FISHERIES MANAGEMENT & LEGISLATIVE REPORT

by Tom Fote

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association October1997Newsletter)

FISHERIES SERVICE IMPLEMENTS FEDERAL WEAKFISH REGULATIONS TO COMPLEMENT COASTAL STOCK REBUILDING EFFORTS

SUMMER FLOUNDER REPORT

BALLOT PROPOSAL FOR OCEAN COUNTY NATURAL LANDS TRUST FUND

STRIPED BASS PUBLIC HEARING REPORT

Senator Louis Bassano statement on Addendum 2

Results Of The Joint Strategic Meeting On Striped Bass, August 25, 1997 Philadelphia, PA

Producer areas

Coastal areas

An Open Letter To All Recreational Fishing Advocacy Groups, Clubs and Individual Anglers

RESPONSE TO CRITICISM


FISHERIES SERVICE IMPLEMENTS FEDERAL WEAKFISH REGULATIONS TO COMPLEMENT COASTAL STOCK REBUILDING EFFORTS

To rebuild the overfished stock of Atlantic coast weakfish to healthy levels, the National Marine Fisheries Service will regulate the harvest of weakfish in federal waters from Maine to Florida, the Commerce Department announced today.

The fisheries service, an agency of Commerces National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has developed weakfish regulations for federal waters that complement state fisheries management rules for that species already in place and cooperatively managed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

According to fisheries service officials, biological indicators show that the weakfish stock is severely overfished. Therefore, the fisheries service has implemented the following measures in federal waters:

Commercial and recreational fishermen target weakfish in East Coast waters from Massachusetts to Florida. Fishermen catch about eight million pounds of weakfish annually, but marine fisheries scientists believe millions more could be taken if weakfish stocks are managed to a healthy state.

These regulations are expected to begin the process of rebuilding the stock in coordination with other measures implemented under the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Weakfish Fishery Management Plan.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is responsible for managing Atlantic coast weakfish in federal waters, while the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, consisting of 15 East Coast states, is responsible for managing weakfish in state waters.

The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council has the lead in developing a federal weakfish fishery management plan, but has been unable to do so because of workload constraints. In the absence of a federal fishery management plan, the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act allows the Secretary of Commerce to implement regulations in federal waters that complement the ASMFC weakfish plan in state waters.

The ASMFC fishery management plan already requires Atlantic coast states to implement measures similar to those proposed for federal waters, and requests supportive action by the Department of Commerce in federal waters.

The fisheries service developed the weakfish regulations in close cooperation with the Atlantic commission and its member states.


SUMMER FLOUNDER REPORT

There is a lot going on with summer flounder and some of it is pretty scary. Gary Caputi will be attending the Mid-Atlantic Council meeting on September 23rd and will have information for you at the JCAA meeting. It is important that every club that has an interest in summer flounder attend this meeting. We will probably need to form a summer flounder, scup, and sea bass committee and are looking for a chairman and volunteers. Please call me or Frank Richetti if you can volunteer for this committee. You can serve on a committee even if you are unable to attend the regular monthly JCAA meeting. You need only set aside the time for the committee meetings.


BALLOT PROPOSAL FOR OCEAN COUNTY NATURAL LANDS TRUST FUND

Mike Burke and I will not be able to attend September’s JCAA meeting since we will both be at the Striped Bass Board Meeting in Boston. I have asked William DeCamp Jr, from the Isaak Walton League to explain the following ballot proposal. I support this proposal since it will keep open space and, hopefully, provide public access. JCAA will be asked to take a position on this ballot question at the September meeting. Please read the following and come prepared to vote. I would also recommend that individual clubs sign on to this ballot proposal.

The Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund is a ballot proposal that would provide a source of long term funding for the conservation of natural land in Ocean County. The Board of Chosen Freeholders has placed this referendum on the ballot in the general election on November 4, 1997.

By approving the referendum, the voters would be recommending that the Freeholders create a trust fund to provide for the conservation of land in its natural state. The referendum would be advisory to the Freeholders, not binding upon them. The ballot question would give the voters of Ocean County the opportunity to say "yes" to conserving open space and to express a willingness to pay a small amount of additional property taxes to achieve this end.

A 1.2 cent increase in the property tax rate would raise a family's tax bill by twelve dollars for a house assessed at 100,000 dollars. This would raise approximately 3.8 million dollars annually for conserving land in Ocean County. At the discretion of the Freeholders these funds could be leveraged through long term bonding, as has been done in other counties.

Funds raised through the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund could be used to protect drinking water quality conservation areas, shoreline tracts, neighborhood nature areas, farmland, or any other type of natural land deemed appropriate by the Freeholders. As with all existing County holdings, appropriate public access would be allowed on all sites conserved.

Discretion on spending these funds would rest with the Ocean County Freeholders, who would appoint an Advisory Committee to offer non-binding guidance as to what tracts within the County should be prioritized for purchase. Although the fund would be designated for the purpose of conserving natural open space, the Freeholders would not be obligated to spend the money on any set schedule.

The voters in twelve other counties in New Jersey, including Burlington and Atlantic, have passed similar referendums with strong majorities. Monmouth County voters recently voted to increase funding fortheir similar county open space program, which has existed since 1990.

Over the last decade Ocean County has experienced the highest rate of growth of any county in New Jersey and among the highest in the nation. The Ocean County Natural Land Referendum seeks to maintain a high quality of life for the present and future generations so that they may enjoy the natural beauty of the land, a high quality of drinking water, protected natural habitats for animals and plants, and clean waters in Barnegat Bay and its creeks and rivers.

Your vote and the votes of your friends and relatives can help secure a protected environment for your children and for all generations to follow.


STRIPED BASS PUBLIC HEARING REPORT SEPTEMBER 16

One of these days I am going to get a T-shirt that says, "ASMFC, I TOLD YOU SO!" At the meeting of September 16 in Toms River, John Field was truly unable to do his job, through no fault of his own. The tables and charts that were sent out in the public hearing document were incorrect. Some of the options that were to be listed were not included in the original document. John Field learned this on a conference call on September 16, the day of the meeting. The problem discovered in the tables is a significant one and has a major impact on the proposals. Remember, this addendum was based on the assumption that the recreational harvest along the coast had exceeded the target mortality of .31 and was actually .37 for 1996. The Striped Bass Board, assuming it must react when one of the triggers of Amendment 5 is exceeded for one year, took action. A careful reading of Amendment 5 reveals that this was not necessary even if the original information was correct since a two year trigger is included. I cannot help but think this quick action was taken since they thought the problem was on the recreational side. On Tuesday night we were told by John Fields and Bruce Freeman that when the tables were reviewed after many questions were raised by the recreational sector and some state directors, the scientists discovered that the recreational sector had not exceeded the .31 mortality target and were right where we were scheduled to be. This means all the charts and tables in Addendum 2 of Amendment 5 must be adjusted. It also means the public hearings already held in six states were based on incorrect data. I know New Jersey will demand a new public hearing once the new tables are published and I assume the other states will as well. I assume that at the September 29th advisory meeting and the September 30th board meeting, we will receive the new information and hopefully look at different options.

I have been asked why the Strategic Meeting Proposal did not include a recommendation for the status quo as one option. At the July meeting I questioned the board repeatedly about the possibility of a status quo option until all the information could be reviewed and until the stock assessment workshop had completed the peer review of the VPA. Pat Keliher (Maine) and I convinced our state directors to make this motion. Unfortunately their status quo motion still allowed for changes in the producing areas to increase the commercial catch. The striped bass board would not even accept this motion and voted down the status quo. It was clear that this option would never get past the board with their current desire to cap the recreational fishery. Therefore, the Strategic Meeting Proposal dealt with other options rather than fight another losing battle. With these new statistics, status quo may become a reasonable option for 1998. When I say status quo, I mean a freeze everywhere, on every sector of the fishery. The only changes that might be allowed would be under conservation equivalency. It is difficult to know, until we see the new tables, what options will be viable and acceptable. We will need to gather information from all the participants in the original Joint Strategic Meeting and would gladly accept other participants as we formulate our response to the changes. Senator Bassano’s statement, included below, addresses not only the current problem but some ideas for long term planning, including the idea that producer areas and the coast need to work toward uniform size, bag limits and seasons.

Senator Louis Bassano’s statement on Addendum 2 to Amendment 5 of the Striped Bass Management Plan _

I was very disappointed as New Jersey’s Legislative Representative to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to find that the ASMFC is now recommending a cut in the recreational catch of Striped Bass along the coast. Three years ago, when the ASMFC declared Striped Bass a recovered stock and allowed an increase in the commercial catch from 20 - 70% along the coast, I voiced my strong objections. I warned that we should listen to the comments made at the public hearings by an overwhelming majority of the speakers and heed the advice of the Striped Bass Advisory Committee and limit the increase from 20 - 40% of the historical catch. The Technical Committee responded to my comments and others by stating that there was no problem with the growth of the stocks and there would be no problem maintaining this rate of growth for the foreseeable future. The Technical Committee actually produced statistics that suggested even larger growth in the stocks for 1996 and 1997. The only areas that have seen any increases in allocation since the implementation of Amendment 5 in 1995 are the commercial fisheries in the two producing areas of Delaware Bay and Chesapeake Bay. The recreational fishermen in Delaware Bay and the Hudson River have not availed themselves of the small fish allocated to them under Amendment 5, staying with a more conservative 28 inch size limit. In fact, along the coast, New Jersey has been at a two fish at 28 inches bag limit since 1990.

I have been told by the Technical Committee and the Striped Bass Board that the current problem lies in the harvest of large fish. They suggest that all the reductions come only along the coast in the large fish category. I feel that this response is flawed and unfair. I know for a fact in the producing areas of Hudson River and Delaware Bay that many fish are landed that are over 28 inches. Yet all of these fish are counted against the coast. According to data put forth by the Technical Committee when Maryland was forgiven taking an overage of 90,000 fish from the producing areas, only 45,000 of these fish were considered migratory. They justified this statement by adding that some males stay in the producing areas until they reach 32 inches and then begin their migration. In the transition from SSB to VPA this way of counting mortality has changed. We are now assigning mortality based not on where fish are caught but on the size. We need to decide what set of rules we are using to make decisions.

This controversy has only reinforced my belief that we should not have different size limits, seasons and bag limits along the coast and in the producing areas. The only exception should be closing the producing areas during spawning runs. This is why, under Amendment 5, I supported the overwhelming public demand for a two fish bag limit at 24 inches coast wide and in the producing areas. Almost every recreational group from Maine to North Carolina was in agreement with this recommendation. If this had been implemented we would not be having this discussion tonight. But the ASMFC continues to have different rules for different areas without evaluating the long term consequences of these decisions. They continue to expect the recreational sector to pay the penalty for their poor decision making. Let me be very clear about my feeling regarding any change in the commercial quota. This is not a recovered fishery despite statements made by the ASMFC. I will not consider this a recovered fishery until we can have realistic discussions about a return to the historical recreational quota of ten fish at 18 inches. I am certainly not recommending this quota but since this was the most restricted management plan in place in any state during the base years, it serves as a realistic guideline for what constitutes a recovered fishery.

I still feel that the best solution to this problem is to have one size limit for both the producing areas and the coast. When I read the JCAA recommendations I had no problem giving them my whole hearted support. I feel strongly that we should be directing our attention to achieving a two fish bag limit at 20 inches. However, I can support the JCAA and Joint Strategic Meeting on Striped Bass proposal to go to one fish at 28 inches or above and a one fish at a slot limit of 20 to 26 inches along the coast and in the two producing areas of the Delaware Bay and Hudson River. A change to a slot fish rather than second fish at 28 inches or above would meet the stated goal of the ASMFC to relieve the pressure on the larger fish. In addition, this would give us an opportunity to see how a plan that contained the same size limits for both the coast and producing areas would work. Right now, New Jersey anglers could take multiple fish at 20 inches in both the Hudson River and Delaware Bay but we have chosen not to do so. We wanted uniform regulations in our state to make enforcement possible. If the current advice of the Technical Committee is correct, we have sufficient small fish in both our producing areas to afford an allocation of these fish along the coast.

New Jersey has been looking at where Striped Bass are caught and kept. It is evident that 50% of the kept fish are now coming from the Cape May area. This is significantly different than ten years ago when most of the fish kept were from the coast and the mouth of the Hudson River. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if most of the kept fish are coming from the Cape May and Hudson River areas, these fish are predominately from our own producing areas and not from the Chesapeake Bay. I feel this has never been given careful consideration in any management plan. Until this is done, the anglers from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New York will continue to be treated in an unfair manner. It is also blatantly unfair to the resource since efforts at protection focus on fish from the Chesapeake Bay and different management strategies might be more successful for the other producing areas.

In closing, let me restate my three main points. First, we should be implementing bag, season and size limit that are the same for the coast and the producing areas. Until we reach the point that we could consider returning to the historical recreational allocation of 10 fish at 18 inches, there should be no increase in the commercial catch anywhere. Second, if we can’t immediately go to a baywide, coastwide recreational allocation of two fish at 20 inches, I endorse the proposal made by JCAA and the Joint Strategic Meeting on Striped Bass for one fish at 28 inches or above and one slot fish at 20 to 26 inches. This would meet the stated goal of the ASMFC to relive the pressure on the large fish. Third, if the ASMFC will not agree with my first two points and continues to consider reductions the first action should be a roll back in the coastal commercial quota to the 40% of its historic catch during the base years that was recommended by the advisory committee and in public hearing in 1995 and a roll back in the commercial catch in the producing areas to the 1996 levels. If any consideration is given to a reduction in the recreational catch, it is absolutely essential that these reductions be shared equally along the coast and in the producing areas. The recreational community from both the producing areas and the coast will not allow you to continue to pit these different areas against one another in allocation battles. As a member of the New Jersey Legislature who appreciates the value of the recreational fishery in my state’s two producing areas and the coast, I will not allow this to happen. Thank you for your attention to my comments.

Results Of The Joint Strategic Meeting On Striped Bass, August 25, 1997 Philadelphia, PA

I have enclosed information about the Joint Strategic Meeting on Striped Bass help on August 25th on Philadelphia. I would like to thank the representatives of all the organizations who participated in this meeting. We had a very difficult task since each of us came with the concerns of our individual states. I believe we reached the best agreement we could based on the available information. As I reported in an earlier article, some of the information has since changed and we will need to revisit our proposal after the Striped Bass Board Meeting on September 30th. As ASMFC tells us regularly, we are working with adaptive management. Now we may find it necessary to produce adaptive proposals.

Sponsored By: American Sportfishing Association, Jersey Coast Anglers Association, Coastal Conservation Associations (CCA)

Groups Attending:

American Sportfishing Association, Jersey Coast Anglers Association, Maine CCA, New Hampshire CCA, Massachusetts CCA, New York CCA, Virginia CCA, and Maryland CCA, New York Sportfishing Federation, Sea Party Coalition, United Boatmen of New York & New Jersey, Philadelphia Chapter of the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, Philadelphia Federation on Sportsmen’s Clubs, Homesburg Fish and Game, Connecticut/Rhode Island Coastal Fly Fishers, The Fisherman Magazine, United Sportsmen of Philadelphia, and Penn Fishing Tackle Mfg. Company

The purpose of this meeting was to discuss Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) Addendum II to Amendment 5 of the Striped Bass Management Plan. The goal was to establish a consensus between recreational user groups and to develop an alternative option for regulations for 1998 and 1999 to present to the ASMFC Striped Bass Management Board. None of the proposals currently in the ASMFC Addendum II Public Hearing Document were acceptable to the assembled group.

After presentations by fisheries scientists and discussions with the members of the ASMFC Technical Committee and staff, all the groups present, with the exception on the New York CCA, reached agreement on the following proposed regulatory option for 1998 and 1999 fishing seasons in an effort to meet the conservation goals of the plan while maintaining equity between coastal and producer areas and without damaging the recreational fishery.

Producer areas:

Recreational bag limits will be frozen at two fish per day with a minimum length limit of 20 inches, or conservation equivalent. This will remain in effect for both recreational and commercial groups.

Commercial harvest in the producer areas capped at 1997 quotas.

Coastal areas:

Recreational bag limits will remain at two fish per day.

One fish will be a slot fish of between 20 and 26 inches and one greater than 28 inches. The first fish retained will determine the length of second fish. (Example: First fish kept is 23 inches falling in the 20-26 inches slot size limit, therefore the second fish kept must be greater than 28 inches.)

The ASMFC technical committee will be asked to run the numbers associated with this option to ensure that this proposal will reduce the mortality of larger fish by the 1.3 million pounds recommended and will stay within the mortality targets established for 1998 and 1999.

Any additional mortality reductions required after the "numbers are run" would be shared by both coastal commercial and recreational anglers proportionally

An Open Letter To All Recreational Fishing Advocacy Groups, Clubs and Individual Anglers

The next round of striped bass regulations, quotas, bag and size limits are being developed now. The proposed options from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission are unacceptable and recreational advocacy groups came together to develop a working plan that we can bring to the upcoming public hearings. The participation of as many recreational groups, clubs and individual anglers at these public hearings, all demanding this new option be adopted is the only way we will prevail. If we do not unify behind this proposal, recreational anglers will be at the mercy of the ASMFC options. Please read this release and study the proposal. It is simple, meets the conservation objective and must be implemented. Only by working together and taking a proactive position in the management of striped bass will we receive equitable treatment and fair regulations.

The summit was held on August 25, 1997 in Philadelphia which brought together representatives of 19 recreational fishing advocacy groups from Virginia to Maine that share a common interest in the continued restoration of the striped bass stocks and the fair and equitable distribution of the allowable harvest to maintain the recreational fishery coastwide.

The groups discussed the options presented in a public hearing document published by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission for debate on Addendum II to Amendment 5 of the Striped Bass Management Plan, which will set the harvest goals, commercial quotas and recreational size and bag limits for coastal and producer areas. The options in the document were deemed unacceptable so the groups set about hammering out specifications that will meet the conservation goals of the plan without placing undue restrictions on the harvest of fish for coastal fishermen, while producer areas are permitted to harvest at higher bag limits and commercial quotas.

The results are contained on the following page. They were accepted and approved by all but one advocacy group in attendance, the New York CCA, and if implemented, will maintain parody between coastal and producer area fishermen, both commercial and recreational, without causing a reduction in the recreational coastal bag limit.

You must attend the public hearing near you and demand that this proposal be adopted. We will be presenting a letter to ASMFC Striped Bass Board at their meeting on September 30. If your group or organization wishes to sign on to this letter or for additional information contact: Tom Fote at Phone 732-270-9102, Fax 732-506-6409 or Email <tfote@JCAA.org.>. In New Jersey Contact Mike Burke JCAA Striped Bass Chairman at 732-398-1935.

For additional information on this subject and other states hearing dates check out our September Newspaper and meeting dates at the JCAA Home page <www.JCAA.org>

NJ Public Hearing September 16, 1997; 7:00 PM, Ocean County Administration Building Room 119 Corner of Washington St. and Hooper Avenue State Contact: Bruce Freeman (609) 292-2083


RESPONSE TO CRITICISM

While reading postings in Anglers on Line at http://www.streamside.com/chat/saltchat.html, I found a posting that was very critical of the Joint Strategic Meeting on Striped Bass Proposal. This posting was specifically critical of New Jersey and I felt I must respond. Another article by the same author appeared in the Long Island Fisherman and, I believe, requires me to make my response public in our newspaper. I would prefer that recreational anglers find a way to discuss and disagree without playing into the hands of those who practice a "divide and conquer" strategy. However, I feel I cannot allow the misinformation in both articles to stand with out a reply. I have included both of my responses for your information.

The purpose of the following is to respond to criticism that was posted on the Internet at http://www.streamside.com/chat/saltchat.html and article in the Long Island Fisherman September 18 Edition regarding the proposal of the Joint Strategic Meeting on Striped Bass in Philadelphia. This article was posted under a post I made that contained the proposal. That is why I felt I needed to respond

When we have concensus meetings, I fully expect there to be disagreement. That is the nature of trying to reach a constructive compromise. What I don’t expect is personal attacks, towards me or towards JCAA. But since the above posting was under my name, I have no choice but to respond to the misinformation it contains. I wish I had a chance to respond privately but since this was posted publicly without my knowledge and I was not sent a copy but was left to discover it on the Internet, I feel I have no option but to respond to everyone who read it.

Error number one is to call this the "Jersey Proposal". In response to requests from American Sportfishing Association, Coastal Conservation Associations and other groups, I did in fact write the original draft of this proposal in correspondence with several others representing many regions of the coast. Before I went to the meeting in Philadelphia, I did present this draft to JCAA and receive their support. I went to the meeting representing JCAA but also to present a proposal that had the support and encouragement of many of the representatives from other states. After much discussion, this became an amended proposal, which differs from the original in several areas. In final form it was agreed to by representatives from the American Sportfishing Association, Jersey Coast Anglers Association, Maine CCA, New Hampshire CCA, Massachusetts CCA, Virginia CCA, and Maryland CCA, New York Sportfishing Federation, Sea Party Coalition, United Boatmen of New York & New Jersey, Philadelphia Chapter of the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, Philadelphia Federation on Sportsmen’s Clubs, Homesburg Fish and Game, Connecticut/Rhode Island Coastal Fly Fishers, The Fisherman Magazine, United Sportsmen of Philadelphia, and Penn Fishing Tackle Mfg. Company. The final proposal represents the concensus of all these groups and it is in total error to characterize it as the "Jersey Proposal". In addition, it is insulting to the other groups who worked so hard to reach concensus and who are presenting this proposal at their state hearings as the concensus of the group less the CCA of New York.

Error number two is the statement "the proposal was designed as a "fish grab" on the part of certain people who were trying to prevent New Jersey from undergoing an approximately 20% cut in harvest from 1996 levels." In fact, under Amendment 5 New Jersey anglers could have been fishing in the Raritan and Delaware Bays at two fish at twenty inches since 1994. It is hardly a "fish grab" to voluntarily restrict your harvest over a period of several years. Our original proposal suggested we take some of the savings from the Delaware Bay and Hudson River and distribute them to the total coast, not just to New Jersey. I question where the 20% reduction figure comes from. It might exist in one of the many tables currently circulating but none of these tables have been approved at a Striped Bass meeting. We did not receive the public hearing document containing the tables until two days before the Philadelphia meeting and could not have been basing our original proposal on statistics we did not have at the time. My original charge was to craft a proposal that would meet the guidelines set for the technical committee by the ASMFC. The Technical Committee reported to the Striped Bass Board that the guidelines required a reduction in the catch of large fish (over 28 inches) by 1.3 million pounds. They also reported that an increase in the catch of small fish was appropriate scientifically due to the 1993 year class. If we are to base our proposal on science, we need to keep the reports of the Technical Committee in mind. To make the accusation that the proposal is based on "bad science" without specifically addressing the recommendations of the Technical Committee is to ignore the very basis of all the current proposals. It is not appropriate to pick and choose among the Technical Committee’s reports declaring some "bad science" and using others to your advantage. This is opportunism at its worst.

Error number 3 is quoting members of the Technical Committee when you don’t really understand what studies these quotes are based on. We have asked the Technical Committee to run the figures based on our proposal without using conservation equivalencies. This information is not available yet, though we have had several conversations with members of the Technical Committee about the design of this particular research project. We don’t know the results yet and it is inappropriate to make comments about this proposal when the requested information is not available to evaluate. What is quoted in the attached open letter is not correct. The author’s comments are based on old studies using conservation equivalency. I spoke to members of the Technical again today and was told clearly that they could not make any statements on our proposal yet because the new data we requested, which is vital to determining if our proposal meets the ASMFC guidelines, is not yet available. The 20% figure is a gross exaggeration even using the old data. The author of the attached letter was told by a member of the technical committee that using the old data based on conservation equivalency "might" result in a 15 - 18% season reduction, but even that is not certain. Let me just repeat, we have no figures from the requested study based on our new proposal and that was confirmed by both the Technical Committee and the Striped Bass Committee today.

Error number 4 consists of a blatant attempt to make New Jersey anglers the bad guys. The author states, "We do not believe that the stated rationale for the proposal--protecting larger fish--was the true motivation, and point to the fact that New Jersey never suggested that the "trophy" component of its coast-high 3-fish bag limit be eliminated in the name of conserving larger fish. A failure to make such a show of good faith makes the reasons for the proposal suspect, indeed." The trophy fish program in New Jersey is the fish gained by converting our commercial fishery to a purely recreational quota when JCAA was successful in making striped bass a game fish. We have fought hard to hold on to this commercial quota so it could not be allocated to any other state’s commercial fishery. The numbers we have proves that allocating to recreational anglers does not mean the fish will actually be harvested. The figures from 1996 show the highest catch ever recorded in the trophy tag program, a total of 4005 pounds of the 225,000 pound quota allowed. This is less than 2% of our total commercial quota, not exactly a "fish grab". I would challenge any state that still has a commercial striped bass fishery to show this kind of reduction or restraint.

I was told by the NY CCA representatives who attended the Joint Strategic Meeting in Philadelphia that they support New York’s current law which does not allow anglers to keep any striped bass under 24 inches along the coast. That is certainly their right. However, along with representatives from others states and other organizations, I believe that the current science requires us to look carefully at the Striped Bass Fisheries Management Plan and make decisions based on the best scientific information available. That is what we tried to do. Again, the scientists told us we must reduce the harvest on large fish. We have developed a proposal that we believe meets the scientific requirements and is fair to recreational anglers along the entire coast. There is sometimes more than one way to use scientific data and come up with other solutions to the present problem. Our plan is one way. For the author of the attached letter to criticize this proposal as "bad science, bad politics and bad policy" just because he supports another alternative does not serve the recreational community well. It is time to stop criticizing one another and base our decisions on the relative merits of any plan that meets the guidelines.

THIS WAS A FOLLOW UP RESPONSE TO NEXT POST ON THE INERNET

What Option 1 And Table 1b Actually Do

I had not looked at the tables in depth before because I do not agree with the way they were derived. One of the reasons the groups decided to have the Philadelphia meeting was to come up with other options rather than rely on these tables. We knew that these tables would get us into a state by state allocation battle and wanted to avoid this. As a group we decided not to allow the ASMFC to engage us in an unproductive state by state allocation battle. Since you have decided to base your recommendations on these tables, I took the time to study them more completely. I can not believe you are supporting table 1b. Table 1b does exactly what we have been fighting for years, it penalizes states that are more conservative. This table is based on 96 landings which rewards a state for killing more fish and gives the highest allocation percentage of any of the tables to New York. It may appear that an increase from 35 to 37% is negligible but it results in an increase of more than 200,000 pounds for the combined commercial and recreational fishery (based on a total quota of almost 11,000,000 pounds). In 1996 New Jersey harvested only 4005 pounds of the 225,000 pound commercial quota or less than 2% of what is allowed. This places us at a clear disadvantage in table 1b which, again, bases future allocations on the 96 harvest. Since New York harvested more of its commercial allocation in 1996, it gets a larger percentage under 1b.

We all realize that just because fish are allocated to the recreational sector that doesn’t mean that these fish will be caught or kept. New Jersey has proven this point with the trophy tag program. We can argue state by state conservation across the years but this serves no real purpose in making today’s decisions. I could use your recommendation to make statements about your motivation. I have come to believe this is not an appropriate or useful way to proceed. I do hope, however, that your decision was not based on the windfall using table 1b would give New York’s commercial fishery. I am asking you to review your decision with this new information and consider revising your recommendation. The ASMFC should not foster disagreements among the recreational interests by encouraging us to engage in a state by state allocation fight. And we cannot play into their hands by getting into this unproductive and destructive battle.

This will be my last response to your comments on the Joint Strategic Meeting on Striped Bass proposal. We all need to spend our time preparing for our state hearings and the Striped Bass Board Meeting on September 30th. There are people who would rather see us fight over details while they reap the benefit.

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