BLACK FISH (TAUTOG) COMMITTEE REPORT

By Patrick F. Donnelly

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association - April 1997 Newspaper)


At the March 6, 1997 meeting of the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council, the ASMFC Executive Director was present to answer questions concerning New Jersey's dissatisfaction with the Tautog Fishery Management Plan. Mr. Dunigan came to present a document which had been sent to all Tautog Board members, concerning the Commission's decision to postpone the implementation of the FMP, in the face of unreliable data.

Normally, a postponement like this would be met with protest by the recreational community, but the Tautog situation is unique. The original data that the plan was based on was not solid enough to pass statistical review. The most recent data is from the work of Pete Himchak, from the NJ Division of Marine Fisheries. His studies have shown that in NJ, the fishery is not in the dire straits that the Board had believed. In fact, the data seems to show that the fishery in NJ is already at the prescribed mortality before any reductions have been taken. If this is the case, it only goes to show that the plan put together by the NJ Marine Fisheries Council is not only the appropriate plan, but it is working.

For a lot of people, this has been another case of "New Jersey being New Jersey", that is, New Jersey protesting for the sake of protesting. Obviously, the data proves that to be a fallacy. However, do not believe that the politics will be pushed aside on this issue. The Commissioner from New York stated at the meeting in Hyannis that he would refuse to vote for a plan that would allow for NJ to fish at a different rate than NY, regardless of data. I guess that it is only in the dictionary where biology comes before politics.

The JCAA Tautog Committee has worked hard for the recreational angler to have a voice in species management. As chairman, I would like to take a moment to thank some of the people who have made some of these things possible. At the state level, Tom McCloy and Pete Himchack have worked hard to not only generate the information, but to articulate it in a manner which carries force. At the Commission level, Sen. Louis Bassano and John Connell are both vocal advocates for sensible management for anglers of NJ. Naturally, Tom Fote has continued his involvement, whether as a representative of Sen. Bassano, or as a recreational angling advocate.

As important as the above people have been, there could not have been any consensus in the recreational sector without people putting the species first. Any time that an issue came up, I could count on representatives from RFA, United Boatmen, Belford Co-Op, and others to contribute to the discussion. By no means do I consider this issue closed, but I do believe that there can be some optimism when the recreational community can work together with the commercial angler, and sit down with fishery managers in a non-confrontational setting. JCAA looks forward to this new sense of cooperation, and hope that it can carry over has worked hard for the recreational angler to have a voice in species management. As chairman, I would like to take a moment to thank some of the people who have made some of these things possible. At the state level, Tom McCloy and Pete Himchack have worked hard to not only generate the information, but to articulate it in a manner which carries force. At the Commission level, Sen. Louis Bassano and John Connell are both vocal advocates for sensible management for anglers of NJ. Naturally, Tom Fote has continued his involvement, whether as a representative of Sen. Bassano, or as a recreational angling advocate.

As important as the above people have been, there could not have been any consensus in the recreational sector without people putting the species first. Any time that an issue came up, I could count on representatives from RFA, United Boatmen, Belford Co-Op, and others to contribute to the discussion. By no means do I consider this issue closed, but I do believe that there can be some optimism when the recreational community can work together with the commercial angler, and sit down with fishery managers in a non-confrontational setting. JCAA looks forward to this new sense of cooperation, and hope that it can carry over into other management issues.

Dr. Patrick Donnelly is chairman of the JCAA Blackfish (tautog ) Committee and a member of Manasquan Fishing Club.

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