FISHERIES MANAGEMENT & LEGISLATIVE REPORT
by Tom Fote
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association March 2000 Newsletter)
Have you noticed how our friends in the environmental community are trying to protect us right out of the fisheries? They claim they are acting in our interest and in the interest of the marine resource. With these friends, who needs enemies! I will not repeat my concerns about summer flounder and the lawsuit filed by environmental groups. They are now trying to get the NMFS to overturn recent ASMFC decisions that we believe were appropriate. These decisions were based on good science and are protective of the summer flounder resource. I have no doubt that these measures will be restrictive enough to insure the continued rebuilding of the stocks. So as we go to print I am not sure if the restrictions for summer flounder will be more restrictive than the current ASMFC Plan. Frank Richetti wrote this piece below to explain what the summer flounder options are at the present time.
By now you have all heard that the fluke season in federal waters, 3 miles and beyond, is set at 15 ½ inch minimum size with a 3 fish bag limit. The federal season will run from Memorial Day to Labor Day. In state waters we will have to reduce our catch by about 27% from last years landing but not the 50% reduction that was required in federal waters.
The various options to meet the required reductions were not available as this issue of the JCAA newspaper went to press. The NJ Marine Fisheries section of the Department of Fish and Wildlife has promised that a document with the options will be ready by the JCAA general meeting on Tuesday, February 27. Be sure to have a representative from your club at our meeting to start the discussions of which options will be best for the NJ anglers.
My current indigestion, however, is closer to home. You probably remember the articles about the letters written by Clean Ocean Action and the American Littoral Society opposing the use of subway cars to build an artificial reef. They didnt stop there even though I thought we had come to an agreement and would be working together. Instead, they continued to pressure the Commissioner of DEP and the NMFS. As a result, I am concerned that the subway cars, which pose no threat to the ocean, will go to Delaware and Maryland rather than New Jersey. It is interesting to note that Commissioner Shinn and Stan Gorski from NMFS are the same bureaucrats who allowed the dumping of contaminate category 2 dredge spoil material into the ocean. If they cant tell the difference between a clean subway car and contaminated dredge spoils we are in real trouble. Could it be the Port Authoritys money speaks louder than the needs of the recreational anglers?
If we lose these 650 hundred subway cars and the future opportunities to work with NYC Transit then our fishing off the coast of New Jersey will be much poorer. The artificial reef program doesnt need us to make a case for continuation. The studies have clearly shown the success of this program. Truthfully, I think we can thank Clean Ocean Action and the American Littoral Society if this program is killed. The only ally Clean Ocean Action and the American Littoral Society have in this battle is Nils Stolpe from the Garden State Seafood Association. Since Nils would be happy to eliminate all recreational fishing you have to wonder about the friends our friends are keeping. We should thank other environmental groups like the Alliance for a Living Ocean who have written letters in support of the artificial reef program. Lately I seem to spend as much time worrying about our friends as I do about our enemies. It is sometimes hard to know which groups to trust.
In a recent letter to Jeffery T. Michaels, Governor DeFrancescos Chief of Staff, I wrote the following:
JCAA and NJSFSC received the disturbing news of the loss of 600 railroad cars from NY Transit Authority that were intended to be used to help expand the New Jersey Artificial Reef Program. This was a deal that took a year to develop. We were told Wednesday that the Commissioner killed this project at last minute. This was done without consulting the many groups that supported this project. This deal would have created new fishing opportunity for over million New Jersey marine recreational anglers and meant millions of dollars and jobs to New Jerseys Marine Recreational Fishing Industry over the next decade. The Recreational Fish Alliance and New Jersey Divers Association and their members support this plan.
In a conversation on Saturdaywith the Governors Chief of Staff, Jeffrey Michaels, I learned that the Governor has not made a final decision and there may be some hope remaining for this plan. It is important that you contact the Governors office immediately and let them know you support this program.
At the last Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission meeting it became evident again that fisheries directors, environmental groups and most of the recreational organizations present dont care how their decisions impact on the poor or subsistence fishermen. When fisheries managers raise the size limit on certain species of fish they almost always eliminate certain historical fishing communities from that particular fishery. The Federal Councils and the ASMFC do not even consider this in their deliberations. They are required to consider the social and economic impact of the management decisions they make but in most cases they dont even give lip service to this requirement. I have been participating in the process for 12 years as a fishery manager and continue to try to make the social and economic impact part of the discussion. Unfortunately, no one really wants to discuss it. Most recreational anglers who attend these meetings have the means to take a day off and spend the money it takes to travel and attend. They dont represent the poor and subsistence fishermen. Not all but some of the charter boat and party boat organizations are just worried about paying customers. The environmental groups are just trying to make a point and they dont seem to care who suffers. It was probably naïve of me to think the environmental groups would speak for the poor. The only group who speaks at all for this segment of the population is Green Peace which has a good record of speaking for native populations and their rights.
At the last ASMFC meeting we finally raised the size limit for scup in New York and New Jersey. The size limit went from seven inches to nine inches. Big deal you may say! In fact the two inch increase makes a big difference to shore based anglers and anglers who fish from small boats in bays and estuaries. In all the years I fished the bridges, docks and piers in the bays and estuaries of New York and New Jersey, I never saw a scup over nine inches. We have effectively cut these anglers out of the fishery. When we raised the size of Seabass to eleven inches, we effectively do the same thing. I could make a list that included fluke, tautog and many other species that only inhabit the bays and estuaries as juveniles. There might be a rare opportunity to catch a keeper scup, Seabass, fluke or tautog but they would truly be the exception.
What makes this a criminal act it that the shore-based and estuarine anglers were not the cause of the problem in the first place. Their total catch is really insignificant when you look at the whole picture. ASMFC and the MAFMC were actually discussing 100,000 pounds of scup for research projects on bycatch. The actual bycatch is many times larger and is originally what caused the problem in the scup fishery. The 100,000 pounds probably represents 100 times the amount of seven-inch scup caught in New York and New Jersey bays and estuaries by the poor or subsistence anglers.
When I talk to law enforcement agents, they tell me about people keeping sublegal fish from the canals, piers and docks. Of course they keep sublegal fish. Thats all they have the opportunity to catch. I wish JCAA had enough money to sue the ASMFC and MAFMC for discriminating against the poor and subsistence fishermen. Any good lawyer could win this case! I am looking for some research money to provide data to prove what we already know about this issue. These are the types of studies NJ Sea Grant should be doing. But they are committed to working with the NJ Port Authority and PSE&G. Just follow the money!
The article below was written in January of 1999. I figured I reprint it since it is as timely as ever.
By Tom Fote
In the December 1996 JCAA Newspaper, I wrote an article entitled Time For a New Direction in Fisheries Management. This article is available at the JCAA website <http://www.jcaa.org/>. The main idea of this article is that historically, we were all subsistence or recreational fishermen. It is only in modern times, when some anglers could catch more than they would consume, that we began to have a commercial fishery. Yet recreational anglers and subsistence fishermen are often treated like the new guys in town, not the historical users. I suggested as a model for discussion the New Zealand Plan, a plan that puts recreational use first and then distributes any additional catch allowed under a comprehensive fisheries management plan to the commercial side. A comprehensive management plan protects the resource, allows for a healthy and renewable stock and preserves the recreational and subsistence fishery.
Was anyone paying attention? After looking at the newest round of decisions on the management plans for highly migratory species, billfish, bluefish and summer flounder, I have to believe the answer is no. And if we were to give an award to the agency that pays the least attention to the needs of the recreational angler, the unanimous winner would be the National Marine Fisheries Service. They have systematically manipulated the quotas in favor of the commercial interests by selectively choosing the years from which they take their data. While they claim to be scientific, they are choosing the base years when the commercial interests have the highest landings and ignoring the historical nature of the recreational fishery. What this does is continue to reward commercial interests for overfishing a species to collapse. And who can blame them, NMFS is always there to bail them out by restricting the recreational catch. In case there are any undecided votes, lets look at their recent decisions. As Al Ristori points out in his article, NMFS took a recreational fishery (sharks), decided it was underutilized, and promoted a commercial fishery for fins. Once this fishery collapsed, due to the pressure of the commercial catch, NMFS solved the problem by placing the most restrictions on the recreational angler.
This is typical NMFS behavior. For example, under the new shark management proposal recreational anglers are eliminated from the harvest. We of course can catch and release while commercial interests are allowed to harvest and sell their catch. Additionally, NMFS for years threatened a restrictive bag limit on bluefish claiming overfishing by recreational anglers. Finally they have recognized that the bluefish stocks, while down, are not endangered. In fact, they have admitted that we have fished under quota for the last three years and should have a larger quota. When an increase in bag limit was requested by a recreational group, NMFS turned them down. They were able, however, to transfer the unused recreational quota to the commercial sector to maintain a higher commercial quota. Although the quota is on the books as an 80/20 split, in reality it is closer to a 50/50 harvest. As another example, when the summer flounder fishery collapsed because of overharvesting by the commercial sector, they were rewarded with a 60/40 split. Historically, the quota should be 70/30 with the recreational anglers allowed the 70% catch.
Unless we get to work, we will enter the new millennium with NMFS firmly in charge and continuing to create havoc for recreational anglers. It doesnt take any genius to predict what will happen in the next five years if we dont get our act together. We will have only hook and release for sharks. We will have a 3 fish bag limit at 20 inches for summer flounder. We will still be fighting about whether we can take home a safe striped bass to eat. And we will be at a 2 yellow fin limit per boat and 2 dolphin per man. NMFS will have succeeded in cutting recreational participation by 50% and destroying the entire industry. If this seems far fetched, just remember that in 1990 we had a 13 inch no bag limit on fluke, no bag limit on blue fish, four small blue fins per man, and no recreational limits on sharks.
Right now, you must get involved and support the organizations that represent your interests. You must let your elected representatives know that your vote is based on their actions to preserve recreational fishing and the resource. You must put pressure on state and federal agencies and insist that they listen to the recreational sector. Attend meetings when you can, respond to our requests for letters, emails and faxes, and support the existing organizations with your time and money. What is recreational fishing worth to you? Think of all the money you spend on tackle, boats, etc. Take the time to list every expense associated with recreational fishing. Then write a check for 2% of the total. Send that check to JCAA. We cannot represent you without an increase in our budget.
JCAA is concerned about the impact of beach replenishment on the fisheries resource and fishing access. Many beach replenishments have not expanded the use by anglers and have actually created a decline in the areas available. Some of this decline is a lack of access, some is a destruction of habitat. The beach replenishment project at Deal and Asbury Park is a prime example of these problems. Due to time constraints JCAA was unable to sign on to the letter reprinted below. However, it accurately discusses the problem and we will discuss the issues raised at the next JCAA meeting. After that meeting, JCAA will communicate with the interested parties about this project. In addition, JCAA will participate in a press conference with the groups signed on below.
February 9, 2001
William J. Muszynski
Acting Regional Administrator Region II
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
290 Broadway,New York, N.Y. 10007
Col. William H. Pearce
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
26 Federal Plaza, Rm. 2109
New York, N.Y. 10278
Hon. Cari J. Wilde
N.J. Department of Environmental Protection
Box 404, 501 E. State Street
Trenton, N.J. 08625
Re: Request for Expedited, Emergency Relief to Save Annual Spawning Run and Preserve Threatened Coastal Fish Habitat in Deal Lake, Monmouth County, New Jersey
This urgent request is made by, the Asbury Park Fishing Club, Surfers Environmental Alliance and the American Littoral Society. Each organization is a registered, non-profit, tax exempt association whose substantial membership is committed to protecting our fragile coastal resources from projects that present adverse environmental impacts and impair reasonable recreational use of essential public assets that create opportunities for citizens to engage in ocean fishing, surfing, kayaking, swimming, diving, beach walking, bird watching and other ocean-related activities.
We have joined together in making this request in an effort to further emphasize the gravity of the problem, the need for immediate action by all agencies involved in the current beach replenishment project, and the regrettable consequences that will result from a failure to act.
Deal Lake, situated between the northern boundary of Asbury Park and the southern boundary of Loch Arbour, is the site of an annual spring ritual involving spawning ocean dwelling alewives, herring and shad seeking to return to the place of their birth to reproduce. This natural phenomenon has occurred annually every spring for more than one hundred years. Without immediate action by you, this years spawning ritual may not occur, possibly causing the death of hundreds of fish, preventing the birth of hundreds more, and also potentially altering the local marine ecosystem. Such a result is a consequence of the ongoing joint state-federal beach replenishment project, and it can no longer be ignored.
In addition to the potential fish emergency caused by the replenishment project, please be aware that the sports of surfing, bodyboarding and diving are also seriously threatened along much of the northern Monmouth County coastline. The publics legal right to engage in these legitimate recreational uses of the ocean is being extinguished without any consideration or public debate. The government has no right to unilaterally terminate the publics right to engage in such activities without a careful and balanced consideration of the adverse effects of a proposed action. No such review has occurred. Your help is needed to preserve the publics rights from precipitous, unlawful and possibly permanent disruption.
The Emergency: Beach Replenishment Project has Blocked Fish Access to Deal Lake and Threatens the Sport of Surfing & Other Recreations
Monmouth County, New Jersey, is presently the site of an extensive beach replenishment project that is being jointly implemented by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The project includes the substantial extension of existing beaches and the removal or substantial alteration of existing jetties and groins. Deal Lake flows into the Atlantic Ocean through a large underground flume that terminates on the north side of what is known as the Eighth Avenue jetty. The flume extends seaward only to the mid-point of the jetty. The replenishment project has been completed on the jettys south (Asbury Park) side, but the beach on the north (Loch Arbour) side of the jetty has neither received the projects sand nor has the flume been extended to ensure the passage of both water and marine life.
The flume has now become largely impassable to fish due to the natural movement of the newly deposited sand from the jettys south side around to the north side, where it has created a large sand bar. The movement of the sand is due to predictable ocean current and wave action. The blockage of the flume to water and marine life, while also predictable, appears not to have been anticipated by the involved agencies.
Secondly, it is well known that the federal-state beach replenishment project has destroyed most of the historic locations for the sport of surfing in northern Monmouth County and has seriously affected many former sport diving areas. Like the diving community, the surfing community is a strong, close-knit group of individuals, many of whom participate in the sport year-round. Their lifestyles are uniquely dependent on local beach contours, slopes and structures that have formed naturally over the past 50 100 years.
While the surfing community recognizes the critical need to protect low-lying areas in towns such as Sea Bright and Monmouth Beach, this community has borne the brunt of the adverse recreational impacts from the beach replenishment project. Due to the NJDEP policy directing that jetties and groins must be notched, dismantled, or destroyed, and combined with the admittedly experimental nature of the beach re-engineering plan, especially the new steep angle of beach slope, there are only a handful of locations remaining along the entire northern Monmouth County coastline where surfing and other wave riding sports are feasible. Just 5 years ago there were several dozen. One of the few remaining surfing beaches is the area facing and adjacent to the Deal Lake flume on the jettys north side.
We are concerned that the projects remedial actions regarding the flume and notching of all of the remaining jetties in the Elberon to Deal Lake reach, will continue to adversely effect our community. We urge you to be cognizant and protective of these important recreational and social interests as well.
Background: The Annual Deal Lake Fish Migration
The Deal Lake flume, and its predecessors which have existed since the end of the 19th century, replaced a former natural inlet. As was true with the inlet, the flume, which lies under Ocean Avenue at the east end of the lake, has been a principal migratory route for alewives, herring and shad. Additionally, the flume, during high tide, has permitted ocean water to enter the lake creating a brackish condition, which has provided the necessary aquatic environment for fish and other forms of marine life in the lake itself.
Until approximately four months ago, the east end of the flume extended into the ocean. The boulders protecting the flume are covered with marine growth attesting to the continuous submergence of the structure over the past several decades. Anglers were therefore able to stand on or near the jetty and flume and fish in the water at its termination point. More importantly, the migrating species had easy access to the lake which has always been a critical spawning site. Alewives have had no problem entering the lake through the flume, and this is also true of the other migratory anadromous species.
Unfortunately, following the beach replenishment program in Asbury Park, the fine sand that was deposited on the beach to the south of the Deal Lake jetty has migrated northward around the jetty and has accreted a very broad beach in front of the flume, so that the flume itself now ends on a wide dry sand area. In fact, the sand buildup on the north side of the jetty is so extensive that the flume is now about 100 feet from the surf line at low tides. The flume, under these circumstances, has lost its ability to act as a passageway for migrating fish since the water coming from the flume is now a shallow flow, no more than three or four inches in depth. As a result, any small fish which find themselves in this trickle en route to the ocean have been easy prey to the hundreds of gulls that are now regularly perched on the jetty and beach waiting for them to try to exit the lake. The gulls consumption of these juvenile fish trying to return to the ocean has been prodigious. Few survive this aviary gauntlet.
Equally disastrous is the failure of spawning fish to complete their spring migration from the Atlantic Ocean through the flume into Deal Lake. Many of these fish will likely die trying to locate the flume. The loss of the spawning fish presents a serious short- and long-term risk to the general Deal Lake aquatic environment that deserves immediate action and further study. These fish are indigenous to Deal Lake and many will not spawn anywhere else, at least not in the short term. Unless corrective measures are taken and the spawning and habitat area is restored and preserved, the Deal Lake migratory fish could lose their spawning run into Deal Lake entirely.
The loss of habitat will also destroy the site as an important recreational area frequented by the many anglers who fish there on a regular basis.
Request: Prompt Coordinated State and Federal Emergency
Action and Comprehensive Environmental Study
The alewife migration commences at the end of March or early April and continues until early June. Although it is now too late for the undertaking of permanent remedial measures which will restore the flume for this years migration, temporary emergency remediation could allow this years migration to take place. One possible short-term solution would be the removal of the sand buildup which separates the flume from the sea. This could create a channel of sufficient depth to permit fish to enter and exit the lake through the flume, and at the same time to avoid predation by gulls and other sea birds. Other low cost alternative solutions exist and we implore you to consider all reasonable options.
This Emergency Request has been sent to all of the agencies involved in the beach replenishment project since the flume blockage is a direct result of that project. Moreover, it is apparent that the projects developers, promoters and supporters have failed to consider the projects impact on the annual spawning run and related consequences from the blocked flume. The situation demands a coordinated response by the involved agencies to remedy what is developing into a public policy disaster.
A publicly financed project that threatens the existence of this natural resource and also seriously jeopardizes yet another year-round recreational resource for fishermen, surfers, divers and others deserves a thorough policy review.
We thank you in advance for your careful attention to this matter and we respectfully request a meeting with you to discuss this situation in more detail. Such a meeting would signal your agencys intention to provide an opportunity for a cooperative and thoughtful policy discussion of this important issue directly related to the beach replenishment project.
We look forward to hearing from you very soon.
Surfers Environmental Alliance
American Littoral Society
Asbury Park Fishing Club
JCAA has been working with Congressman Frank Pallones office to secure a hearing in New Jersey by the EPA on the PCB contamination in the Hudson River. We received word from his office that he has secured a hearing in NJ. JCAA wishes to thank the Congressman for securing the hearing. This hearing will be to solicit public comments pertaining to the decision to remove then PCBs from the sediments of the upper Hudson River. The hearing is:
Date: Wed., March 7
The Place: Saddle Brook Marriott
Garden State Parkway at Interstate 80
Saddle Brook, NJ
If you care about the Hudson River and the fish that live there and travel through it, it is imperative that your voice be heard. If you have ever eaten a striped bass or a bluefish you have probably consumed contaminates from the Hudson River. JCAA has not voted on a formal position on this issue. We will discuss this and develop a position at our February 27 meeting. JCAA Vice-President Thomas Siciliano is also the chairman of JCAAs committee on PCBs in the Hudson River. His report follows the letter by Charlie Stamm. The Hudson River Fishing Association NJ has also been asking for hearings in NJ and has sent a copy of their position to the JCAA. We will consider their position when we discuss this issue at our next meeting. I have included their communication below.
The following was received from Charlie Stamm, Hudson River Fishing Association of NJ:
The HRFA feels these PCBs do not belong in the river where they are susceptible to entering the food chain. We feel the EPA decision was correct in saying...We have enough Data...We have enough evidence...We've studied this problem for long enough...It's time to act.
Their decision was that the best way to restore the Hudson River, the estuary, the fish, birds and the environment around it was to remove the PCBs from the sediments up river.
The General Electric Company has spent millions of dollars in the last two months on an advertising blitz directed at the people of New York State. A media blitz of half truths and innuendos to convince the people that these toxins should remain in the river.
Not surprising, do not subscribe to this train of thought. The PCBs should be removed from the sediments and thus be less susceptible to entering the food chain.
We need your help. We need you to attend this meeting. We need you to tell the EPA these PCBs do not belong in our river. We want them removed as environmentally sound as possible. We will only accept environmentally sound methods of removal. This issue will affect the striped bass population along the entire east coast.
We need your help on this issue!
Director HRFA NJ