by Tom Fote
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association February 2004 Newsletter)
After writing the article Working Together in the NGO Community for the December JCAA newspaper, I began to think about more reasons why there is a lot of difficulty with groups and people working together lately both at the state and federal level. JCAA has been in the middle of some of these battles where former friends and allies are not talking or working together anymore. These battles get a lot of press but it is not the best utilization of our time. There are a lot of missed positive opportunities because of this.
This was not to single out any particular group but to discuss the problems. There is enough blame to go around and none of us are without blame. As a volunteer, I am concerned with the amount of time that I am spending on nonproductive battles. I could instead be spending my limited time on issues of substance that will make a difference. The same is true for the paid staff and volunteers at some of the other organizations.
What I was trying to say is that we should be a little more civil with each other and try to work things out. We really should make an effort to understand the other personís concerns and to address them. The comments I have received on this article have been very positive. This was especially true from the people who have been in the middle of these battles from all parts of the NGO community. They were happy someone said it out loud. I was trying to be constructive based on some of the lessons I have learned in over 30 years of doing this. It was not a ranting but an attempt to stimulate some productive dialog between groups.
Many people are afraid to put anything in writing since they feel it can be misunderstood or taken out of context. We communicate much differently than we did 10 years ago. Face to face meetings and phone conversations are interactive and seem to be more civil. Looking into the face of someone or talking to them gives you a better understanding of how they are really feeling and tends to make you think a little more about what you are saying. Letters and articles take time and you have the opportunity to read them over again before you finish and do a lot of changes. You might give a letter or article to someone else to be proofed and receive comments.
Emails and some internet conversations are not like that. For the most part they are instantaneous and done without a lot of deliberation. The emails are short and sometimes they are your first thoughts on a subject. People do not look them over and think about how they would sound to another person. I do not know how many emails there has been that I have sent back and asked the person to read his or her email as if I were sending it to them. It is surprising how many apologies I have received or how often people say that is not what they meant and then they restate it in a more productive way. I have learned not to send an email written when I am upset but to let it sit and read it over again and try to think about the impact. I need to consider whether I am trying to pick a fight, discuss an issue or bring about a solution to a problem.
It seems to be even worse when people do not use their real names and feel they can say whatever they want. They really do not want to discuss an issue but, instead, look for fights or an opportunity to prove how right they are and how wrong you are. Sometime they just want to be the center of attention. I call these internet bullies. Some of the most negative comments and the strongest attacks I have received have been from people who will not say anything to me in public. One individual has made numerous attacks on me on the internet but has never called me or showed up to a meeting to even ask a question. This does not lend itself to open discussion or a solution to the disagreement. I feel sometimes as though that is not what these people want any way and that they are just looking to make attacks to get attention.
Writing this has also been helpful for me in doing a little reflection on my interaction with people. After spending two weeks in Hawaii I am also learning to hang loose a little more.
Dr. Eleanor Bochenek, Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory, Rutgers University is conducting a survey of key New Jersey fishing tournaments on behalf of the JCAA. The survey will collect catch, effort, socioeconomic data, and environmental information from tournament participants. We will sample the JCAA Fluke Tournament, the Governorís Cup Tournament, a shark tournament, an offshore tournament, and a striper tournament in 2004. We are asking any of the JCAA clubs that has a tournament to participate in the study and to offer a special prize that will be awarded to one of the tournament participants. The JCAA will handle the mailings of the survey. All tournament lists will remain confidential and will not be for sale.
The requirements for a tournament to participate in the study is that it must have at least 100 boat entries or over 200 participants if it is a surf tournament and must have a history of over five years. If your club is interested in participating in the study, please write a one pager that describes your tournamentís history, the number of participants for the last three years and the date of your tournament in 2004. The one pager must be sent to the JCAA office by February 28, 2004. The JCAA Survey Committee, comprised of Tom Fote, Phil Celmer, and Eleanor Bochenek, will determine which tournaments will be selected. Selections will be made on March 31, 2004. If you have any questions, please contact Tom Fote, Tom Siciliano, or Eleanor Bochenek (609-898-0928 ext 12).
There will be a paid internship available starting in April 2004 for an undergraduate student to work with Dr. Bochenek on the tournament survey. We are looking for a student with the following skills: can identify fish, exhibits people skills, can work some weekends, displays knowledge of recreational fishing, and possesses computer skills. The internship is hourly, hours are flexible to fit an undergraduate schedule, and will run from April 2004 through January 2005. The Intern will be located at the JCAA office. If you know someone who would be interested in this internship, please contact Eleanor Bochenek (609-898-0928 ext 12).
In case some of you did not get the January JCAA Newspaper or were busy with the holidays we have reprinted two articles from last month
Bruce Freeman and I left the December 2002 striped bass meeting on Amendment 6 feeling certain things had been done. We believed no major changes to Amendment 5 were being considered except for an increase for the commercial fishery.
Because of an interpretation of certain motions made at the December 2002 meeting, the draft amendment that went to public hearings and arrived at my desk for the February 2003 meeting had removed 144 references to producing areas. This led to a discussion in February 2003 about whether or not there was such a thing as a producing area. To get around this, motions were passed to exempt North Carolinaís producing areas and the producing area of the Chesapeake Bay. A motion was also passed to exempt the commercial fishery in the Delaware Bay on 20-inch fish.
There was a lengthy discussion at the February 2003 meeting and there was major confusion about how we reached this dilemma. States and agencies stated for the record that they never intended to eliminate the producing area status. And they also said their intention was not to change the current regulations in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. After saying that, the Striped Bass Board approved Amendment 6, which did exactly the opposite of what was the stated intention. In other words, Amendment 6 significantly reduced the recreational catch of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, allowed for a 43% increase in the commercial fishery, supported the opening of the EEZ for striped bass fishing and did not reduce the catch of any other state recreationally. After much discussion many states promised to address this shortcoming at the next meeting scheduled for June 2003.
When I arrived at the June 2003 meeting, those promises were forgotten. To address my concerns, the Striped Bass Board stated they would do an addendum to Amendment 6 but gave no clear timelines. I returned to New Jersey and discussed these issues with NJ DEP Commissioner Bradley Campbell and Marty McHugh, Director of New Jersey Fish and Wildlife. At the August meeting, since there was no striped bass board meeting, Marty McHugh and I made an impassioned appeal to the policy board to direct the striped bass board to review this issue and try to get some relief for New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. The policy board sent our concerns to the striped bass board for review. At the December meeting in New York City, the striped bass board overwhelmingly voted to deny New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware any consideration under Amendment 6. In effect, they said Amendment 6 stands and it is okay to discriminate against individual states.
What does Amendment 6 actually do? It tells recreational anglers who fish in the producing areas of New Jersey and Pennsylvania that they should reduce their catch so the commercial fishery can be increased by 43% and allow for the opening of the EEZ for people who fish offshore. It is clear that the anglers of New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania will be the only anglers to shoulder the burden of these changes. Other commissioners continue to offer verbal understanding and sympathy but do nothing to remedy the problem. It matters not one bit that their original intention was. The anglers from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware must live with the results of these changes. And the results are that commercial fishermen will see an increase, some states will be allowed to expand their fisheries and the anglers in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware and New York anglers above the George Washington Bridge will be the only anglers to see a reduction. This is totally unfair.
After the meeting there was a suggestion that New Jersey and ASMFC find a way to work this out. I have been hearing that same story since last February. I am hoping that ASMFC and the Commissioners have an epiphany and make a proposal to address the unfairness of Amendment 6. My experience suggests this will not happen and, therefore, I am recommending that Governor McGreevey sue the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to redress our grievances about the Striped Bass Plan and the discriminatory nature of Amendment 6. It is also my recommendation that we include weakfish in this suit since the last amendment to that plan was even more discriminatory.
In the weakfish amendment that was passed last year that was implemented for 2003, the recreational anglers of New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania had a reduction in the weakfish fishery. When we went to public hearings, the plan discussed many reasons for reductions in the recreational sector. New Jersey constantly complained about the poor rationale for the reduction and demanded to know the real reason behind the proposed reduction. Our demands were ignored until after the public hearing process was completed. Only then, a week before the final meeting, were we told that the tables that were done in 1996 did not accomplish the proper reduction for the recreational fishery. I can understand that. If a prior table was set to accomplish a 32% reduction but in reality only accomplishes an 18% reduction, I understand there is some validity to moving forward with an amendment to the plan. The other reason given was since there is no quota, the recreational catch continued to expand its percentage of the total weakfish catch.
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