HIGHLY MIGRATORY SPECIES REPORT

by John Koegler and Gary Caputi

from Jersey Coast Anglers Association - April 1997 Newspaper)


TUNA PERMIT RIPOFF REPORT

The members of the 10th Legislative District, Senator Andrew R. Ciesla and Assemblymen David W. Wolfe and James W. Holzappel, and the 9th Legislative District, Senator Leonard T. Connors, Jr. and Assemblymen Jeffrey W. Moran and Christopher J. Connors, have been fielding quite a few hot phone calls and letters from outraged recreational fishermen. These two districts encompass the busiest boating area in the state, of which the majority are private fishing boats. Hearing their constituent's cry's of "foul" over a new, federally imposed $18 Tuna Permit, they researched the issue and filed their displeasure with the following letters in support of recreational fishermen and the recreational fishing industry.

Senator Ciesla and Connors have shown serious concern for the recreational fishing industry. Their districts encompass an area where marinas, fishing boat dealers, tackle stores, bait shops and fishermen abound. They recognize the economic benefits of a strong recreational fishery and have seen the results even in regional tourism. We applaud their willingness to listen and respond to important issues, along with the assembly members of both districts including, David W. Wolfe and James W. Holzappel (10th) and Jeffrey W. Moran and Christopher J. Connors (9th). Together, united with the fishermen of the area, they are sending a strong message to the NMFS, the Department of Commerce and the New Jersey Congressional Delegation telling them NO TUNA PERMIT FEES!

Letter from:

Andrew R. Ciesla, Senator
David W. Wolfe, Assemblyman
James W. Holzappel, Assemblyman

To:

Rolland S. Schmitten,Assistant Administrator
NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES SERVICE
1335 East West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Dear Mr. Schmitten,

This legislative delegation has joined the Jersey Coast Anglers Association in opposition to the Federal Tuna Permit fee being required by the Service's HMS Division.

We understand that when this permit was originally introduced more than one year ago, there was no charge. And a permit was not necessary unless the recreational fishermen planned to fish for or retain bluefin tuna. Then, last year, the permit was required for recreational fishermen pursuing or retaining not only bluefin, but yellowfin, bigeye and albacore. But, it remained free.

Now, we understand that the NMFS has expanded the species to include bonito, skipjack and blackfin tuna. By adding these commonly encountered inshore tuna species, the universe of anglers that would require a permit grew from 200,000 to 300,000 to an estimated half-million to 750,000. With the new provision of charging each boat an $18 permit fee to administer the program, we can appreciate the outrage being exhibited by our constituents who participate in recreational fishing.

We believe that this permit fee is just another tax--money that will not be used to improve fisheries management, sportfishing access or any other phase of the fishery. A recreational fisherman, under the current allocation scheme, has only a chance that he might catch and retain one or two bluefin per year. Last year was a perfect example to illustrate how the tuna fishing season could be closed before a New Jersey angler even has a chance to go fishing for them.

Hasn't the recreational fishing industry suffered enough the past few years at the hands of federal regulators who instituted the boat luxury tax and a host of other regulations that keep people from their chosen recreational?

We call on the NMFS to rescind this permit fee proposal and to encourage, not discourage, the recreational fishing industry. We also ask our colleges in the United States Congress, by way of copy of this letter, to join in this cause.

Letter from:

Senator Leonard T. Connors, Jr.
Assemblymen Jeffrey W. Moran
Assemblymen Christopher J. Connors,

To:

Honorable Frank R. Lautenberg, U.S. Senate
Honorable Robert G. Torricelli, U.S. Senate
Honorable H. James Saxton, U.S. Representatives
Honorable Christopher H. Smith, U.S. Representatives
Honorable Frank A. LoBiondo, U.S. Representatives

Our Legislative Office has received a copy of a recent letter to the Congressional Delegation from our mutual constituent, Mr. Robert T. Loew, Secretary of the FISH HAWKS, P. O. Box 700, Forked River, NJ 08731. A copy is enclosed.

By way of this follow-up, our 9th District Delegation would like to reach out to convey to you our unified voices of advocacy for the vigorous objects raised by Mr. Lowe about pending fees for recreational fishermen for bonito, skipjack, blackfin, yellowfin, bigeye, albacore and bluefin tunas.

Our delegation maintains a long-standing opposition to the imposition of permits and fees on sports fishermen. Saltwater anglers play a major role in the economic vitality of our coastal communities here at the New Jersey shore and nationally. Saltwater fishermen already pay millions into tax coffers for their equipment, supplies, boats, fuel, lodging, meals and boating equipment.

It is with this commitment in mind that our Delegation stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Mr. Lowe on behalf of the FISH HAWKS in, respectfully, urging the leadership of the Congressional Delegation to protect the sports fishermen here at the Jersey shore from additional heavy tax burdens from Washington. America and New Jersey should take a proactive stance to support and encourage this recreational and family sport activity--as opposed to taxing it to death.

We know you share our advocacy for the sports fishermen of New Jersey and look to your leadership on this issue.


PROPOSED TUNA REGULATIONS & PUBLIC HEARINGS

There will be a public hearing on the proposed regulations for bluefin tuna in Toms River, NJ at the Holiday Inn on Route 37 west at 7 PM on March 25, 1997. This meeting is to encourage public input on the proposed rules for the 1997 season for sharks and bluefin tuna. There are several very important issues that will be discussed.

The JCAA has been of the opinion that the purse seine quota of bluefin tuna is totally out of proportion to the number of boats in that category. The large portion of bluefin harvest they are allocated would be more fairly distributed to the angling category. This has been common knowledge among many advocacy groups since the purse seine fleet was taken out of the school fishery and their effort was redirected into the larger, more valuable fish in the 1970s..

In recent months, the Recreational Fishing Alliance has brought this issue to the forefront in Congress and has spearheaded efforts to have this included in the 1997 proposed rules for public comment by NMFS. The RFA's work has opened a window of opportunity that could see a reduction of the excessive allocation received by this tiny user group, if we all act quickly and in a unified manner. Anyone that fishes for bluefin tuna with hook and line, including general category commercial fishermen, should be supporting the position spearheaded by RFA and strongly supported by JCAA and other recreational groups. The key is acting quickly to support the Congressmen who are exploring a redistribution of quota allocations, including Congressman Jim Saxton and Frank Palone from New Jersey. Saxton heads the House Fisheries Subcommittee and Pallone is a senior member of the committee.

JCAA has been a loud voice against discriminatory management plans where the importance of the recreational component is devalued or ignored altogether. One provision we find particularly offensive is allowing the recreational sector to be permitted in only a single category as a result of problems with commercial fishermen having two category permits in the past. The problems with New England's fishermen double-dipping between categories was used to paint the fishery along the entire coast with a broad brush. While the single permit regulation might have been needed in that area, it is discriminatory against fishermen in other areas where the problem never existed. It basically requires that if you hold a general category permit to sell a giant, you can not fish at all for small fish with an angling category permit, and visa versa.

Tuna fishermen out of New Jersey, for example, usually only get a one or two week shot at catching a giant tuna. If you want to try your hand at catching a giant and selling it, you are automatically penalized by these regulations, which prevent you from participating in the school fish fishery and keeping one for personal consumption. The only way I can imagine this being fair and equitable is to allow a fishermen to switch from one permit to another on a given day. If he is fishing for school fish and wants to keep a fish or two to eat, he must fish under the angling category permit and should only be allowed to carry the one permit aboard. If he is fishing for giants, and wishes to sell, he can only fish on that day under a general category permit and only carry that permit on board.

As of the writing of this article, we are still awaiting the formal release of NMFS Proposed Regulations in the Federal Register, so watch your local paper or call NMFS HMS Division for a copy of the Proposed Rules as soon as they are released. We would urge the NMFS to do a better job of decimating this information to the public with enough time for them to read, digest and organize their thoughts well in advance of the hearing date.

Advisory Panels

The new Magnuson Act specifies that all Fishery Management Plans (FMP) must have advisory panels. There are three Highly Migratory Fishery Plans that require advisory panels; Atlantic Billfish, Swordfish and Sharks. There is also a Longline panel. Highly Migratory Tuna will have an advisory panel but this is not specified by law. NMFS has issued a Federal Register notice requesting comment on panels and panel selections.

These are the tuna species involved; Bluefin, Yellowfin, Bigeye, Albacore (longfin) and Skipjack. Fishery Management Plans currently exist for Swordfish, Atlantic Billfish and Sharks. The Longline advisory panel has just been created, nominations to this and the Billfish panel are open at this time.

Every advisory panel requires several recreational representatives. Let's work smart to get good representation on each panel. There is no reason that commercial interests should dominate them. Yellowfin tuna in the Northeast is caught mostly by recreational fishermen, not commercials. Heavy fishing by purse seine interests impact our season in a big way and without strong recreational representation, we stand the chance of losing influence to a panel stacked with commercial fishermen or lobbyists.

ICCAT breaks their panels into five categories, Bluefin, B.A.Y.S. (Bigeye, Albacore, Yellowfin & Skipjack), Billfish, Sharks and Swordfish. How these new NMFS panels will work with ICCAT and their advisory panels has not been determined. However, ICCAT issues are international in scope and the advisory panels are domestic.

It is important to note that the current commercial regulations do not require ANY permit to land yellowfin, bigeye or longfin tuna in the United States. Recreational must pay for their tuna permits. Regulation of commercially landed tuna must be included in the swordfish limited access plan. Commercial fishing for swordfish ALWAYS results in large catches of tuna and shark.

A combined Swordfish and Shark public meeting on limited commercial access will be held on April 11, at the Barnegat Light Firehouse at 7 PM.


SHARKS

The proposed limited access plan will provide for the issuance of both a directed and incidental catch shark permits. Many of these boats (2,700 shark permits are currently outstanding) do not land many sharks. Slightly over 100 longline boats are believed to qualify for a directed permit. Given the terrible condition of large coastal sharks and the depleted state of other shark populations, it would seem necessary to eliminate a directed commercial permit as a conservation issue. This is a "risk-adverse" choice managers can make to protect several species of shark from extinction and is consistent with available scientific data. Several sharks were named in proposed 1997 rules as non sale species. Although there has been a shark plan in place since 1993, many southern states continue to land sharks without species identification. This does not allow a manager to compile any estimates of shark population. The 1997 proposed rules makes species identification mandatory.

The new limited access proposals must include limitations for longliners on both the line length and number of hooks set per boat, per season, if any conservation of these fish is a serious consideration of the plan. NMFS should not go to all the trouble of protecting sharks for a group of elite commercial fishermen when these are the very users whose recent concentration on these fish has resulted in the resource being so drastically depleted. All commercial fisheries must be managed in a more risk-averse manner or there will be no fish to sustain either the commercial or recreational users. Remember, low stock levels or depleted fisheries dramatically damage recreational fishing interests first, long before there is corresponding drop in commercial landings.

The United States ICCAT Advisors meeting will be held on April 21 through 23 near Washington, DC. Eighteen of the 20 advisors were up for reappointment in January and the new list can be found elsewhere in this issue of the JCAA newspaper. An international mid-year ICCAT meeting will be held on May 5 through 7 in the Washington, DC area. These are mostly scientific meetings to cover data and statistics.

NMFS has earned its living ignoring recreational fishing and the recreational fishing industry. Clear ideas, goals and plans are needed about the issues or our continued participation in highly migratory species fisheries will be taken away in either of two way; by collapsing the stocks to levels so low that they become recreationally extinct; or by regulating us out of the fishery, as has been done so effectively with bluefin tuna.

Qualified people wishing to serve on any of the advisory panels should attend the JCAA Tuna meeting on Tuesday, March 25 at the JCAA Office at 1201 Route 37 East, Toms River. The office is on the second floor, suite #9. The meeting begins at 4:00 PM and will be completed in time for the regular JCAA meeting and the Tuna public hearing, held just up the street.


NEW RECREATIONAL ADVISORS TO ICCAT ANNOUNCED

American Sportfishing Association Vice President, Mike Nussman, the presidential appointed Recreational Commissioner to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT), announced today the appointment of five recreational advisors to the ICCAT Advisory Committee, a new academic advisor, and members of the panel of Technical Experts. The Committee helps the U.S. negotiating team develop strategies for hammering out international agreements on tuna, swordfish and billfish. The new recreational advisors are:

Appointed as an academic advisor to the Committee is Dr. Eleanor Bochenek of Rutgers University (New Jersey).

The following people were appointed as technical experts to assist the Committee including:

"I'm pleased that we have a strong team assembled to guide us on our important ICCAT issues," said Nussman. "The Commissioners are looking forward to working with them to make further progress on the conservation of these important species."

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