FISHERIES MANAGEMENT & LEGISLATIVE REPORT

By Tom Fote

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association - July 1996 Newspaper)

American Sportfishing Association Spring Meeting

Bluefin Tuna Report

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Week

Weakfish FMP

Striped Bass

Mud Dump

Status of Striped Bass Bills


American Sportfishing Association Spring Meeting

I was able to spend a day at home before heading back to Washington, DC for the ASA spring meeting. One of the important topics of discussion for marine fisheries concerned what was happening with the 95 metric tons of bluefin tuna. We spent a day lobbying with members of the industry who were new to fisheries lobbying. We went from Senate offices to Congressional offices explaining the importance of bluefin tuna to the recreational fishing industry. My team was Dick Weber (South Jersey Marina), Steve Sloan (Fisheries Defense Fund), Mike Nussman (ASA), Pete Foley (Boone Lures), Herb Henze (Penn Fishing Tackle), and Bert Kaplan. This what Dick Weber and I envisioned we started talking about a National Fishing Alliance, getting industry involved in protecting the resource and making sure that Congress understands the importance of the recreational fishery. Recreational fishing is more than a hobby, it means billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs. Many states have economies that rely heavily on recreational fishing. ASA put on a variety of important workshops and I had a chance to attend a breakfast with the Secretaries of Commerce, Agriculture, and Interior, and representatives from the Departments of the Army, EPA, Forestry, NMFS, and many others. They were there to discuss the President’s initiative on recreational fishing. We also had a breakfast with Senator John Chafee, chairman of Environmental & Public Works Committee. Senator Chafee repeated his strong message about protecting the Clean Water Act that I heard last year at the National Marine Manufacturers Association. He said that no weakening of this important act would take place under his stewardship. He was clear that the Clean Water Act is directly responsible for the revitalization of this country’s fresh and saltwater. New Jersey certainly provides many examples; the resurgence of striped bass and shad in the Delaware River, the increase in areas for direct clam harvest, and a drastic reduction in beach closings.

The highlight of this meeting was seeing Dick Weber receive ASA’s Man of the Year Award. Dick’s vision was to get boat manufactures, tackle manufacturers and the marine trades united in their efforts to work with grass roots organizations for the protection of the resource and marine recreational fisheries. Dick Weber made his usual inspiring speech declaring that the National Alliance to Save Fisheries is alive and well and working on important goals including striped bass gamefish. Dick Weber’s goals continue to be compatible with JCAA’s goals. This is certainly a well deserved honor and JCAA congratulates Dick Weber.

The JCAA has begun work with the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) to help in the support of ASA’s Political Action Committee (ASAPAC). The ASAPAC was formed in 1995 to help support those candidates for political office that are involved in issues affecting fisheries resources. In 1996, the ASAPAC completed its fundraiser and has made its first contributions to candidates. To learn more about the ASAPAC, please contact Tom Fote at 908-270-9102 or Steve Knell, ASA at 703-519-9691.


Bluefin Tuna Report

As I mentioned in the ASA report, there were many teams who lobbied Congress regarding the proposed changes for bluefin tuna. The previous week, Mike Nussman and I spent hours on the phone contacting people along the coast to get the lobbying effort started. This continued during the week of the ASA meeting. Because of the hard work of ASA and many of its members, other groups like the Rhode Island Charter Boat Association, ACCA chapters, the Fisheries Defense Fund, and JCAA, we were able to hold on to the ninety five metric tons. This was coordinated effort of many fishing groups and tackle manufacturers, working together with a common goal. The tuna committee needs to meet to discuss the problems that remain in the rules that were published for 1996. John Koegler, after reading the rules, has many questions that need to be answered. John will be in touch with members of the tuna committee. I would especially like to thank Mike Nussman for coordinating this lobbying effort.


Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Week

The ASMFC met the week of May 28 and a few important decisions were made. The most important dealt with weakfish and striped bass. There was also some discussion about a moratorium on sturgeon. That decision will be made later this year. I did not speak in favor of the moratorium, mainly because the fishery is now reduced to a very limited bycatch fishery in New Jersey. This would amount to about one hundred twelve fish per year and is an acceptable level according to the scientific data I have. The commercial fishermen who participate in this fishery have been adding to the scientific research by providing biological information and parts. The research to which they contribute is not being done by the scientific community due to a lack of funds for at sea research. Be aware there are bills moving through the NJ Legislature that would place a moratorium on the harvesting of sturgeon.

I chaired an important meeting of the habitat committee covering a wide range of topics. The expansion of the mud dump was briefly discussed and there will be further discussion at the fall habitat meeting. The Mid-Atlantic Council Habitat Committee has taken a strong stand against any expansion of the mud dump until all the biological ramifications are explored. Both the Council and the Commission fear that habitat would be negatively impacted beyond the contamination of the fish.


Weakfish FMP

On May 31st, the full Commission approved Amendment 3 to the Weakfish Management Plan. I worked hard to get several major points covered in Amendment 3. The only disappointment I have regarding Amendment 3 is that it did not establish an historical recreational fishery as the Fluke FMP does. Two exemptions for the commercial fishery in the 12 inch size are not major fisheries for weakfish and should not have a major impact. I had serious reservations about allowing the states that have Deminimis status an exemption from the 12 inch minimum size limit. The law enforcement committee has reported that when we have conservation equivalencies that allow minimum size regulations to be circumvented from state to state, enforcement becomes extremely difficult. Rather than granting exemptions to minimum size limits, we need a study of the impact of conservation equivalencies for all species to determine the impact on enforcement.

Recreational Fisheries: A minimum size limit of 12 inches TL is required with possession limits remaining as they were under Amendment #2 (a fish at 12 inches TL minimum size; 6 at 13 inches TL; 14 fish at 14 inches TL; no limit above these sizes). States must maintain regulations at least as restrictive as they are now until April 1, 1998. Based on a updated stock assessment through fishing year 1996, additional restrictions may be required to meet the target mortality goal of F=0.5 by fishing year 2000.

Commercial Fisheries: Minimum size limit of 12 inches TL with exemptions for internal water pound net and haul seine fisheries. Minimum mesh size requirements to allow below minimum size fish to escape are required. Bycatch reduction devices are required for the southern shrimp trawl fishery. States may use a bycatch allowance of 150 pounds per day as long as their monitoring and reporting system is adequate to quantify such catches. Other management options (closed season or areas) are available to the states at their option as long as they continue to meet their mortality reduction goals. States must maintain regulations at least as restrictive as they are now until April 1, 1998. Based on an updated stock assessment through fishing year 1996, additional restrictions may be required to meet the target mortality goal of F=0.5 by fishing year 2000.


Striped Bass

The Striped Bass Board met on May 29th and heard a report from the technical committee. This report stated that although the coastal abundance indices rose between 1994 and 1995, the technical committee expressed some concerns regarding trends and biomass indices in the principal spawning areas of Chesapeake Bay and the Hudson River. They also expressed that they would not be ready to introduce the virtual population analysis for 1997. Because of this and the recommendations of the advisory committee, the board decided that the interim fishing rate will continue for another year before moving to full MSY. This means that there will be no increase in the fisheries for 1997 but 1998 will be the year that we look at major increases in the striped bass fishery both commercial and recreational.

The EEZ discussion was opened again. NMFS presented the survey done to identify loopholes that will exist with the opening of the EEZ. NMFS did think NJ would be a problem but because of court cases in other states such as Florida, we feel that these problems will exist until language is introduced in the Magnuson Act to correct it. Other states still have loopholes and are not sure when they will be corrected. A motion passed by the Striped Bass Board at its previous meeting stated that the EEZ should not be open until we reach full MSY. If NMFS follow ASMFC recommendation then the earliest opening date for the EEZ will be 1998.

The next major decision period for Striped Bass will be in 1997 to decide what will happen in 1998. The time to start working on this is now. JCAA is working with advocacy groups from North Carolina through Maine concerning this. We have started establishing a list of suggestions on what we feel should be done for the 1998 season. When they are done we will circulate them along the coast to different advocacy groups so we can go forth with a coastwide united position. The JCAA Striped Bass Committee needs to meet to come up with these positions. This committee needs more members and if a club wishes to participate, call the office and leave the name of your representative. The striped bass advisors recommendations will receive careful consideration in our deliberation Amendment 5 was crucial, but what happens in 1998 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.


Mud Dump

There has been not major news regarding the Mud Dump since our last newsletter. The Governor has put forth a plan to put 150,000 metric of tons of dredge material as landfill for a mall. The dredge materials will be mixed with inert materials, combining together to reduce the possibility of contamination. In case you missed last month’s Mud Dump report, this is important enough to repeat.

The Mud Dump Hearing was held on May 6, from 7 to 9 PM at the Monmouth Beach Municipal Building Auditorium on 22 Beach Road. The purpose of this hearing was to discuss the proposed expansion of the Mud Dump as a dredge spoils repository. Almost two hundred interested parties attended this hearing including Congressman Pallone, Assemblyman Corodemus, Assemblyman Lance, Mayor Joe Brennan (Highlands) and Mayor John Peterson (Seaside Park), all supporters of keeping the mud dump closed. In this large crowd, only one person spoke in favor of expanding the mud dump. Everyone else was absolutely opposed to the dumping of any toxic dredge spoils at this site.. 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. This was the clear message that the EPA got at this hearing. We can only hope they were listening.

My statement focused on the legality of dumping this material in the ocean. What the Port Authority is proposing would not be allowed for any government agency at the federal, state or local level or for any business. There is no doubt that the EPA would automatically reject a request from any of these groups to dump this type of highly toxic material in the ocean and any attempt to subvert EPA rules would be met with astronomical fines and other more severe penalties. Anyone who dared to so blatantly violate EPA rules would probably end up in jail. Yet our government agencies and most businesses could use the same economic arguments put forth by the Port, saving jobs and cutting costs. The Clean Water Act, which has resulted in the recovery of various fish stocks and measurable improvements in water quality, would prevent any other agency or business from so damaging the ecosystem. Unfortunately, the Port Authority is exempt from the Clean Water Act.

It is the sheer size of the proposal that is the most frightening. Most superfund sites are measured in acres or less. The volume of material is measured in a thousand tons or less or a few thousand cubic yards. But the Mud Dump proposal is for an increase from two and one half square miles to twenty-six square miles. Think about the size of the town you live in and compare that to the size of the mud dump. The proposal for the amount of material that would be sent to the mud dump is measured in two to three million cubic yards per year with no end in site until the entire twenty-six square miles is filled. This about the size of your town buried under thirty feet of contaminated muck. One of the justifications used to get this increase to twenty-six square miles is that the toxic material previously dumped in the two and one half square mile site is now being found throughout this twenty-six square miles. Imagine how far it can spread when the original dump site is twenty-six square miles in size. Oh well, then we can increase it each year to account for the spread and soon have it right up against the beach! Keeping it out of the shipping lanes, a clear priority for the Port, will push the increased size of the dump closer and closer to the beach. Why not just turn the ocean off Monmouth County into the dump site and be done with it.

It was especially gratifying to see commercial and recreational anglers and the environmental groups working in complete agreement to oppose this proposal. The Port Authority has done everything possible to play these groups off against one another but we have confounded their best efforts and remained allied to protect our ocean environment. It was the fishermen who came out to fight this proposal, not the paid lobbyists or spokespersons from either community. If we keep doing our job, we will stand together and defeat this proposal.

The EPA has a report, as yet unreleased, which shows extremely high levels of dioxin in the tomalley of the lobsters caught in the area of the current mud dump site. We owe thanks to the newspaper reporter who broke this story prior to the hearing. This news confirms our worst fears about the toxic material getting into the food chain. These levels are higher than those reported in previous studies from the 1980’s done at the mud dump. Could the most recent additions to the mud dump, illegal deposits of toxic dredge material from the Port, had an impact on the most recent lobster readings? In any case, we cannot allow a further expansion of the site. Commercial and recreational anglers, environmental groups and politicians have worked together to end the dumping of wood, sewage, chemicals from businesses, and even outdated war materials. If we can win this last battle and make the Port Authority responsible to the same rules as everyone else, we will have finally insured a cleaner ocean for ourselves and our children.

The good citizenship that each of us learned in school, that we were all entitled to fair and equitable treatment under the law and none of use are above the law, certainly applies to this case. If the Port Authority is simply held to the same standard as every governmental agency and business, then this proposal will be turned down. That is all we are asking for and we will accept nothing less.

If you would like to present written comments or get a copy of the entire EPA proposal, write to:

Joseph Bergstein,
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.


Status of Striped Bass Bills

This is the fifth month that we have 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

Sponsor:

Congressman Frank Pallone

Co-sponsors:

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

Sponsor:

Congressman James Saxton

All of the Congressional Delegation of New Jersey is on this bill as cosponsors.

Co-sponsors 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 Charles Schumer

The only member of the New Jersey congressional delegation not on HR 2655 is Congressman Richard Zimmer, 12th District, 228 Canon HOB, Washington, DC 20510. JCAA cannot understand why this congressman is not on HR:2655. Please write and tell him of your disappointment and ask him to make New Jersey delegation unanimous on their support of HR2655. There are now 23 Congressional representatives on HR2655.

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