FISHERIES MANAGEMENT & LEGISLATIVE REPORT

by Tom Fote

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association - December 1996 Newspaper)

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Week

Doing Our Fair Share: Hook and Release Mortality Study Pending

Summer Flounder, Scup & Sea Bass

Striped Bass


Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Week

The ASMFC 55th Annual Meeting took place on October 20-24, 1996 in Hyannis, MA and was attended by Pat Donnelly and myself. The two important meetings were the blackfish and striped bass board meetings. Pat will cover the results of the blackfish meeting in detail elsewhere in this newspaper, but I would like to comment, also. The reason for my comments is that one of the things that happened at the blackfish board meeting is pervasive throughout many management boards at ASMFC.

One of the things that I admire about the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (MAFMC) is that when council members receive their briefing books prior to a session, all members receive copies of correspondence from interested parties for review. If correspondence comes in too late to make the briefing book mailing date, it is provided at the opening of Council business with copies given to all members. The general public attending council meetings have access to said correspondence, as copies are placed on an information table at the back of the meeting room for public distribution. The Mid-Atlantic Council staff makes every effort to distribute all public comment to all voting members in a timely manner.

This is not the case at ASMFC. When I first became a commissioner, I was surprised at just how difficult it was to obtain public comment information prior to a meeting. As a member of the public prior to my tenure as a commissioner, not only was public comment discouraged, public comments were never made available to interested people. Some of these problems have been improved upon. In the past two years, ASMFC staff has worked harder at getting briefing books out prior to their annual meeting, but this does not take place for individual board meetings, where the real decisions are made. The point that drove this home was the manner in which ASMFC in general, and the blackfish board in particular, ignored the letter sent from the three ASMFC commissioners from New Jersey expressing their very serious concerns with some of the provisions in the blackfish management plan. If you read the JCAA Newspaper regularly, you saw that letter reproduced in recent issue. It was signed by Bob McDowell, Director of the N.J. Division of Fish & Game, State Senator Lou Bassano and myself.

At this Blackfish Board meeting, I was there as proxy for Senator Lou Bassano. I was amazed that this very important letter which raised issues of deep importance for New Jersey fishermen was absent from the agenda and was not even contained in the briefing books for commissioners from other states to review. When I asked whether ASMFC staff was going to provide copies of the letter to all the commissioners, I was told they didn’t even bring it to the meeting, never mind make copies. So instead of dealing with these concerns, we must wait until the next Board meeting to address these critical issues.

If you remember my column in the last issue of this newspaper, we advised you to write to the chairman of the Striped Bass Board and to John Fields, the ASMFC staffer covering striped bass, so that the your letters would be decimated to all board members. These letters were not made available to board members, nor the general public in attendance. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that your letters were left in some circular file in ASMFC’s Washington offices. After all, they were from recreational fishermen, not commercials.

One of the biggest problems I’ve encountered with the manner in which ASMFC does business is that far too many documents, public comments and other items of important information are not disseminated to the commissioners in advance of meetings where critical decisions are to be made. The general public rarely sees any of this information and, therefore, is not allowed to be a true participant in the decision-making process. Even worse, each member state has three commissioners who are supposed to work together to develop positions and to help augment plans as a team. Important materials necessary to make these decisions must be presented to all three commissioners well in advance of board meetings and not when meetings are convened. This forces commissioners to either skim or ignore information that should be part of their decision-making process.


Doing Our Fair Share: Hook and Release Mortality Study Pending

As mentioned in the last newspaper, the product development team at Eagle Claw Fishing Tackle has shown serious interest in having JCAA members participate in testing their new line of smaller circle hooks for sport fishermen. They are available in sizes applicable to most inshore and even freshwater fish. Bill Miller, CEO, and George Large, Product Manager, feel these hooks could significantly reduce hook and release mortality on many species and have proven receptive to working with our club members, Sea Grant and other advocacy groups up and down the coast in a controlled test. It will require participants to use the hooks and keep detailed records to determine their effectiveness. The actual testing procedure is under development at this time. In this day and age of restrictive bag limits and a heightened awareness of conservation among recreational fishermen, these hooks, if proven effective, could help reduce mortality and even help reduce the percentage of hook and release mortality charged against recreational quotas in management plans.

Watch future issues for more details and how to participate in what promises to be an very interesting study.


Summer Flounder, Scup & Sea Bass

In the next couple of weeks, there will be a state summer flounder advisors meeting, a joint meeting of MAFMC and ASMFC on November 25 at the Day’s Inn at the Philadelphia Airport and a monitoring committee meeting to establish regulations for the recreational harvest next year. Members of JCAA will attend to make comment, but we need to revitalize our Fluke Committee to address the proposals that will come from these meetings to be taken to public comment. We are in need of someone to take over as Chairman of the Fluke Committee and some additional help from members who are seriously interested in this fishery. Call me or Bill Degnan, but be sure to attend the November monthly meeting to get involved. If we do not receive some support for the Fluke Committee, we will be hard-pressed to get the work done in time to get comment in.


Striped Bass

At the Striped Bass Board Meeting, board members voted to rescind the vote they approved at the last meeting which froze all commercial quotas at 1996 levels. After they rescinded the vote, they did freeze quotas until they can do an addendum to Amendment 5 of the plan. This addendum is supposed to be prepared by December 1, when it will go out to public hearings. The ASMFC is only planning to hold public hearings in those states "requesting" such. Many interested parties are requesting that no public hearing be held prior to December 10, so the public hearing document can be reviewed and positions formulated by the widest number of interested parties.

JCAA and ASA are sponsoring a meeting of coastal advocacy groups and representatives of the tackle industry to review the public hearing documents and discuss long range positions on this extremely important recreational fishery.

Mike Burke of the JCAA Striped Bass Committee will be putting together a committee meeting for sometime in early December. We will forward a letter to the state asking that they not schedule a public hearing in New Jersey prior to December 15, so we can be prepared to provide substantive comments.

[Contents] [Top]