FISHERIES MANAGEMENT &LEGISLATIVE REPORT

by Tom Fote

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association - April 1997 Newspaper)


Summer Flounder Scup & Sea Bass:

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Mid-Atlantic Council will hold public hearings on Amendment 10 of the Fisheries Management Plan for Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass. Amendment 10 only deals with Summer Flounder. Listed below are the ten preferred measures adopted by the Commission's Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass Board and the Mid-Atlantic Council including my comments on each alternative. At the next JCAA meeting, prior to the public hearings, we will be developing JCAA's formal positions on these measures.

  1. Modify the commercial minimum mesh regulations such that the minimum mesh provisions (currently 5.5-inch diamond mesh) apply throughout the entire net, and not just in the cod end. Comment: Without having the uniform mesh size throughout the net the regulations become unenforceable, simply by tying off the bag. There has also been a problem with some draggers tying off the cod end and letting the net fish with the smaller mess forward portion. Then when they pull the net, all the fish flood into the cod end, effectively choking off its ability to release undersized fish. JCAA has always supported one mesh size throughout for law enforcement reasons.
  2. Continue the moratorium on entry of additional commercial vessels into the summer flounder fishery. Comment: With all boats currently looking for a new fishery, the last thing we need to do is end the moratorium on permits for summer flounder. The bottom line is we do not need new boats entering this fishery.
  3. Remove the requirement that a vessel with a moratorium permit must land summer flounder at some point during a 52 week period to retain the moratorium permit. Comment: This is a difficult requirement to take sides on. There are pros and cons for either side of the argument. We will refrain from taking a formal position on this issue.
  4. Require that states document all summer flounder commercial landings within their jurisdiction that are not otherwise included in the federal monitoring of permit holders. Comment: Any thing that will help us get more accurate landings data is welcome. This would only be a small first step in trying to correct all the under reporting problems.
  5. Implement a provision such that any state could be granted de minimus status if commercial summer flounder landings during the last preceding calendar year were less than 0.1 percent of the total coastwide quota. Comment: I have always had concerns about de minimus status since it allows for some states to have different size limits due to their small total catch. The public has a hard time understanding the idea that from state to state you can catch different size fish. Unless we receive a guarantee that de minimus states will not be allowed to circumvent size and bag limits, I remain opposed to them.
  6. Prohibit transfer of summer flounder at sea. Comment: Yes.
  7. Establish a special state permit for party/charter vessels to allow the possession of summer flounder parts smaller than the minimum size. Comment: If this proposed rule is aimed at easing the burden of matching fish parts to fillets for those states charter and party fleets that are permitted to fillet at sea, then we support the position.

PUBLIC HEARINGS

March 25, 7:00 p.m. April 7, 7:00 p.m. April 7, 7:00 p.m
Dunes Manor Hotel NC State Aquarium MA Maritime Academy
28th Street & Ocean Airport Road 101 Academy Drive
Ocean City, MD Manteo, NC Buzzards Bay, MA

April 7, 7:30 p.m.

April 8, 7:30 p.m.

April 8, 7:00 p.m
Maritime Center Cornell Extension Office Holiday Inn
Kingsborough College 246 Griffing Ave. Routes 1 & 138
Manhattan Beach, NY Riverhead, NY S Kingston, RI

April 8, 7:00 p.m.

April 9, 7:00 p.m.

April 9, 7:00 p.m.
Joslyn Hall Cape May Extension Off. Quality Inn Lake Wright
Carteret Comm. College Dennisville Road 6280 Northampton Blvd.
3505 Arendell St. Cape May Courthouse, NJ Norfolk, VA
Morehead City, NC    

April 9, 7:00 p.m.

April 10, 7:00
 
Holiday Inn Holiday Inn  
I 95 & Frontage Rd 290 Highway 37 East  
Thames Road Toms River, NJ  
New London, CN    

THANKS TO OUTDOOR WRITERS

In looking over the local fishing magazines including The Fisherman, Eastern Outdoors and South Jersey Angler, we have seen a concerted effort to expand coverage of fisheries and conservation issues and to bring them to the forefront of their readers' attention. This has made the job of advocacy groups like JCAA easier because the information we work so hard to gather and disseminate has gained a much wider audience of recreational fishermen. It helps us educate them to what is really going on in the fisheries management arena and, hopefully gets them as mad as we are at times. The more concerned and involved the fishing public gets, the more support we can rally to gain acceptance of our positions on many critical issues. We would like to publicly thank these fine publications for their efforts and hope that together, we can put the additional space they have devoted to these important issues to good use.

Years ago, the local fishing magazines were fewer and while they did offer some coverage of fisheries issues, there was room for improvement. When I was a kid in Brooklyn, every newspaper in New York, there were ten NY papers back then, and most of the New Jersey papers, had a full-time, paid staff reporter/outdoor writer to cover fishing activity and they also were keen observers and commentators on fisheries problems and conservation issues. Today, not one of the remaining New York papers have staff reporters for coverage of fishing and fishing issues. Only The Star Ledger has a paid, staff outdoor writer, but the space they allot for fishing columns has decreased in recent years, also. It seems newspaper outdoor journalism is on a serious decline and it's certainly not because there isn't any interest in reading these columnists work. Just the opposite is true. With all the breaking news from the fisheries management front, there is a hunger for up-to-the-minute coverage of these important issues. More and more recreational fishermen are going to fisheries columns first and they are finding fewer of them and those that appear are not allotted as much space as they had in the past.

I can't tell you how many times I've talked to one of our local outdoor writers who have written major features on fisheries issues, only to have it deleted from the paper by some sports editor who simply doesn't understand the wide-ranging interest fishermen have in this stuff and simply can't get it through their heads that a large portion of their readership are recreational fishermen, not just golfers, football or baseball nuts. Personally, I can't remember the last time I even looked at one of the repetition articles on these sports, but I can tell you about every fishing column I've read in the last month, especially if it was on fisheries management issues.

It's time for JCAA members, and fishermen in general, to start calling and writing to their local newspapers to demand increased coverage of fishing. Let me draw a simple correlation. When I was attending ASMFC meetings, or fisheries meetings in general, recreational fishermen from other areas asked me regularly why New Jersey's anglers were so well informed and organized. The answer was simple....the fine outdoor writers that penned for our many local newspapers did a fantastic job of keeping our fishermen informed. This is not just a New Jersey issue, it is happening in other areas up and down the coast. The loss of space dedicated to fishing is a loss we should not have to endure. The next time you get a call from the local paper asking you to subscribe, tell them you would if they covered fishing in a more comprehensive manner. Call the editor and tell him what you think. Call the sports editor and remind him that fishing is the largest outdoor participation sport in the country and he should make space for expanded coverage. Newspaper people are profit driven and can be effected by the wants and needs of their readers, if those needs are made known. Let's do ourselves a big favor this year and start demanding better fishing coverage by qualified outdoor writers. It's in our own best interest and that of the resource.


ATLANTIC STATES MARINE FISHERIES COMMISSION NEWSLETTER

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is still not online. Tina Berger, who edits their newsletter, would accept requests to be placed on the mailing list.
Email: 74107.2632@compuserv.com

or mail to Tina Berger, Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, 1444 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC There is a lot of good information in this newsletter including a meeting schedule. It also highlights a different species each month. The March newsletter contained a profile of Atlantic Sturgeon. In your correspondence, tell her if you are interested in a particular species so you can receive press releases and other articles on those species. Hopefully, they will be online soon.


BLUEFISH

At the Mid-Atlantic Council meeting in February, the Council approved draft Amendment 1 to the Bluefish FMP. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will be voting on Amendment 1 on March 19th. There are questions that have not been answered in the Bluefish Fisheries Management Plan that must be considered before this plan can be approved. First, what are the normal stock levels? Second, how much spawning stock biomass needs protection so that if conditions are right the population will increase? And third, what is the spawning stock biomass below which we would severely inhibit reproductive potential and a stock recovery?

In order to answer any of these questions we must think about what has happened. The number of bluefish available in the 70's and 80's were the highest that anyone ever remembers. Their range expanded dramatically further to both the north and south. Unfortunately, the stock information being provided to the Council and Commission for review purposes only goes back to 1981, a time when the stock levels were at their highest. Consequently, the stock assessment today appears drastically low, by comparison.

The available stocks of bluefish decreased in the late 80's. This downward trend has continued into the 90's. Unlike other species, there was no dramatic increase in either the commercial or recreational fisheries. Actually, there were no bag limits in the 70's or 80's, as bag limits were first imposed in 1990 with no affect on slowing the stock decrease. Bluefish is not a species that takes a long time to become sexually mature. Not one scientist can point with any certainty to the reason why the stocks have decreased. When you look at the charts and at the fifty year average, the 1990 catches are still above the fifty year average. Before we implement the draconian measures that have been proposed for 1998, we must answer these questions. It is not fair to the recreational community and the industry to impose measures that will have a drastic effect on the industry without actually meeting its goals of conserving the stocks. The question I continually ask is, if we stopped all bluefishing tomorrow for three years, could you tell me if that would have a significant impact in increasing bluefish stocks to the historic high levels of the 80s. Not one scientist has been willing to answer that question on the record. Most of us started our saltwater fishing on snappers.

One of the management tools that is likely to be implemented is a 12 inch size limit for both recreational and commercial fishermen. This could be a big mistake economically for the future of recreational fishing and the industry. My father first introduced me to fishing by taking me down to Sheepshead Bay to fish for snapper blues. We never wasted any, bringing ever fish we caught and kept was brought home to eat. That is how I have introduced my nieces and nephews to saltwater fishing, taking them down to a dock on Barnegat Bay to fish for snappers. If I must stop teaching children to fish on snappers, at least guarantee me that the sacrifice will have a truly beneficial impact on overall stocks. Unfortunately, as it appears right now, it looks more like a 12 inch size limit is going to be imposed just so managers can look like they are doing something, not because it is the correct scientifically determined thing to do. Right now, the fisheries management community is unable to provide any encouragement that a size limit is the answer. In fact, they are still struggling with the simple question, why are bluefish stocks declining in our waters. I have a sneaky suspicion that the main reason bluefish stocks are down in the mid-Atlantic and northeastern states is due to the overharvest of critical forage species like menhaden, herring, mackerel, squid and other species. To correct that problem would require some serious fisheries management and NMFS, the Council and Commission are very hesitant to open that can of worms.


BLUEFIN TUNA

Since the tiny purse seine contingent of the bluefin fishery received a disproportionate allocation of the bluefin public resource back in 1970s under the pretext of conducting tagging studies, there has been little chance of changing their quota. Because of the hard work by some of the members of congress, with special kudos going to Congressmen Jim Saxton and Frank Pallone, there is a window of opportunity being opened that could allow for a correction in this long standing inequity in the allocation of this recreationally important species. What reason could have possibly been used to justify allocating over 1/3 of the total allowable catch to three families with 5 boats, almost double that of the entire small fish category that is the domain of most of the current 15,000 angling category permit holders have to harvest between them.

The JCAA will be sending a letter to our congressional delegation re-enforcing our position on this issue immediately. If we don't act NOW, this window might not be left open for very long. If it is allowed to close this year without resolution of the problem, it will be far more difficult to open it again in the future. Quick and decisive action on our part and strong support for those congressmen who are working to correct this inequity is a must. It is imperative that anyone that reads this notice contact your local congressional representatives, both Senate and House, Rollie Schmitten at NMFS, and the Secretary of Commerce William Daley and tell them that the purse seine allocation is totally out of proportion and should be reduced immediately. The goal is for any reduction in purse seine quota to be redistributed into the other categories, including upping the angling category.

William Daley, Secretary of Commerce Rolland Schimiten
Department of Commerce Assistant Administrator
14th and Constitution, NW, Room 35858 National Marine Fisheries Service
Washington, DC 20230 1335 East West Hwy.
Fax 202-482-4576 Silver Springs Maryland 20910
Phone 202-482-2112 Fax 301-713-2258
  Phone 301-713-2239

Do not put it off . Call, Write and fax today. Regardless of where you reside. Also mail or fax your congressional representatives and let them know how you feel.


JCAA APPLAUDS GOVERNOR WHITMAN'S STAND AGAINST SEWAGE DUMPING BY NEW YORK CITY

The Jersey Coast Anglers Association, the New Jersey Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs and these associations' 150,000 members applaud Governor Christine Whitman's decision to strongly oppose the dumping of raw sewage into the Hudson River and New York Harbor.

"Once again, Governor Whitman has remained true to her vow to oppose the dumping of environmentally dangerous materials into our already threatened estuaries and ocean ," said Thomas Fote, Legislative Chairman of the Jersey Coast Anglers Association. "We are proud to support her stance on these critical issues and are willing to fight, whenever and wherever necessary, to stop the folly of fouling the marine ecosystem as a quick fix for hazardous waste disposal."

"Governor Whitman has won the respect of recreational fishermen, environmentalists and the public at large by sticking to her guns on these issues in the face of strong political opposition," continued Fote. "Her unwavering stance on environmental issues, especially those pertaining to the marine environment, have helped turn the tide of the spoilers who continue to look to the ocean as a viable alternative for the dumping of both human and chemical wastes."

The City of New York had requested permission to open the valves on a sewage treatment plant to pump raw, untreated sewage directly into the Hudson River while repair work was being undertaken at the plant. Such environmental shortsightedness was once the norm, but as environmental groups continue to gain support for the public, such options are no longer viable solutions to even short-term problems.

"It would be an outrage to allow a short-term problem like this to reopen the flood-gates of sewage dumping after the many years of hard work that were necessary to reclaim the once polluted Hudson River," Fote said. "We've been able to stop the madness with strong political help from Trenton, and with the continue support of the Governor, we can build upon our successes and clean up even more damaged portions of the environment."


MUD DUMP

Vice President Al Gore has made a commitment to close the infamous Mud Dump by September 1997.

However the problem of disposing harbor dredge spoils still remains. Many different options have been

proposed, some of which are no better then using the mud dump itself. In the haste to come up with a solution Jim Tripp of the Environmental Defense Fund has sent a letter to DMMIWG expressing his concept of building borrow pits in Raritan bay and forming dredge spoil islands in the ocean.

These options are not acceptable and do not constitute responsible environmental stewardship. There are safe alternatives to dumping contaminated muds in the bay or ocean. First, New Jersey DEP should work on the root of the problem by preventing additional pollution and sedimentation. Second, we should use decontamination, toxins immobilization, or safe upland disposal to manage the contaminated sediments that we must dredge.

It is time to contact Governor Whitman and tell her not to allow implementation of solutions that in effect create the same problems that they are supposed to solve. Ask her not to allow new clean areas of our oceans and bays to be contaminated by moving tainted sediments.

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