Report on Meeting with John Bullard

by John Toth
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association May 2017 Newsletter)

John Bullard, Administrator, U.S. Department of Commerce, holds an important position in the decision-making process concerning fishing management issues. He has on many occasions took positions that went against the best interests of recreational anglers.

On April 3rd, he hosted a meeting at the Manasquan Reservoir Visitor's Center with representatives from the recreational community to hear our concerns about a number of issues, and we most certainly have enough of them! This meeting was not recorded. When I go to important meetings like this, I want to know what are the next steps, who is doing them and what are the timelines! When this meeting broke up, I had the distinct feeling that while good comments by us were being made, nothing would come from them! I did not want to see this happen and I wrote the following letter to Mr. Bullard on JCAA letterhead that requests him to comment on some of the major issues raised at this meeting.

Mr. Bullard,

I want to thank you and your staff for meeting with representatives from fishing organizations and related industries on April 3rd at the Manasquan Reservoir Visitor's Center as part of NOAA's Round Table Discussion to listen to the concerns of anglers. A number of major issues were raised at this meeting and I would like to have your comments on just a few of them.

  1. We have been experiencing cutbacks on our fishing quotas for just about every fishery with the resulting loss of related fishing industries such as tackle shops, charter/party boats and even the loss of anglers buying new boats since they have diminished fishing opportunities. The 19-inch fluke New Jersey's anglers are currently contesting comes to mind. When we protest these continual cutbacks, the reply we always receive is that these quota reductions are based ‘ON the Best Science Available.’ At this meeting, it was pointed out to you your own statistics show that black sea bass stocks have increased 230 %, yet we have not received a commensurate increase in the quota. An increased quota would allow us to target sea bass for a longer season thereby reducing pressure on other species such as fluke. It seems to us that this is a ‘Tails you lose and heads you lose’ no matter how the coin is tossed! If your own statistics tell you that the quota for sea bass can be easily raised, then why has this not been done? I understand that the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is going to consider raising this quota in the near future. As one person indicated at this meeting, NOAA has a "Loud Voice" when it comes to fishing managers making these types of decisions. We all would appreciate your using NOAA's voice to significantly increase the black sea bass quota for our fishing industry.
  2. The data used to justify cutbacks in our fisheries is seriously flawed and this was pointed out to you. As an example, the data showed that New Jersey's anglers caught a lot of fish after Hurricane Sandy, even though a large number of our boats were destroyed and many marinas closed. Other examples like this abound such as days with high winds that keep boats in the marinas, yet high catches of fish are recorded. This bad data goes into the models used for quota development and bad data in the models produces bad data out. This is a continuing and major problem that needs serious attention by your staff.
  3. Also, pointed out at this meeting, it is the continuing loss of marinas, decline in boat registrations, etc., that shows our fishing industry is in a downward spiral over the years. NOAA has to take a serious look at this decline in fishing - related businesses and examine its role in contributing to this decline by its management that continually pursues decisions that damage the recreational and commercial fishing industries. What can NOAA do to reverse this downward trend? As also mentioned at this meeting, we are looking to be a Partner with you and we are looking for a Roadmap from you to follow so that we can both work together on resolving these outstanding issues.
John Toth President, Jersey Coast Anglers Association (JCAA) President, New Jersey Outdoor Alliance (NJOA) President, Salt Water Anglers of Bergen County (SWABC) CC: Mr. Wilbur Ross, U.S. Commerce Secretary
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