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New Jersey Outdoor Alliance Report

by John Toth
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association July 2016 Newsletter)

On behalf of the Jersey Coast Anglers Association (JCAA), I attended the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance (NJOA) meeting that was held on May 23rd. I also chaired this meeting as its president. The following issues were discussed:

JCAA's Tom Fote and I requested Dr. Eric Powell, Director, Science Center for Marine Fisheries, to attend this meeting and give a presentation on the background and goals of this science center to the NJOA.

As a quick background, Dr. Powell explained that the National Science Foundation gives grants to 75 research centers throughout our country that are involved in various economic initiatives that can benefit our nation. The Science Center for Marine Fisheries (SCeMFiS.org) is the only one of its kind in our country dedicated to providing research for technical issues that affect recreational and commercial fisheries stocks. It has a number of universities across our country at its disposal to conduct its research including the Virginia Institute of Science, University of Southern Mississippi and Rutgers. It is directly involved in two species that are of much interest to us:

Summer Flounder - The Science Center has Dr. Pat Sullivan from Cornell and Dr. Eleanor Bochenek from Rutgers involved in doing research to develop a new model that can give us a much better picture of the stocks of this fish. This new model will include the sex of both male and females, length of fish and discard information. All of this information is critical to giving us a better picture of fluke stocks that we currently don't have. It can be very useful in making a case that the severe reductions we have had in our quotas for fluke in the past are not necessary. Perhaps with the data from this new model, the current fluke regulations can be relaxed leading to a larger quota or a smaller size limit for fluke. The bottom line here is that it is not enough to say that there should be a bigger bag limit or a smaller size for fluke, you first need to have a model to prove to fishery managers that these types of changes can be made. This new model is expected to be completed during 2017. Both the Save Our Summer Flounder (SSFFF) and the JCAA have made monetary contributions to fund the development of this new model.

Black Sea Bass - Since this is the worst managed fishery (I think we all can agree on that), I asked Dr. Powell what the Science Center is doing about this issue. Dr. Powell indicated that just about every fishery manager freely admits that the current model we are using now to develop quotas for black sea bass is flawed, but despite previous efforts to change this model it could not be improved. Consequently, the draconian quotas we have all experienced for sea bass have been the norm for quite some time. However, the Science Center is involved in developing a new model based on a more accurate assessment of sea bass stocks that should be completed by this fall. Hopefully, we will see a better quota for black sea bass in the spring of next year.

What does it cost to be a member of the Science Center? To be a voting member in the Science Center for Marine Fisheries costs $25,000. Tom Fote indicated that it would be an asset for all recreational anglers to have a seat in the Science Center so that we can have a vote on the direction of its research projects. The $25,000 looks like a lot of money, but this cost would be minimized if a number of fishing clubs and associations would chip in to come up with this sum. (One of the NJOA delegates at our NJOA meetings has a saying that hits home on this issue and it goes like this: "If you are not at the table, you are on the table." The commercial industry has a voting seat in the Science Center.

Liberty State Park - Hudson River Fisherman's member, Arnie Ulrich, reported that our state has big plans to bring a hotel, amusement park and other commercial enterprises to this park that would totally change its relaxing place for visitors and anglers. His fishing club and other organizations have continually fought this renewal effort advanced by our state. (Most recently, our state has announced that it has abandoned its renewal plans). Many organizations have taken up this fight over the years, including the JCAA, and they all deserve our thanks for this victory!

Bonus Tag - There was a discussion about the Bonus Tag and it was reported that the Bonus Tag for striped bass will be in effect from September 1st to December 31st. This tag is free! Only one tag will be issued to an angler. To receive it and get more information about this program, download the application here.

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