FISHERIES MANAGEMENT & LEGISLATIVE REPORT
By Tom Fote
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association - May 1996 Newspaper)
CONGRESSIONAL TESTIMONY, SUBJECT: STATUS OF BLUEFISH
Newspapers Outdoor Columns: Why are they disappearing?
Status of Striped Bass Bills
The Mid-Atlantic Council and ASMFC have not addressed a course of action concerning the 3.1 million pound award granted to the commercial user group as a result of the court decision in the Fishermans Dock Case. As you know, the award was made by Judge Dumar from his court in Norfolk, Virginia and the additional fish were added to the 1995 commercial quota by NMFS. Recently, the case was overturned on appeal and the award ruled inappropriate. The problem is, the fish have already been caught and neither management group seems very interested in addressing the problem.
Since that 3.1 million pounds was taken out of the 1995 stock, those fish were not available to spawn in 1995 or 1996. Because of the lack of contribution to the stocks, the recreational quota had to be reduced in 1996. If we just look at the recreational portion of that 3.1 million, which is 40% or 1.2 million pounds, it was probably enough to justify a 10 fish bag limit in 1996.
After thinking this over carefully, I believe it must be handled not as a commercial verses recreational issue. It must be looked at as 3.1 million pounds being extracted from the resource in an inappropriate manner through frivolous litigation and that 3.1 million pounds must be recouped and placed back into the biomass for both user groups to access in the future. One way this can be accomplished is, after the quota is established for each user group, 1 million pounds would be deducted from the commercial side and put into a bank and not included in the following years stock assessment. This would be done for each of three consecutive years until the 3.1 million pounds was recouped.
These additional fish left in the biomass would become a reward for both user groups as they increase the total biomass and would be permitted to spawn, adding to the stocks to enhance recovery of the fishery. I would appreciate any comments on this suggestion and other ideas on how to handle this prickly situation.. The bottom line should be that if you want to manage fisheries through litigation and you win, you win. But if you lose, you must be prepared to live with the consequences.
Blackfish FMP: ASMFC WEEK MARCH 11-14 NORFOLK VA
The last ASMFC Meeting Week saw a variety of plans being developed. Lets start with the upcoming Blackfish FMP. The FMP was passed and New Jerseys delegation voted against it in its final form at the management board, policy board and in the full commission vote. Ive read Pat Donnellys account of the plan and the vote and agree wholeheartedly with his position. What upsets me the most about this plan is that ASMFC goes out to public hearings with one set of positions, in this case where a north/south line where the regulations will vary, and then, during discussions of the plan at the commission meetings and over lunch by state directors, the line is suddenly moved to a location that was never even considered in the scoping document, public hearing document or anything else that came about during the public hearing process. The new north/south line was never even brought before the advisors for their input. Senator Bassano and I, while sitting at the board meeting, commented that this was pure politics and was done with no regard to scientific data or public input.
I have requested that New Jerseys three commissioners send a letter to the ASMFC voicing our strong opposition of the placement of the north/south line within the state of New Jersey. It was placed their in a arbitrary and capricious manner with no regard to biological data.
The Scup Plan was passed by the ASMFC, again with the New Jersey delegation voting against it at the Policy Board and full commission. The reason was that the 22/78 split in quota allocation between recreational and commercial users was never presented as an option during any public hearing documents or brought before the advisors. It was an arbitrary figure arrived at during a Mid-Atlantic Council meeting with no input from the public.
When will the Commission and Council recognize that they can not make major policy decisions like reducing the recreational portion of the quota from 30% to 22%, which reduces the recreational catch by almost a third, without care for public opinion or the impact it will have on recreational fishermen and the industry. This is not representative fisheries management as is circumvents the public hearing process and the advisors that we are supposed to rely on for industry input and to keep the process representative.
There was a long weakfish meeting from 1PM until 9PM during which many positive additions were made to the plan. There are still a number of things that must be decided, so the plan could not be approved at that time, but it should be completed at the Spring Meeting in May. The Weakfish Management Board will meet again on May 16 and, hopefully we can complete the plan and bring it to a full vote.
Most of the most recent striped bass board meeting revolved around the Spring fishery in Maryland. The board decided to look over the entire Maryland Spring fishery to see how it impacts the entire coastal fishery and then discuss the implications.
There is still talk of a major commercial increase in quota for 1997. JCAA is working with advocacy groups from North Carolina through Maine concerning this and by the next Newsletter, we should have established a list of suggestions on what we feel should be done for the 1997 season. Amendment 5 was crucial, but what happens in 1997 will determine the fate of this fishery for the next ten years. This is not the time to sit back and when your group is called upon to participate, it must be willing to take the time to respond. We must put aside any differences we might have and work for the good of the striped bass resource and future recreational participation. Remember, the Mid-Atlantic Council voted that it wanted to see the EEZ opened in 1997, with the possible resulting increase in commercial exploitation of striped bass by commercial gear types not now in the fishery.
The EPA sent out a notice, which I received on Good Friday, that they were conducting a public hearing on the expansion of the Mud Dump on April 17th. The notice of this hearing was inadequate to rally the many groups and fishermen, so JCAA in conjunction with Clean Ocean Action lodged a complaint to Congressman Pallones office for a delay in the date. Due to his intervention, the meeting was rescheduled for May 6, from 7 to 9 PM at the Monmouth Beach Municipal Building Auditorium on 22 Beach Road.
This hearing is to discuss the proposed expansion of the Mud Dump as a dredge spoils repository. When the last striped bass meeting was held in Toms River, I requested the 500 fishermen who attended that meeting to make a commitment to attend these Mud Dump hearings. I hope the community will live up to that commitment. We can not let the EPA see opposition to this proposed expansion fall on deaf ears by commercial and recreational fishermen. The damage done by the exponential increase in size and the volume of dredge materials the government wants to dump on this site would have drastic and far ranging consequences for all fishermen, beach goers, and people interested in seeing our near-shore ocean waters continue to improve in water quality.
If you would like to present written comments or get a copy of the entire EPA proposal, write to:
Environmental Impacts Branch
U. S. Environmental Protection Agency
290 Broadway, 28th Floor
New York, NY 10007-1866
To have it faxed to you, call 212-637-3521.
Newspapers Outdoor Columns: Why are they disappearing?
As a kid growing up in Brooklyn, I always read the fishing columns in the Daily News, The Brooklyn Eagle, The Post and other papers. These columns and the outdoor writers that penned them not only kept me appraised of what was biting and where the action was, but also made me aware of what was happening politically with fisheries and environmental issues. When I was stationed at Fort Dix in 1970, I started reading John Geisers column in the Asbury Park Press and Herb Blackwells column in Trentonian so this poor soldier knew when the fish were on the beach and when to ask for leave.
When I moved to New Jersey to live after college in 1977, I bought the Asbury Park Press for no other reason than John Geisers column. Matter of fact, when I open the sport section of any of the local papers, it is to read the fishing and outdoor column and nothing else. The sports section holds no other interest for me and for tens of thousands of other fishermen. As I became more involved in fisheries politics and activism, I realized just how important the outdoor writers in the local newspapers were for getting accurate and timely information out to fishermen around the state. John Geiser, Al Ristori, Russ Wilsons, Bob Brunsholtz, Don Ecker and Lou Rodia and many others provided a great service beyond that of just reporting on the fishing.
For an industry that in the 1980s was worth over a $1.5 billion to this state and that effected 1.5 million anglers, these outdoor writers are important members of the press. Add to that the freshwater fishermen and hunters of this state and the numbers increase considerably and they all rely on the outdoor writers in their local newspapers to keep them abreast of new and changing regulations and much more.
Over the last ten years or more, what were once full time outdoor writer positions on most newspapers have become part time positions or strictly freelance, which means an outdoor writer can not make a living from such a position. Most general sports editors have little or no regard for the outdoors column in their own paper, considering it an afterthought. Theyll spend untold thousands of dollars to send a report to cover a football game or golf tournament, but try to get the expense money for their outdoor writer to cover an ASMFC or Council meeting and there is suddenly no budget. Fisheries issues can effect the livelihoods of thousands of people around the state, yet they receives little consideration. In the last 12 months, the situation has gotten even worse. Those papers still running an outdoor column have reduced the number of days it appears or limited space to such an extent that the reporter can not adequately cover the subject. A prime example of this occurred at the recent bluefish hearings convened by Congressman Saxton. The Asbury Park Press sent a reporter to cover the hearing that had no background or concept of fisheries management and who wrote his entire column from a NMFS press release. He did not understand the importance of this species of fish to the economy of the Jersey shore and his coverage of the event was inaccurate and basically useless for the readers edification.
Thankfully, John Geiser wrote a column expanding on the importance of this meeting noting that two key New Jersey congressmen would spend so much of their time on the subject of bluefish management because of its importance to this state.
What can we do to reverse this trend at newspapers? If fishing plays an important role in your life, you should take the time to write to the publisher of the papers you read to demand increased coverage of your sport and the issues that impact it. Tell them that one of the major reasons you buy their paper is for the fishing reports column and that fishermen and hunters do not wish to be considered second class citizens by the papers they read. If that is allowed to happen, tell them you will get your news elsewhere.
When I go to other states, I realize how blessed we are to have such a fine group of outdoor writers here in New Jersey to keep the public informed. Write those letters so they can keep us informed!
This is the third month that we run this column. Have you written your congressional representative yet? JCAA supports two striped bass bills that are currently in Congress. We have been lax about getting all our New Jersey Representatives on these HR:393. In the past, every member of the NJ delegation was on HR 393. For the most part our Representatives just need a gentle reminder. Please write a letter to your Representative if he or she is not currently listed as a cosponsor. It is particularly disappointing that Richard Zimmer, who is currently running for U.S. Senate, has removed his name as a cosponsor. He should hear from all of us throughout the state. Tell him how disappointed you are with his action and that you consider this is a major betrayal of the recreational community. Listed below are the names of our Representatives who are cosponsors and the names and addresses of those who are not cosponsors.
HR:393 - Striped Bass Gamefish Bill
Congressman Frank Pallone
New Jersey; Congressman James Saxton, Congressman Robert Torricelli, Congressman Chris Smith, Congressman Robert Andrews
Connecticut; Congressman Christopher Shays, Congresswoman Barbara Kennelly, Congressman Sam Gejdenson
Texas; Congressman Pete Geren
Maine; Congressman Jim Longley
Indiana; Congressman Mark Souder
New Jersey Delegation missing from HR 393
Congressman Frank LoBiondo, 2nd District, 513 Canon HOB, Washington, DC 20510
Congresswoman Margaret Roukema, 5th District, 2469 Rayburn HOB, Washington, DC 20510
Congressman Robert Franks, 7th District, 429 Canon HOB, Washington DC 20510
Congressman William Martini, 8th District, 1513 Longworth HOB, Washington, DC 20510
Congressman Donald Payne, 10th District, 2244 Rayburn HOB, Washington, DC 20510
Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, 11th District, 514 Canon HOB, Washington, DC 20510
Congressman Richard Zimmer, 12th District, 228 Canon HOB, Washington, DC 20510
Congressman Robert Menendez, 13th District, 1730 Longworth HOB, Washington, DC 20510
HR:2655 - Keeps EEZ Closed For 5 Years for the taking of Striped Bass
Congressman James Saxton
from New Jersey:
Entire N.J. Congressional delegation
from other States:
Connecticut; Congressman Sam Gejdenson, Congresswoman Nancy Johnson
Alaska; Congressman Don Young
Oklahoma; Congressman Bill Brewster
Tennessee; Congressman John Tanner
Maine; Congressman James Longley
Texas; Congressman Pete Geren
New York; Congressman James Walsh, Congressman Thomas Manton Congresswoman Susan Molinari Congressman Charles Schumer