement. Instead because of frustration with the lack of ability to do a good job, they are retiring as early as possible.

I will be testifying before the Senate and Assembly committees and will include my testimony in this newspaper or on our website. I will also put online the new economic study that shares clear recreational data by Congressional district. If you need it more immediately, just email me.

The Senate and Assembly are all up for election this November. We have people running for governor and some of them are in positions where they could be helpful now. It is important for you to contact your state legislators, the Governor’s office and the Lieutenant Governor’s office to tell them that you are not asking for an outrageous increase in the budget for Marine Fisheries. What you are asking for is the same budget we had in 1981 at 3.1 million dollars as a starting point to rebuild the Bureau of Marine Fisheries.

Summer Flounder and Black Sea Bass

The good news is that New Jersey has come together, Democrats and Republicans, commercial and recreational anglers, state and federal officials. The bad news is it took an outrageous position by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council to force this coalition. You have seen the fact in previous editions of this newspaper. When ASMFC tried to implement this conservation equivalency to comply with this plan, New Jersey was adamantly opposed and the only state that supported us was Delaware. The rest of the states caved in to NMFS either because they are looking for money, jobs or privileges. Our Federal legislators have put in bills and written multiple letters to the Secretary of Commerce. The New Jersey Senate and Assembly have passed resolutions in support of our position. The executive branch, through Commissioner Martin, has done everything possible to fight this cut in summer flounder quota, even traveling to DC for the ASMFC meeting and meeting personally with acting Director of the National Marine Fisheries Service. The Marine Fisheries Council of New Jersey and the Commissioner will decide later in April how we move forward. At this time, it appears that this battle is far from over and New Jersey may fight this battle all the way to the doorstep of the new Secretary of Commerce. When I was in Washington DC the week of March 13, all the Congressional staff I met with really understand the problem and support what we are doing. In discussions with them and at the ASA panel discussion with staffers from the Commerce Committee and House Fisheries Committee, I explained that summer flounder was not NMFS’ most outrageous decision in the past few months. That distinction belongs to the decision on black sea bass. If the summer flounder quota is not changed, we will be fishing on a quota that is the lowest that we have ever had, even when the stocks were only 2/3 of the stock size we have now.

What makes the decision on black sea bass even more outrageous is that we are not just as the rebuilt phase, we are 230% above recovery. You would assume if we were at 230%, we would get an increase. But with the convoluted thinking of NMFS, 230% does not equal an increase. What they think it deserves is status quo. The reason behind this is their failure to previously measure the size of the stock. Because they underestimated the size of the stock, we exceeded the quota based on their existing regulation. As a gift, they are allowing us to stay at status quo. Another reason is the SSC does not like the data NMFS is supplying so we are penalized. This May I turn 70. I have been doing this job for a long time. When I say to people I want to retire from a non-paying job because I am so disgusted, they all tell me how much I seem to love my job. I never really loved my job. What I was always trying to do was rebuild the stocks so we could reward the commercial and recreational anglers. I was naïve and did not realize that we would never see the increase we should in the quotas. Instead we are fishing on quotas that were in place when the stocks were collapsed. I guess I am still a bit of an optimist. I am hoping with a new Secretary of Commerce and with Congress finally realizing how ridiculous some of these quotas are, we may make some progress in the next few years. But it will not be done without the young anglers getting involved. They need to show up to meetings to make their feelings known in person. With your help we can make some progress.

States Schedule Hearings on Atlantic Herring Draft Addendum I
ASMFC Press Release, February 8, 2017

Arlington, VA – The states of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New Jersey have scheduled their hearings to gather public comment on Draft Addendum I to Amendment 3 of the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Herring. Draft Addendum I includes management options to ensure the seasonal quota is distributed throughout Trimester 2, are applied consistently by the states adjacent to Area 1A, and address excessive capacity. The details of the scheduled hearings follow.

NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife March 27, 2017; 6 PM Fisheries Cooperative Center, Rutgers University 1636 Delaware Avenue Cape May, New Jersey Contact: Tom Baum at 609.748.2020

The Draft Addendum was initiated in response to the accelerated rate of Area 1A Trimester 2 (June through September) landings in recent years and the increasingly dynamic nature of days out measures to control effort that have varied across states. The Section utilizes days out of the fishery to slow the rate of Area 1A catch by restricting the number of available landing days. Landing reports indicate vessels are harvesting herring on days out of the fishery and transferring fish at-sea to carrier or larger vessels until landing is permitted. The practice of fishing outside of landing days has limited the effectiveness of the days out program in controlling the rate of harvest.

The Draft Addendum presents six management options to improve the performance of the Area 1A fishery, ranging from restricting a vessel from landing fish caught on days out of the fishery to limiting transfers at sea as well as the amount a vessel can land per week. The document also seeks input on a tiered weekly landing limit for future management consideration.

Fishermen and interested stakeholders are encouraged to provide input on the Draft Addendum either by attending state public hearings or providing written comment. The Draft Addendum can be obtained at this link or via the Commission’s website, www.asmfc.org under Public Input. Public comment will be accepted until 5 PM (EST) on April 7, 2017 and should be forwarded to Ashton Harp, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, 1050 N. Highland St, Suite 200 A-N, Arlington, VA 22201; 703.842.0741 (FAX) or at aharp@asmfc.org (Subject line: Draft Addendum I).

The Section will review submitted public comment and consider final approval of Addendum I at the Commission’s Spring Meeting in May 2017. For more information, please contact Ashton Harp, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, at aharp@asmfc.org or 703.842.0740.

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