FISHERIES MANAGEMENT & LEGISLATIVE REPORT

by Tom Fote

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association January 1998 Newsletter)

MORE ON MASSACHUSETTS AUDUBON LAW SUIT: Two Letters

MORE ELVERS ON PARADE

OCEANS ACT OF 1997 H.R. 2547 Bill Summary

BARNEGAT BAY ESTUARINE PROGRAM UPDATE

Position Statement on Summer Flounder, Sea Bass and Scup


MORE ON MASSACHUSETTS AUDUBON LAW SUIT: Two Letters

Following are two letters. One is from Frank Richetti, president of JCAA and the other from Dr. Carl Safina, director, Living Oceans Program, National Audubon Society.

CLARIFICATION OF JCAA’S EDITORIAL ON "JCAA RESPONSE TO MASSACHUSETTS AUDUBON LAW SUIT ON BLUEFIN"

In response to questions concerning "JCAA Responds to Massachusetts Audubon Law Suit of Bluefin", while we recognize the need to further explain the numbers we used, we feel it is equally if not more important to first restate the intent of the editorial. JCAA's concern is with Massachusetts Audubon and all others who blame the recreational community for problems in the bluefin tuna fishery while continuing to support commercial harvest. We can argue about number forever, but the basic premise will not change. If we are truly concerned about overfishing the bluefin tuna stocks, then we must cut back or eliminate the total Western Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Quota, not just restrict the recreational harvest.

Under existing regulations, the U.S. must provide opportunity for the full utilization of the ICCAT quota. Any plan which restricts the recreational harvest further, simply moves that portion of the quota into the commercial catch, which is nothing more than an allocation issue. Eliminating only the recreational fishery does not in any way lessen the total impact on the bluefin stocks. As recreational anglers we have voluntarily given up the right to catch and sell bluefin tuna. The only tuna we keep is for personal consumption. If our portion of the quota is moved into the commercial category, only Japanese will be eating U.S. caught bluefin.

Please note that you are in error attributing this editorial solely to Tom Fote. The posted comments were taken from a document worked on jointly by many members of JCAA and Tom Fote’s input was limited to providing some information. When Tom writes as JCAA Legislative Chairman, he puts his name on the article as the contact. The majority of JCAA's official position papers are joint efforts and reflect a consensus of JCAA’s member clubs.

As President of JCAA, I want to provide some additional clarification about some of the numbers we used in the original editorial. It should have said "ICCAT", not " NMFS", had allowed for the harvest of 11,000 giant bluefin tuna in the Western Atlantic. Where JCAA used the statistic of "over 11,000 bluefin tuna caught as giants and sold commercially in 1990", we are referring to the total catch in the Western Atlantic. Since the quota was considerably larger in 1996, the harvest of giant tuna obviously increased from 1990 levels.

When most people count up the giants and large medium harvested, they fail to add in the giants and large mediums caught in the angling category in their tabulation of total U.S. harvest. A lot of fish are caught in the North Carolina winter fishery where "no sale" is allowed. There is a single quota for the western Atlantic that is divided between Canada, the United States and Japan, since they are assumed to be from the same stock. This is the same way we set up a quota between states on summer flounder. Canada and Japan only harvest their quota in giants since they have only a commercial fishery and allocate no portion of their catch recreationally. That means all the tuna harvested in Canada is shipped to Japan. The only juvenile fish being caught under this quota are harvested by the United States. When JCAA talks about 5,500 fish, we are referring to the fact that only 8% of the total quota is allocated to the small school fishery. This category makes up the majority of blue fin catch in the NJ/NY bight. When we talk about the rest of the angling category, we are referring to the large school and small mediums which are mainly harvested in New England and in the winter North Carolina fishery. This is not the category that Massachusetts Audubon has been questioning. There are also real questions about the data for the large school and small medium category in the New England fishery. There is concern that New England fishermen are overestimating the recreational catch to provide for an earlier close to the fishery. We received information that New England captains were advised in a letter to overestimate their recreational catch just to shut down the recreational sector. There was testimony on this point at previous NJ public hearings.

There were additional comments concerning the never ending discussion about harvesting immature fish. The debate always centers on the science of sexual maturity. This argument is truly a red herring that keeps coming back to justify shutting down the small school angling category. Right now the current swordfish size limit for import and commercial catch and almost all Mako sharks sold, are far below sexual maturity, yet no one from the commercial industry or Massachusetts Audubon, raises these as issues. We all need to be consistent in our view of science and quit taking scientific fact out of context to support our own financial. It is easy for us to infer that Massachusetts Audubon was practicing this type of scientific selectivity in their lawsuit. If Massachusetts Audubon and others are so concerned about conservation, they should support the JCAA proposal of a 50% reduction of the total western Atlantic quota which would have an equal impact on recreational and commercial interests. To rebuild the stocks faster, we might even support and work with others to get a short term total moratorium on bluefin tuna. But to simply take sides in an allocation battle, which is really what this lawsuit does, is out of place coming from a supposed conservation group.

Frank Richetti
President
Jersey Coast Anglers Association

Email JCAA received from National Audubon commenting on Massachusetts Audubon’s Lawsuit

Dr. Carl Safina gave JCAA permission to post this letter.

Date: Fri, 21 Nov 97 22:05:10 -0500

From: Carl SAFINA
To:
jcaa@jcaa.org
Subject: Re: JCAA Response To Massachusetts Audubon Lawsuit on Bluefin

In a recent e-mail on the Mass Audubon bluefin tuna lawsuit, Jersey Coast Anglers said "We are very disappointed that, to date, no true conservation group has come out and called this suit by Mass. Audubon just what it really is-a commercial fishing sponsored attempt at usurping the remainder of the ABT harvest for their own financial gain." JCAA apparently was unaware of a letter I sent about a week earlier, which is reproduced below:

Nov. 7, 1997

Susan Jones, Editor
Commercial Fisheries News

Dear Ms Jones,

Massachusetts Audubon's lawsuit over landings of small bluefin tuna has helped expose the enormous inconsistencies in the public rhetoric of New England's tuna fishers.

Catching small fish certainly can't be helping prospects for bluefin recovery. But if it's bad to catch small fish from a depleted population, why is it good to be catching breeding fish? And if Mass. Audubon was really serious about wanting to protect fish until they breed, their lawsuit would include "large mediums"; bluefins just a year or so away from their first breeding and therefore potentially of much more biological value than younger individuals. Their lawsuit makes no attempt to protect this very important age class of immature fish.

Another inconsistency: many commercial tuna fishers continually insist that tuna are recovering and that quotas can and should actually be increased. If so, then catches of small fish are not so problematic. So why the lawsuit? Is it possible that despite the rhetoric, New England's tuna fishers know how depleted the bluefin really is? Or is this just an attempt to grab quota from another region?

East Coast Tuna Association certainly does not care about catches of small fish, because when I first proposed no-sale of juvenile bluefins, they fought the proposal. Now that they can't sell them, they want that part of the quota liquidated and put into fish they can sell-fish which include sexually immature large mediums.

On the one hand, the East Coast Tuna Association continually claims that further restrictions on fishing in the west Atlantic cannot help the bluefin tuna, because catches in the Mediterranean are the problem. Yet they praise this lawsuit aimed at anglers, saying it "will substantially advance the cause of conservation of Atlantic bluefin." Apparently, either East Coast Tuna really does know that the west Atlantic stock is separate and that what is done here on this coast makes the difference, or they just want to put the mid-Atlantic recreational tuna fishing industry out of business and take the fish themselves.

All in all, the Mass. Audubon lawsuit, which was instigated by one of their attorneys who just happens to fish in the general category, essentially amounts to a demand to "Give them none, give us more." I do not believe that the staff and members of Mass. Audubon fully understand this.

Your article also states that I have been at the forefront of a campaign to "slash U.S. quotas to the point where the commercial fishery would be unable to survive." Actually, I and my staff analyzed landings and published a report in 1993 showing that the quota could be halved as part of a recovery plan and the remaining half reallocated such that real commercial fishers who rely on bluefin for a significant part of their income would get the same number of fish they have been getting all along. Many breeding-age bluefins are landed by dentists, car dealers, and other people who are paid handsome full-time wages in non-fishing professions (including at least one lawyer for Mass. Audubon). Very few of these people land more than one fish each year, but there are so many of them that it adds up. Every fish these people land takes money away from those who are dedicated to making a living fishing. People who really care about the "survival of the commercial fishery" should be concerned about 1) recovery of the stock and 2) allocating fish to those individuals who need the fish to pay bills. As far as I know, my program has been the only one to try to consider both of these things. But so far, the greed and rhetoric in this fishery has made such a plan politically infeasible.

Sincerely,
Carl Safina, PhD
Director, Living Oceans Program
National Audubon Society


MORE ELVERS ON PARADE

I testified at a NJ Assembly hearing held on Monday, November 17, 1997 about A3226, the elver bill. The Agriculture and Waste Management Committee, chaired by Assemblyman John Gibson, decided to disregard our concerns and move the bill forward for consideration by the entire Assembly. The A3226 then moved on to Appropriations Committee where they amended the bill to allow for higher fees. You need to contact your legislators, both in the Senate and the Assembly, and urge them to vote no on this bill (A3226 or S3246) and to support NJ Federation of Sportsmens Clubs and the JCAA on this issue. .. It is scheduled to go before the Senate Environment Committee. Senator Singer is Vice Chairman of that Committee and Senator McNamara is Chairman. The other members of the committee are Ciesla, Baer, and Maccinnes. Please contact them directly, particularly if you are in their district. We want to make sure this legislation is not passes in the lame duck session. Some newspaper articles have described this bill as a conservation bill since it raises the fees. That is far from the truth. There is so much money to be made in this fishery that the fees will not dissuade any one from catching as many elvers as possible. No where in this bill is there a cap on the elver fishery. There is further explanation in the two letters included below. Any suggestion that this is a recreational vs commercial issue if false. The legitimate commercial interests have contact JCAA and support our position completely. If you have any questions, please call me (732-270-9102) or George Howard (908-735-5046). We must protect the eels for future generations. The letter enclosed below was sent to Governor Whitman, the commissioner for DEP and every legislator.

Dear Senator ,

The purpose of this letter is to express our concerns about Bills A3226 and S2346 which would allow an elver fishery. These bills, sponsored by Assemblyman John Gibson and Senators Cafiero and Singer, have met with serious opposition from Jersey Coast Anglers Association and the NJ Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs. We have had conversations with the NJ Audubon, Jersey Shore Audubon and the American Littoral Society and you should expect to hear from them individually to express their opposition to these bills.

In our previous letter, a copy of which is enclosed, we listed some of our reasons for opposition to these bills. After attending hearings in the Assembly, we realize that we need to clarify some points. Assemblyman Gibson has stressed that his bill is a conservation move and would protect the elver fishery and the resource. Nothing could be further from the truth. If no legislation is passed, the current DEP regulations, which take effect January 6, 1998, raises the minimum size for the eel fishery to six inches and only allows for an experimental elver fishery. This effectively closes the elver fishery indefinitely unless some legislation is passed. This is the conservation move. JCAA, the Federation and the other named groups do not oppose harvesting enough elvers to support an in state elver aquaculture. This would take no more than a few thousand pounds of elvers per year and should be able to sustain itself. It would have little if any long term impact on the entire ecosystem. This is significantly different from the bill sponsored by Assemblyman Gibson. His bill only raises the fees to fund DEP for regulating legal harvesters and discourages out of state license holders with a high license fee. It may increase the illegal fishery but in no way will it decrease the overharvesting. This bill does not place a cap on the number of elvers harvested and DEP does not currently have any way to enforce a quota system if one did exist. We need to take a lesson from the other states along the East coast. They have learned from the errors of many other countries whose eel stocks are completely depleted due to overharvesting of elvers. This knowledge has resulted in action that has closed the lever fishery in most states. In the few states that do allow an elver fishery, it is very limited and is on an experimental basis. For example, Virginia allows only 1,400 pounds maximum per year with only 250 pounds was actually harvested last year. I would be glad to send you regulations from all these states if you would like to review them.

There is no real research that can tell us what role the elvers play in the entire ecosystem. Remember, elvers are not just in brackish water but migrate through all three ecosystems (saltwater, fresh water and brackish water). We cannot afford to repeat past mistakes and allow for the harvest of immature fish without knowing what the long term results will be. This type of "gold rush" thinking has been shown to have negative results again and again. When this happens the traditional fishermen, both commercial and recreational, suffer and this has far reaching negative economic consequences. The biggest supporters for our actions regarding this legislation are the traditional commercial eel fishermen who have been potting eels for generations. Most of the people currently cashing in on the elver marker are not traditional commercial fishermen but people looking to make a quick buck regardless of the long term consequences to the ecosystem or the economy.

As an example of the kind of consequences we fear, let me offer you the disappearance of the whiting fishery. Until the late 1980’s, there was a steady fishery for whiting in the Mud Hole and along the coast by both commercial and recreational anglers. However, when an overseas market for small whiting developed, the opportunists basically fished the whiting into collapse. Not only did this collapse have an impact on both the commercial and recreational anglers, the party boats, marinas and fishing piers where whiting were previously caught, but every species that ate whiting, including bluefin tuna, yellow fin and cod, steadily declined or went to eat elsewhere. The impact continues to spread as the anglers for these species and the businesses that serve them see this new decline in those resources. This is what happens when we allow overharvesting without having complete science and knowing the long term consequences on one species on the ecosystem. We cannot allow this to happen to the eel fishery.

JCAA is opposed to A3226 and S2346 in their present form. We do not want these bills to come to a vote during the current session. We need legislation that will protect the eel fishery until the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission puts a management plan into place. This will not happen before fall 1998. JCAA and other groups are willing to meet with you and Assemblyman Gibson to draw up a bill that will allow for an in state harvest of elvers for aquaculture within the state while protecting the commercial pot fishermen. This can only occur with a cap on the commercial harvest.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to your protection of the resource by keeping this bill from passing during this current legislative session and working on a new bill for next session.

Sincerely,

Thomas P. Fote
Legislative Chairman JCAA
22 Cruiser Court
Toms River NJ, 08753
732-270-9102 Fax 732-506-6409

njas

new jersey audubon society
P.O. Box 693 11 Hardscrabble Rd.
Bernardsville, NJ 07924 (201)766-5787

December 8, 1997

STATEMENT OF NEW JERSEY AUDUBON SOCIETY ON A3226

New Jersey Audubon Society, a private non-profit organization with 17,000 members and a threefold mission in conservation, education, and wildlife research, is pleased to support the Jersey Coast Anglers Association and the New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen;s Clubs in their strong opposition to A3226, which addresses the taking of juvenile American eels.

NJAS is interested in this issue for several reasons. First, young eels are a widespread food source for many fish and bird species, and we simply do not have enough knowledge about the eels to encourage this permitting system. We do know, however, that "all pre-reproductive mortality influences eel abundance because eels spawn once in their live cycle." (our emphasis: Source: Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, American Eel and Horseshoe Crab Public Information Document, page 2.) Second, we do know that there is a close connection between the demand for Horseshoe Crab harvesting and their use as bait to attract eels. We note that the Atlantic Marine Fisheries Commission has also begun developing an interstate management plan for American eels. According to the testimony presented in December by Tom Fote on behalf of the Anglers and the Sportsmen, "the majority of states on the East Coast have already closed the harvest of elvers…" and "they have all proceeded with the enactment of legislation that places a six inch size limit on the taking of American eels." We believe that is the direction that this Legislation should also take.

Respectfully submitted,
William R. Neil
Director of Conservation.

NEW JERSEY FEDERATION OF SPORTSMEN’S CLUBS

Working For The 150,000 Sportspersons Of New Jersey
Founded May 24, 1935
190 Oberlin Road North,
Lakewood NJ 08701
Phone 732-905-0755 Fax 732-905-5261

Position Statement of the New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs in opposition to S2346 and A3226 which would allow for the continued harvest of juvenile American Eels (elvers) from the marine waters of New Jersey.

The Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, on behalf of our 150,000 members and the approximately 700,000 salt water recreational anglers presently fishing New Jersey waters, would like to express its strong opposition to S2346, (the amended version of A3226), which would continue the unregulated slaughter of small glass eels (less than 6 inches) which took place in New Jersey waters in 1997. There are many good reasons why the harvest of juvenile eels is either severely restricted (harvest limits, etc.) or totally prohibited in all other states, not the least of which is the severe depletion of juvenile eel stocks around the world which has followed the type of harvest permitted by S2346. We would also like to point out the lack of any definitive research data related to the relationship of juvenile eel populations to the wildlife resources of the entire marine ecosystem.

S2346 and A3226 appear to be an attempt to "jump the gun" on the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) plans to introduce a management plan for Atlantic States juvenile eel populations in the fall of 1998. It is our position that New Jersey should protect juvenile eel stocks (6 inches minimum size limit) until the ASMFC management plan is introduced. We would support legislation limiting eel harvests to eels 6 inches or greater in length.

Respectfully submitted,

George P. Howard, Executive Director
New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs
219 Sidney Road
Pittstown, NJ 08867


OCEANS ACT OF 1997 H.R. 2547 Bill Summary

We need to support the latest ocean protection legislation that is brewing on Capitol Hill. Following is a summary of the Oceans Act of 1997, recently introduced in the House by Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA). The bill was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Hollings (D-SC) and passed right before Thanksgiving. Congressman Frank Pallone and Congressman James Saxton are cosponsors of this legislation. Now the bill needs support in the House. Please call your congressional representative and ask them to support this legislation and urge swift passage of the bill to show support for the Year of the Oceans in 1998.

If you have questions about the bill, call Jen Newton in Sam Farr's office at 202-225-2861.

OCEANS ACT OF 1997
H.R. 2547
Bill Summary

In 1966 legislation was enacted which established the Commission on Marine Science, Engineering and Resources (known as the Stratton Commission, after its Chairman, Julius Stratton of the Ford Foundation). The Commission was given the task of examining the nation's stake in the development, utilization, and preservation of the marine environment, to assess the nation's current and anticipated marine activities, and, on the basis of this information, formulate a comprehensive, long-term, national program for marine affairs with the goal of meeting current and future needs in the most efficient manner possible. In January of 1969, the Stratton Commission released its report "Our Nation and the Sea: A Plan for National Action."

The report and recommendations of the Commission have shaped U.S. ocean policy for the past three decades. Today, however, half our Nation's population lives within 50 miles of our shores, ocean and coastal resources once thought inexhaustible are now seriously depleted, and wetlands and other marine habitats are threatened by pollution and human activities. As the thirty year anniversary of the Stratton Commission's report approaches, it is of great importance that we again do a thorough assessment of the current state of our nation's coastal and marine resources, programs, and policies, and that we create a new national ocean plan to bring us into the 21st century. The designation of 1998 as the International Year of the Oceans provides a further appropriate backdrop for the implementation of this legislation. The Oceans Act of 1997 is patterned after and would replace the 1996 act, and includes the following main provisions:

National Ocean and Coastal Policy. The bill calls for the development and implementation of a coherent national ocean and coastal policy that provides for: protection against natural hazards; responsible stewardship of fisheries and other ocean and coastal resources; protection of the marine environment; resolution of conflicts among users of the marine environment; advancement of research, education and training in fields related to marine activities; continued investment in marine technologies; coordination and cooperation within and among governments; and preservation of U.S. leadership on ocean and coastal issues.

Commission on Ocean Policy. The bill establishes a Presidential Commission, similar to the Stratton Commission, to examine ocean and coastal activities and to report within 18 months its recommendations for a national policy. In developing the report, the Commission would assess federal programs and funding priorities, infrastructure requirements, conflicts among marine users, and technological opportunities. The Commission would then meet at a minimum of once every 5 years to assess the Nation's progress in meeting the purposes and objectives of the Act. An appropriation of $6 million dollars over the course of fiscal years 98 and 99 would be authorized for the Commission to complete its work. In addition, such sums as necessary would be authorized for the Commission to meet in the 10 years following the submission of the report.

Senate Version: The main difference between the Senate (S. 1213) and House (H.R. 2547) versions, as they stand now, is that the House version does not call for the creation of a National Ocean Council. Instead, we have given the President direction to consult with the heads of departments and agencies involved with ocean and coastal resource programs and policy in implementing a national ocean policy rather than creating a formal Council. S. 1213 passed in the Senate under unanimous consent on November 13, 1997.


BARNEGAT BAY ESTUARINE PROGRAM UPDATE

Barnegat Bay Spring Festival

The Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) of the BBEP is already planning the second annual Barnegat Bay Spring Festival, scheduled for Saturday, May 16, 1997. This year’s event has the same focus as last year, bringing people out to experience the various faces of the Bay and its watershed. The activities range from biking and kayaking to boat and bus tours to special places. Join us at the next CAC meeting (the first Tuesday of every month) and learn about places you never knew existed in Barnegat Bay. Call the Program office at (732) 506-5313 for more information.

Data Synthesis

The contract to provide the Program’s data synthesis report has been awarded to Rutger’s Institute of Marine & Coastal Sciences. The contents of the publication will include a physical description, watershed characteristics, characterizing trends in the watershed, physical oceanography, nutrients, phytoplankton/brown tides, benthos, finfish, birds, habitat loss and alteration, chemical contaminants, management aspects and the state of the Bay: an overview. The various chapters will be written by a team of 15 authors and plans are to have a draft complete by May 1998.


Position Statement on Summer Flounder, Sea Bass and Scup

This position paper was taken to the Mid-Atlantic Council meeting by John Koegler. Pat Donnelly’s report will have further information about the results.

December 16, 1997

Subject: JCAA Position Statement on Scup, Sea Bass, and Summer Flounder

The Mid-Atlantic Council monitoring committee met on Dec. 4, 1997, to set the recreational harvest parameters for scup, sea bass, and fluke. The following document represents the position of the Jersey Coast Anglers Association concerning Summer flounder, sea bass, and scup. JCAA represents over 30,000 anglers throughout the state of New Jersey.

JCAA does not support any reduction in the summer flounder bag limit or size limit. We have three reasons for this opposition. First, Mid-Atlantic Council and the Atlantic Marine Fisheries Commission have made no attempt to recover the three million pounds commercial overage as a result of the lawsuit. Second, the non reported landings that occur up and down the East coast in the commercial fishery vastly underestimate the commercial harvest. This continues to impact the recovery period. Third, the number of fish harvested by the recreational community has actually decreased because of the greater size limit. If we keep raising the size limit, the recreational catch will continue to decrease in numbers while it increases in weight. The current plan does not account for this discrepancy.

The monitoring committee recommended an 8" size limit with a 50 fish bag limit for the recreational scup fishery. The scup fishery has not rebounded with the imposition of the current 7" size limit, and the committee felt that further reduction is necessary. This comes on the heels of an almost non-existent recreational scup fishery in 1997. JCAA believes that the current scup fishery regulations should be kept intact for the 1998 season. The recreational scup fishery in New Jersey has become so small as to become inconsequential. The current 7" size limit has reduced the catch to a level that is below the level of dead discards in the trawl fishery. Until the recreational catch can truly impact the overall fishery, nothing should be done.

As for sea bass, the committee dropped a bombshell. After a season with a 9" size limit and no bag limit, a recommendation was made for a 10" size limit and a 7 fish bag limit as a means of reducing the catch by 40%. This may as well be construed as a death sentence for the for the party/charter boat industry, as these regulations would place a moratorium on the sea bass fishery. This reduction is based on the recreational catch estimates for 1997, but there appears to be a problem. In the years 1992-1996, the NJ recreational sea bass harvest included 42% under 10". However, in 1997, the survey finds that only 6.6% of the sea bass landed were under 10". Does this mean that the fishery is incredibly top heavy with large fish, or does it indicate such a small survey size as to make the data unreliable? How can such a small sample be used to justify the elimination of the historical sea bass fishery? JCAA will support the 10" size limit, but only in the presence of no bag limit.

The recommendations that came from the monitoring committee are an example of all that is wrong with the process. Bureaucrats can eliminate a historical fishery based on woefully inadequate information. Inequities in management are often unavoidable, but asking recreational anglers to swallow 7 fish at 10", while not addressing the winter trawl bycatch issue is a farce. 55% of the sea bass landed in the winter trawl fishery are below 10" in size, which means that more fish are released dead than are retained. JCAA will support no further regulations concerning this fishery until these discrepancies are addressed.

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