The most pressing issue at the moment is the possibility that we may have a 19-inch minimum size for fluke in 2017 along with a 2 to 3 fish bag limit and a reduced season! The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Commission (MAMFC) held a public hearing at the Galloway Twp. public library on January 5th to take comments on their proposal for it. The place was packed with anglers, with many of them not being able to get into the room. Why the MAMFC continually holds their public meetings in a room with limited seating capacity is a mystery, especially on a hot topic like this!
Given the anger and frustration that anglers were feeling over this issue, this meeting was held in a relatively calm manner due to Tom Fote who chaired it and asked for restraint. MAMFC's Kirby Rootes-Murdy gave a presentation on why these new regulations are necessary. Anglers were asked by Tom to comment on the details of this presentation and then to state their personal comments on it. Not surprisingly, anglers commented that these new regulations will decimate the party/charter boat industry along with associated industries like tackle shops. Other comments included: why are we killing breeders since fluke that size are all female and that while most anglers follow the law, these new regulations will turn them into pirates and take undersized fish. The data to justify these regulations was questioned and even Adam Nowalsky, a Mid-Atlantic Marine Commissioner, indicated that the data presented to justify these new regulations is flawed! (At the request of the MAMFC, comments on these regulations were sent to it that are also in this newsletter. These comments were prepared by myself and JCAA's Paul Haertel).
The position of the JCAA is that these new regulations are not only injurious to the fishing industry, but they are not needed and that we want the status quo - 5 fish, 18 inches and a 125-day season. The JCAA is also working with other people and groups to oppose these terrible regulations and they include: the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance (NJOA), United Boatman, Save Our Summer Flounder and other groups and individuals.
I chaired a meeting on January 10th with many of the above individuals at the Shark Anglers Building in Herbertsville and Zach McCue from Senator Booker’s staff was invited to it. The purpose of this meeting is to get Senator Booker to support us in fighting these new regulations. Senator Booker is on the Commerce Committee that oversees NOAA and he has a voice with the incoming Trump administration's new Commerce Secretary. Hopefully, he can use his influence in this capacity to stop these regulations. Mr. McCue listened to what we had to say and will take this information back to the Senator. We will be setting up a meeting with the Senator at his Newark office in the near future to enlist his support. Before I go any further, I want to thank members of the Shark Anglers for allowing us to meet in their building! They set up the room for us and were very gracious hosts!
A conference call with DEP Commissioner Martin's staff (David Glass), and persons involved in stopping this 19-inch issue, was held on January 13th to gain the support of Commissioner Martin and possibly our Governor to stay with the status quo and stop the new regulations from taking place. We also want New York and Connecticut to also get on board like New Jersey to have a united front with the three states in opposing these regulations.
Working with our legislators, resolutions were introduced on January 19th in the NJ Assembly to stop the regulations and also requesting a new benchmark assessment to be done on fluke to get the data right. I have also heard that many of our legislators are up in arms over this 19-inch travesty and you will hear more about their support since our state's fishing industry is in jeopardy.
So, there are many efforts underway to halt the implementation of these horrendous regulations. Don't give up hope yet! More to follow on this important issue and the JCAA will keep you updated on it.
I want to also thank the Manasquan River Marlin & Tuna club for donating $1,000 to the JCAA's treasury. Ken Warchal presented this check at the JCAA's January Board meeting. Donations like this helps the JCAA in running its operations (mailings, newsletters, office rentals, etc.) in its efforts to protect our fisheries.