By Len Fantasia
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association - April 1997 Newspaper)
The Menhaden Project is going very well. Response to the petition at sports shows and individual club meetings has been tremendous. The article in the Fisherman Magazine looks great, and we hope this will have a real positive impact. To keep the pressure on and broaden support, we are issuing a press release and Fact Book to all the recreational and sports writers in the state and neighboring Pennsylvania. At this time, we are arranging for meetings with the Bait Industry to see if they can support our project now that we have some substantial backing. We would like to request that all of the member clubs send in a letter on their club letterhead stating that your clubs support the four points on the proposal.
THE MENHADEN PROJECT
The tremendous growth of the Menhaden Industry in New Jersey waters and their disregard for the regulations covering that fishery has led to a conflict between the Menhaden Industry and both New Jersey tourism and recreational fishing interests. Recent instances of abuse which destroyed the fall fishery for Bass and Blue Fish in Sandy Hook and Raritan Bays and the huge fish kills which fouled the beaches in Raritan Bay and New Jersey vacation communities in Long Beach Island, Island Beach State Park, Ship Bottom and Beach Haven made it clear that action was necessary. In response to this conflict, a group of recreational anglers from organizations in Atlantic Highlands and Spring Lake formed a grass roots action committee entitled The Menhaden Project.
Our committee only exists to deal with the current conflict between the recreational interests in New Jersey and the commercial menhaden bait and reduction industries. Our plan of action proposes the modification of existing State regulations to provide for the following:
The current regulations pertaining to the commercial harvest of menhaden were enacted after 12 years of recreational efforts to resolve similar conflicts in the past. Unfortunately, the tremendous growth of the commercial menhaden fishery, unforeseen at the time, and loop holes in the current regulations have allowed the intent of those regulations to be circumvented by commercial interests resulting in the present conflict. At the time the regulations came into effect, the NJ Bait Industry was netting approximately 3 million pounds of menhaden. Today, this industry takes over 36 million pounds of menhaden from our inshore waters. When you combine that with the 310 million pounds taken by the out-of-state reduction vessels, it is easy to see why the recreational angler doesn't stand a chance at an equitable share of the resource. We believe these recommendations can resolve the conflict which currently exists between the recreational and bait fishing interests in New Jersey and allow reduction fishing to continue as a viable fishery outside of New Jersey waters. The reduction industry, comprised of out of state boats, processes menhaden for fertilizer and fish oil and contributes little or nothing to New Jersey's economy. The current New Jersey Bait Fishery will have the opportunity to increase their harvest by having available the additional biomass currently harvested by the reduction fleet in New Jersey waters. The movement of the NJ Bait Fleet out of the bays, estuaries, and two miles off the shore line will eliminate the conflict between bait and recreational interests. To date, we have received the enthusiastic support and endorsement of the Jersey Coast Anglers Association, and our program is endorsed by the Recreational Fishing Alliance. Fishing clubs and organizations with whom we have had the opportunity to present our proposals have all agreed to support our efforts. Individual anglers and clubs interested in supporting our efforts are encouraged to contact us at The Menhaden Project, JCAA, 1201 Highway 37 East, Toms River, NJ 08753, and forward a self-addressed, stamped envelope which will be used to prepare a list of voters supporting the Menhaden Project and to forward a copy of the petition to you for your personal use.
Thank you for your support.
The Menhaden Project