Letter to Regional Administrator NOAA GARFO on Artificial Reefs in the EEZ Off NJ

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association March 2018 Newsletter)
February 19, 2018 Mike Pentony, Regional Administrator NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region 55 Great Republic Drive Gloucester, MA 01930 Re: Comments on NJ SMZ Designation
Dear Mike,

Congratulations on your recent appointment to head up the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office (GARFO). JCAA is pleased to know of your extensive background in sustainable fisheries management and look forward to working with you and your staff. We’re also pleased that you hail from Point Pleasant, NJ and can relate to our local fishing issues and concerns.

JCAA is a statewide association of fishing clubs and organizations representing thousands of NJ recreational anglers and divers. Our mission includes seeking fair and equitable fisheries management, marine conservation, greater public access to shorelines and the promotion of responsible fishing practices.

As you know, the conflict caused by the commercial and recreational potting on the artificial reefs has languished for over 10 years. The NJ Reef Program was created in accordance with the 1984 Sport Fish Restoration Act. The objective of the Act is to restore “sport fish” stocks for the benefit of recreational anglers and divers. The Sport Fish Restoration Fund was established through payment of excise taxes by recreational anglers and divers on recreational products to manage and maintain the artificial reefs.

Pot fishing on the reefs is not consistent with the objectives of the Act. The presence of pots and pot lines interfere with and prevent anglers from fishing the very wrecks, reef balls and materials that they have paid for and deployed. The pot lines are also poorly marked and are a hazard to navigation. Funding to the reefs in federal waters was suspended because of these factors.

JCAA urges NOAA to comply with the NJDEP and MAFMC request to designate the 13 artificial reef sites in the EEZ off NJ as Special Management Zones under the provisions of Amendment 9 of the Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan (in unison with the states of Delaware, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and the Gulf states).

We therefore endorse and choose Alternate 2- Designate all 13 reef sites as SMZ. It is the only viable alternative to solve the conflict and restore funding.

Respectfully submitted, Mark Taylor, President
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