President's Report

by John Toth
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association June 2020 Newsletter)

At the time I am writing this report, I have just learned that Governor Murphy has allowed the for-hire fleet to sail again with certain restrictions! This is such welcome news! The for-hire fleet lost the entire blackfish season during April and the prospect of not being able to sail during the May 22nd opening of the summer flounder season would be so economically devastating for these captains! With their being able to sail, these captains will start seeing income come in to pay fees for dockage, insurance, maintenance and other expenses.

While this is Great News for the for-hire fleet, it is also Great News for us anglers who have been cooped up in our homes for so long! We are looking forward to smelling the saltwater air and pulling in some nice fish! The prospect of our being able to go fishing on party/charter boats for sea bass now and summer flounder on May 22nd gives us some light at the end of the tunnel that our life is starting to look normal again.

How the for-hire fleet can endure this pandemic financially is the real question. A number of anglers, especially us older ones, may not fish for fear of catching this virus. As we all know, we do not see that many young people fishing since they do not have the time to do it with their increasingly busy schedules. Also, so many people have lost their jobs and they will not have the money to fish. Placing food on their tables is their first priority, not fishing.

What can the JCAA and other organizations do to help the for-hire fleet recoup the money they have lost so far and help them earn more money this season? If these businesses close and their related industries like tackle shops, most likely they will not open again.

Tom Fote has many legislative contacts and he has interfaced with a number of them to sign onto a letter that was sent to Wilbur Ross, our nationís Commerce Secretary, requesting financial assistance for not only the recreational fishing industry, but the commercial industry as well. Just about everybody has their hands out for money from the federal government and if the fishing industry does not ask for it, then it can get lost in the shuffle for these funds. This letter is a bipartisan effort and is in another section of this newsletter. It takes considerable effort to get legislators to sign onto a document like this with many phone calls to make and questions to answer. Tom deserves a lot of credit for making this happen!

I wrote an email to managers of our recreational fishing industry requesting their assistance to help our for-hire fleet by extending our fishing seasons and changing our fishing regulations so that captains have more days to fish and more types of fish that anglers can catch. For example, instead of the summer flounder season ending on September 19th, extend the season to September 30th. The black sea bass stocks have been rebuilt to 240% so allow sea bass to be caught on October 1st, just as the summer flounder season ends so that anglers have something to fish for. Why wait until October 8th for this sea bass season to open! As mentioned earlier, the for-hire fleet lost Aprilís blackfish season so allow blackfish to be caught during months when they are restricted. For example, allow blackfish to be caught in mid-September when the summer season is winding down. As you can see, there are a lot of options available to adjust seasons and regulations, but the whole point here is to have more days for captains to fish and more anglers to be on their boats so that they can earn enough money to survive this pandemic. The letter I wrote to fishing managers was turned into a JCAA Press Release and was sent out to the public to get their support for this effort. I want to thank JCAA member Ken Warchal for taking my email to fishing management and converting into a JCAA press release.

While the JCAA is trying to help the for-hire fleet with season extensions and changes to the regulations, the United Boatman and the RFA have petitioned Governor Murphy to let the for-hire fleet begin to sail ASAP so that they can financially survive during this time of social distancing. With their letter to Governor Murphy, United Boatman & the RFA also provided regulations that could possibly resolve the social distancing issues affecting the closure of the for-hire fleet.

With these different approaches by the JCAA and the United Boatman & RFA to get the for-hire fleet sailing again and with changes to the seasons and regulations, hopefully the for-hire fleet can financially survive COVID-19!

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