FISHERIES MANAGEMENT & LEGISLATIVE REPORT

by Tom Fote

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association November 1998 Newsletter)

Summer Flounder Hook and Release Mortality Study Finally Arrives

By Tom Fote

After all the controversy last week about summer flounder, it was interesting to receive this report entitled "Release Mortality in Virginia’s Recreational Fishery for Summer Flounder, Paralichthys dentatus" by Jon Lucy at VIMS. JCAA has always questioned the 25% hook and release mortality. Over the years we have asked for bona fide studies supporting this 25%. JCAA has been pushing the state of New Jersey to conduct hook and release mortality studies on numerous marine species. Luckily Virginia has completed such a study on summer flounder. This study gives credence to JCAA’s claim that the hook and release mortality rate is more than double what it should be. Based on this study, NMFS should reevaluate the quotas since we implemented the plan because they have used the wrong hook and release mortality figure. I hope the environmental community who was so quick to ask for the closure of the recreational fishery will look at this study and support the recreational community with a reduction of the recreational hook and release mortality rate. Understand this not only affects the recreational industry, but also the commercial industry. There study says that says average mortality estimates for this study ranged from 6% (field trials) to 11% (tank experiments). The projected-weighted mean mortality estimates for combined field trial data was 6%. The majority of mortality (93%) occurred in deep-hooked fish. Deep-hooked fish had hooks lodged in the esophagus, gills, or deep mouth-tongue area. Cutting leaders and leaving the hooks in the esophagus showed potential for reducing release mortality. Therefore, NMFS must reduce their estimate of hook and release mortality from 25% to 6%. Sincere we were so close to the newsletter deadline, a more comprehensive report will be included in next month’s JCAA newsletter. We suggest any groups that will be coming the JCAA-ASA December workshop, obtain a copy of this report for their groups. We are constantly being told that there is no science, we want to see action on this at the December joint ASMFC and Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council. I will be carrying this report to the ASFMC annual meeting.

Update on Menhaden Protection Bill S722/A1827

The Menhaden Bill has not been posted for a committee hearing yet. JCAA and other organizations have worked hard to get this bill to this point but we need your help. To get this bill moved we need you to start doing your part. It is time to write letters, phone, fax, and call legislators and tell them to move this bill. It is important to contact you local senator and the senators on the committee and tell them you want this bill posted and moved out of committee. You should also write a letter to Governor Whitman and Senate President Donald T. DiFrancesco and tell them you want this bill to be voted on and passed. Just use the same letter. There is an excellent article by Lou Rodia in last month’s JCAA Newspaper that should be shared with all club members about contacting legislators. You can find this article, past articles and other important information about menhaden at our web site http://www.jcaa.org/. I have included some of the addresses you need at the end of this article. You can find your local legislators addresses in phone book. I have also included a draft letter to use a guide. If you have any questions, give us a call. We need your help to protect the menhaden resource form collapse. If this resource collapses it will have a serious impact on many of species we catch in New Jersey.

Dear ____-

Vote yes on bills S722/A1827. I am one of over a million sportspersons in New Jersey who are concerned about the menhaden (bunker) resource of this state and I want you to vote to protect them. I agree with the Jersey Coast Anglers Association position on S722/A1827. These stocks are declining now. If this stock collapses it will have serious consequences for all our marine fish. I will be watching for your yes vote on this bill.

Yours truly,

_________

Senate President Donald T. DiFrancesco,
Legislative District 22
1816 Front St., Scotch Plains, NJ 07076
Phone Number (908)-322-5500
Fax (908)-322-9347
sen.dtdifrancesco@worldnet.att.net

Senate Environment Group 1

Henry P McNamara. - Chair R
Legislative District 40
P.O. Box 68, Wyckoff, NJ 07481
PHONE NUMBER: (201) 848-9600
FAX NUMBER: (201) 891-4859

Diane Allen
, - Vice-Chair R
Legislative District 7
2313 Burlington-Mt. Holly Rd.,
Burlington, NJ 08016
PHONE NUMBER: (609) 239-2800
FAX NUMBER (609) 239-2673
E-MAIL: sen.dallen@worldnet.att.net

John H Adler,. D
Legislative District 6
231 Route 70 East, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034-2421
PHONE NUMBER: (609) 428-3343
FAX NUMBER (609) 428-1358
E-MAIL :senadler@johnadler.org

Andrew R Ciesla R
Legislative District 10
852 Hwy. 70, Brick, NJ 08724
PHONE NUMBER: (732) 840-9028
FAX (732) 8409447
E-MAIL: sen.arciesla@worldnet.att.ne

Joseph F Vitale D
Legislative District 19
87 Main Street, Woodbridge, NJ 07095
PHONE NUMBER: (732) 855-7441
FAX NUMBER (732) 855-7558
E-MAIL : sen.jvitale@worldnet.att.net

Editorial: The net result

The News & Observer Raleigh, N.C. 10/4/98

Shrimpers using destructive trawl nets left 300,000 dead fish in their wake after one day’s haul in Eastern North Carolina’s New River. It’s time the state banned such trawling in the inland waters. Had the estimated 300,000 fish found dead in the New River near Camp Lejeune last week been the victim of pollution or disease, the public would be clamoring for action and state officials would be marshalling resources to deal with an environmental crisis. Instead, it is business as usual for the shrimp trawlers that created the problem. And with every pull of their nets, more fish die. It is an unnecessary waste of a valuable resource and an intolerable assault on the environment. North Carolina has moved too slowly to ban the use of inefficient and destructive trawl nets by commercial shrimp-ers in public waters inside the barrier islands. Estimates are that for every pound of shrimp harvested, four pounds of fish of varying sizes and value are caught. Much of that so-called "by-catch" is thrown overboard.

The 300,000 dead fish in the New River, marine fisheries officials say, were dumped overboard by the estimated 200 shrimp boats that descended on the area on the first day shrimping was allowed there this fall. Yet, say fisheries enforcement agents, no boat operators were cited or fined because they were obeying the rules as they now stand. All of the boats had the so-called "bycatch reduction devices" which are supposed to reduce the amount of fish captured by the shrimp nets. They are clearly not protection enough.

Most of the fish caught and killed in the shrimp nets were menhaden, once a valuable commercial fish along the North Carolina coast but a species whose valued has diminished in recent years. Officials say that a large of school of menhaden just happened to be in the area when the shrimp boats began trawling. But there were also large numbers of spot, croaker and perch destroyed, all of which are valuable food fish.

Pressure to ban destructive trawlers from inshore waters has grown in recent years. Inshore trawling is already banned in Albemarle Sound and in hundreds of thousands of acres of other fragile grass beds and nursery sites where finfish and shellfish spawn.

The inland area advisory committee of the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission has asked the commission to consider closing all inland waters to shrimp and crab trawlers. Similar efforts in other states have shown that shrimpers are likely to have little difficulty filling their holds working offshore and that inshore fish stocks rapidly come back once the trawling stops. A Marine Fisheries spokesman says the commission is still gathering data and is not ready to make a final decision.

It is time to make that call. It may cost more for commercial shrimpers to reach the offshore beds, and not all shrimpers will be able to make the transition. But our coastal waters are a resource for all North Carolinians, not just those who, at the end of a day’s work, leave the sea littered with 300,000 dead fish.

ASMFC to Hold External Peer Review for Atlantic Menhaden

Reprinted from ASMFC Fisheries Focus Volume 7, Issue 9 October 1998

The Commission is currently making preparations to conduct an external peer review of the Atlantic menhaden stock assessment. The peer review has been tentatively scheduled for November 16 - 18, 1998.

Peer Review Panel membership is being finalized based on expertise and availability. Terms of reference for the peer review have been developed and will be included in the stock assessment report, which is in preparation.

In addition to a peer review of the menhaden stock assessment, the review will also address menhaden as a forage fish for many other coastal species, as well as evaluate the trigger mechanisms contained in the Commission’s fishery management plan. The peer review meeting will be open to all interested parties during the presentation of the stock assessment report and supporting material and the general discussion portions of the meeting. Panel deliberations and drafting of the peer review report will be conducted by panel members and staff only. All materials will be complied and distributed by Commission staff prior to the meeting. The Elver & Glass Eel Bills

For more information, please contact either: Dr. Lisa Kline, Director of Research & Statistics, or Jeff Brust, Statistics Specialist, at (202)289-6400.

The Elver & Glass Eel Bills A675/S457

The Senate is getting pressure to pass bills A675/S457. These bills would open of the harvest of eel under 6 inches by the very people who care nothing about the resource. This action would be in spite of growing evidence that the stocks are in bad shape and collapsing all over the world. There is one fish ladder that scientists use to count the number of glass eels migrating up stream. Previous counts were in the millions. Now they are counting less than 200. That is less than .002% of the old runs. If this were any other species, fisheries managers would be looking to close the whole fishery. Most of the states have done just that. Maine and Connecticut are the only two states that do not seem to care what happens to the resource. Both states seem only to care that a small number of people making a fast buck at the expense of resource and other states. Do not let New Jersey join these two states. Call the Governor and your senator and tell them to keep this fishery closed. Senate President Donald T. DiFrancesco can stop this bill from being posted in the Senate for a vote. So call, write, email and fax and let him know that you are one of over a million sportspersons who will be watching what he does on this bill. If you one of the millions of environmentalists in this state, let him know you care. These are some of the groups that are against passage of this bill: Jersey Coast Anglers Assn. & 72 member clubs, New Jersey Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs and its 150,000 members, American Littoral Society, NJPIRG , Sierra Club, Ocean County Izaak Walton League, Alliance for a Living Ocean, New Jersey Environmental Federation, New Jersey Audubon Society, Jersey Shore Audubon, National Audubon, Recreational Fishing Alliance, South Jersey Anglers, Sandy Hook Anglers, Leonardo's Party and Pleasure Boat Assn, Asbury Park Fishing Club ,Cape May Party and Charter Boat Association, Cumberland County Property Owners, Delaware River Fishermen’s Association, Delaware River Keeper , Fish Hawks, Fortesque Charterman’s Association, Greater Point Pleasant Charterboat Association, Hudson River Fishing Association, Mercer County Anglers, NJ Beach Buggy Association, New York/New Jersey Bay Keepers, Salt Water Anglers of Bergen County, Picatinny Salt Water Club, Newark Bait and Flycasters.

. I asked Dr. Eleanor Bochenek to put together a synopsis of the American Fisheries Society Symposium on eels. Her report is below and does nothing but reinforce our concerns.

Overview of 128th Annual Meeting of American Fishery Society

Biology and Management of the American Eel Symposium

August 26, 1998

By Dr. Eleanor Bochenek, Rutgers Cooperative Extension/New Jersey Sea Grant Extension Service

Currently, there is no federal fishery management plan for the American eel. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) is developing an American Eel Fishery Management Plan. In October 1995, the states concluded that the resource is at risk. An assessment and planning workshop was conducted in Spring 1996. In Spring 1997, there is insufficient data to make quantitative statements on eel stocks. The ASMFC will have a draft management plan summer/fall 1998 and the plan will be adopted in 1999 (Field, J.).

Lary, S.J., W.D.N. Busch, and C.M. Castiglione presented a paper on the distribution and availability of Atlantic Coast freshwater habitats for the American eel. The American eel historically ranged from Labrador to the Gulf of Mexico including the Great Lakes and Mississippi drainage, Panama, and the West Indies. Greatest numbers of eels occur from mid-Atlantic region north to Gulf of St. Lawrence. The American eel has declined throughout its range. The exact cause for the decline is not known. However, the change and loss of habitat and access to habitat has had an effect. These researchers looked at Atlantic Coast tributaries and the number of natural and man-made barriers and locks to assess and quantify historic American eel habitat, current habitat, and potential habitat. Historically, American eels made up 50% of total fish biomass in streams and today it is much less. In the mid-Atlantic, the percent loss of habitat to American eels is 88% and is due to dams. Throughout the Atlantic Seaboard, eels are prevented from reaching much of their habitat due to dams and other man-made barriers.

Casselman, J., L.A. Marcogliese, and P.V. Hodson discussed the long-term trends of the American eel stock of the Upper St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. Immigrating juvenile American eels of the upper St. Lawrence River-Lake Ontario stock were monitored at a fish ladder. Approximately one million eels ascended the ladder annually until 1985. In 1986 a dramatic decline occurred and reached a low of approximately 6,700 in 1997. In 1998 only 30 juvenile eels passed through the fish ladder. The peak migration of eels ascending the fish ladder was strong in an El nino year. A progressive decrease, since 1993, in the 114-year record of commercial harvest has occurred. Researchers noted that females are long-lived and late-maturing. The total annual mortality rate for females must be less than 21%, so females can live long enough to spawn.

American eel fisheries in Eastern Canada are managed by either federal or provincial governments and each has their own management regulations. Recent data indicate a large decline in juvenile eel recruitment to the upper St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario and declines in yellow/silver eel fisheries in Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence River and Gulf of St. Lawrence areas. Eel catches are stable or increasing in Newfoundland and the Atlantic Coast and Bay of Fundy areas of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Recruitment and catch declines are likely due to habitat loss or degradation, overfishing or adverse oceanic conditions. Management and research should try to improve habitat and habitat access, decrease mortality during downstream passage at hydroelectric dams, reduce exploitation and improve accuracy and reliability of catch/effort statistics (Jessop, B.M.).

In Maine, the American eel has been harvested since precolonial times. In 1887, the earliest commercial harvest of 107,000 pounds worth $9,000 was recorded. A total of 400,130 pounds of eels was a record harvest in 1912 and was worth $250,000. In early 1970's an elver fishery was started and by the late 1970s was terminated because of the collapse of market demand by the Far East. However, the elver fishery started again in the early 1990's and has quickly grown over the last few years. Maine harvests three life stages, namely, elvers, yellow eels and silver eels. Maine has developed a management plan (Flagg, L.).

In Europe, there was an abundance of glass eels in the 1970s, but catches declined through the 1980s to rather low levels. In 1990s, there appeared to be a slow increase in abundance. Recruitment loss appears to have played a role in the observed decline in wild eel abundance in European coastal and inland waters. The author convened a group of scientists from around the world. They failed to find meaningful correlations with glass eel catch and pollution, contamination or habitat loss. The government would have to invest US $150 million per year to maximize the fishery that would yield an annual catch of grown eels worth $700 million. Glass eels would have to be redistributed to designated waterways (Moriarty, C).

New Zealand’s fishery is based on adult feeding eels. Yearly catches have averaged 1480 tonnes since 1983. There is no glass eel/elver fishery, therefore, no data to imply any change in recruitment. Managers are setting sustainable total allowable catch and setting of allowance for recreational and commercial harvests. Commercial fisheries are allocated the total allowable commercial catch as tradable individual catch entitlements. They are using a multidisciplinary approach to address complex factors influencing eel stocks and fishery management (Todd, P.).

Researchers studied contamination and parasite infestation of American eels in the Hudson River. American eels have been banned from harvest and consumption from the Hudson River since 1976 because of high PCB levels. An exotic parasite, Anguillicola crassus, has been found in the Hudson River. This parasite is a large nematode that affects swimbladder function in eels and has been associated with European eel fishery declines. In 1997, these researchers studied American eels from the Hudson River from Athens (km210) to Haverstraw Bay (km 60). Growth rate was two-fold higher for eels at the down-estuary site. There data suggest that up-estuary eels would have more PCBs because of proximity to PCB source up-estuary, duration of contamination, and reduced growth dilution. Many yellow eels still exceed FDAs 2.0 ppm of PCB. PCB levels were the highest at up-estuary sites. The parasite was found in 8% of eels at km 210 and 20% of eels at km 140, but not found in eels at down-estuary sites. This parasite was documented in both Hudson River and Chesapeake Bay American eels (Secor, D., J. Baker, and A. Barse).

The American eel has two lengthy oceanic phases during its life cycle. Mature eels migrate to the Sargasso Sea to spawn and may be affected by the variability of oceanic currents and eddies. Larvae (leptocephali) and early juveniles (glass eels) leave Sargasso Sea and enter freshwater over a wide range of latitudes. Oceanic flow features such as a Gulf Stream meander or ring must affect migratory paths of young and influence their movement onto the shelf and overall year-class success (McCleave, J.D.).

O’Hara, G.A. and T. Tarr discussed glass eel exports to both Europe and Asia. Exports have led to federal enforcement problems caused by high prices, low cost of entry into the fishery, and the large number of commercial fishers. The USFWS reviewed the foreign trade of American eels from 1992 to 1996 and found problems in reporting of catches and exports. For example, in 1993 the records showed more than twice as many live eel exports as were reported caught in the United States. The export of live eels peaked in 1995 with 367 shipments valued over $10 million. In 1992, there was a low of 240 shipments valued at $4.6 million. Mean live eel shipment values to Europe rose from approximately $14,200 in 1992 to $23,400 in 1996 and to Asia rose from approximately $24,300 in 1992 to $42,700 in 1996. Shipping patterns changed from primarily European destinations in 1993 to over half the shipments going to Asian destinations in 1996. The main exporting ports in 1993 were New York, Boston and Washington, D.C. However, shipping patterns changed over the years and New York, Maine border ports and New Orleans were the largest export ports in 1996.

The following presentations were given at the symposium: Federal law enforcement and international trade of American eel (Anguilla rostrata) (O’Hara, G.A. and T. Tarr), Evaluation of radio telemetry techniques to study emigrating silver American eels (Royer, D.D. and A. Haro), Eel passage and protection at hydro projects (Taft, N., T. Brush and S. Amaral), Upstream migration and turbine passage survival of American eels at the St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project (McGrath, K.J., D. Desrochers, P.G. Heisey), Hydro Industry Initiatives to investigate American eel issues (Dyok, W. J. McKinney, and T. Brush), Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission - Development of the American eel fishery management plan (Field, J), The American eel (Anguilla rostrata), stock of the Upper St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario: long-term trends, decreasing abundance, cause and effect (Casselman, J.M., L.A. Marcogliese, P.V. Hodson), Oceanic variability as an influence on American eel reproduction and glass eel recruitment: a series of speculations (McCleave, J.D), Distribution and availability of Atlantic Coast freshwater habitats for American eel (Lary, S.J., W.D.N. Busch, and C.M. Castiglione), Estuarine gradients in contamination and Anguillicola crassus infestation in Hudson River American eels ( Secor, D., J. Baker, and A. Barse), The Maine eel and elver fishery (Flagg, L.), Eel fishery management and stock status in Canada: present issues and future goals (Jessop, B.M.), Eel management - problems and priorities in Europe (Moriarty, C.), and Eel management and research in New Zealand ( Todd, P.).

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Annual Meeting

ASMFC 57th Annual Meeting was held in, Jekyll Island Club Hotel, Jekyll Island, Georgia; between October 19-22. The Boards and Committees that met during this meeting are South Atlantic State-Federal Fisheries Management Board, Sport Fish Restoration Committee, Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program, Law Enforcement Committee, Habitat Committee, Legislative Committee, Joint ASMFC/GSMFC Artificial Reef Committees, Shad & River Herring Management Board, Advisory Committee, Management and Science Committee, Horseshoe Crab Management Board, Tautog Management Board, Legislators and Governors’ Appointees, American Eel Management Board, Striped Bass Management Board, ISFMP Policy Board. There will be a report in next month’s newspaper on what actions were taken. If you have any questions on what happened at the meeting or would like to be added to their mailing list, call the ASMFC at 202-289-6400.

Support Bill S1267 PUTTING PUBLIC HEALTH FIRST

The JCAA, after a unanimous vote of its member clubs, is supporting Senate Bill S1267 and would appreciate your vocal backing for this important legislation. This consumer protection bill assures the general public will have access to any consumption advisories on saltwater fish that contain possible contaminants. It accomplishes this by requiring all retail fish markets and restaurants to post advisories in a conspicuous place.

Recreational anglers are aware of these advisories because they are posted in license books, fishing digests, fishing columns and magazines. This information allows anglers to make informed decisions on what action they should take and what level of risk they and their families are at with certain levels of consumption of specific fish. They also advise women of the potential hazards of eating certain contaminated fish that can cause birth defects, learning disabilities in children or other problems. In fact, according the to the Environmental Protection Agency, pregnant women should avoid eating certain species of fish altogether due to mercury, PCB and dioxin contamination. The general public should have the opportunity to make an informed decision. This is a "right to know" bill concerned with public health and nothing more.

JCAA has always taken a very proactive stance on any fish or shellfish contamination issues. We have fought to end ocean dumping, to eliminate contamination sources in the marine environment and are currently participating on the Governor’s Taskforce on Mercury Reduction in Fish. We led the fight to have areas in Newark Bay closed for crabbing due to high levels of dioxin contamination. We demanded the state post advisories in several languages when it was found that immigrants and low-income people from the area were catching fish and crabs from condemned waters and eating them. When advisories were made public concerning PCB contamination in bluefish, JCAA worked to inform the anglers about the problem, instructed members on the proper way to clean the fish to reduce potential exposure and advised them of the safest sizes of bluefish to bring home for consumption. This bill extends the right to know to all citizens and visitors to the state, keeping them fully informed about problems with seafood.

Why are we concerned about the public health risk related to consuming seafood? Many of the contaminants currently found in seafood being sold today are nothing new to many JCAA members. On a personal note, I am a Vietnam veteran who was sprayed with Agency Orange (dioxin), as were other members of this association. We have seen birth defects caused by this toxin alone and know it is found in several species of popularly caught fish. We have seen serious health problems in adults exposed to this toxin and have been told by members of the fishing industry who have returned to Vietnam about seeing thousands of children there suffering from physical maladies and mental retardation as a result of contamination.

Certain members of New Jersey’s commercial fishing industry have been vocal opponents of this bill. Whenever I see people with a vested interest in selling a product trying to hide the potential hazards associated with that product, I am skeptical about their motives. Cigarette companies hid the dangers of tobacco, but look what we know today now that they have been forced to divulge the truth. The government told veterans that "defoliants" posed no danger to our health. They lied and many people are sick, dying or dead as a result and a lot of kids have been affected too. Certain members of the commercial fishing industry would rather the general public was denied this knowledge to protect their pocketbooks, regardless of the consequences. They claim the science is unproven, but with all the studies done on dioxin, PCB and mercury contamination, that claim couldn’t be further from the truth.

None of the states along the coast that have posted advisories on striped bass for recreational fishermen pass along that information to the seafood consumer. While striped bass are sold whole in many fish markets, none post advisories teaching the consumer which portions of the fish are safest to eat and which should not be consumed by "at risk" segments of the population. This is just one example.

Everyone should have the information available to make an informed decision about what you eat and how to prepare it to reduce any potential health risk. We ask that you call your state legislators and tell them you support S1267 and ask your assemblymen to support matching legislation in the assembly. New Jersey has always played a leading role in consumer protection. S1267 gives us another opportunity to set a good example for the rest of the nation.

IMPROVING COMMUNICATION WITH SOME ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS

In recent years, Jersey Coast has nurtured a working relationship with some of the environmental advocacy groups on a variety of issues. We worked together to ban ocean dumping. We fought hand-in-hand to pressure congress to protect essential fish habitat and wetlands. As JCAA’s legislative representative, I have seen coalitions formed with NJ Audubon, the Sierra Club and the American Littoral Society on a variety of issues we had in common. In most instances, recreational fishermen and environmentalists are natural allies. In these relationships, the cornerstone of success was communication. It allowed us to share resources and avoid the pitfalls of acting independently on erroneous data. Even if we disagreed on specific issues, we discussed our positions, negotiated and either reached consensus or at least made our "allies" aware and agreed to disagree.

However, the most recent involvement of a few of environmental groups in fisheries issues have left us worried about their motives and shaking our heads about their positions. The first salvo came when Mass Audubon announced a lawsuit to close the recreational school bluefin fishery, a fishery that makes up only about 20% of the overall bluefin harvest. Sighting very questionable science, they are trying to justify closing the recreational school fishery, while they support the commercial fishery consisting of the general category and purse seiners, which harvests about 80% of the pounds caught in US waters. Their position is thinly veiled as a "conservation" issue, but it is nothing more than supporting the commercial industry at the expense of damaging the recreational fishing industry. Not surprising, the very attorney handling the suit is a general category permit holder and seller of bluefin tuna. Where’s the credibility in that?

More recently, a press release by National Audubon concerning states not in compliance with coastal shark regulations was brought to my attention. Center For Marine Conservation had approached JCAA and requested our help in getting the state in compliance. We were in the process of doing just that, working with state Fish and Game representatives, when the Audubon’s press release came out. The most ludicrous part of the release was that it painted New Jersey in a bad light for not implementing federal regulations, while complimenting Florida and North Carolina. Florida and North Carolina, even with the implementation of the federal regulations, are still responsible for the vast majority of coastal shark harvest. According to Audubon’s figures Florida comes in first with a commercial harvest of 47.7% of the sharks other than dogfish. North Carolina 18.2% and Louisiana 16.25 come in second and third. These three states have a combined commercial harvest of sharks other than dogfish of 82.15%. New Jersey harvest of sharks other than dogfish accounts for just 5.7% of the commercial shark harvest coastwide and it consists overwhelmingly of mako and thresher sharks, offshore pelagic species, and not the endangered coastal species the regulations are intended to protect. The information contained in release was incredibly misleading and disingenuous to New Jersey’s commercial fishermen and the State of New Jersey. New Jersey will be in compliance shortly, even though it would accomplish a small fraction of one percent in the reduction of the coastwide harvest of coastal sharks. The groups got their press, but at the expense of credibility for their cause and praising the people that are causing the most problems.

The latest issue is a letter endorsing a commercial fishing industry demand for a closure of the recreational summer flounder (fluke) fishery. This letter was sent by the Center for Marine Conservation, Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, and Natural Resources Defense Council in support of a position taken by the North Carolina Fisheries Association. In their letter to Mr. Rolland A. Schmitten, Assistant Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service/NOAA and Mr. John H. Dunnigan, Executive Director, Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, these groups called for the emergency closure of the recreational summer flounder fishery. This position and letter was sent out without any notification or consultation with the members of the recreational community. In fact, the only person who was openly working with recreational groups on this issue and was opposed to this letter was fired.

Recreational groups understand there are concerns about the summer flounder fishery, many caused by problems beyond our control. This is another example of a fishery destroyed by commercial overfishing. But once again, the recreational community is forced to suffer the consequences of their overfishing. This problem has been compounded by court rulings in cases brought by commercial fishing groups, old assessments, hook and release mortality estimates that should be 12% and not 25%, a commercial bycatch that could be as high as the total commercial landings, and on and on. Still, fluke are on a fast-track, rebuilding at such a pace that recreational catches are growing with them. But, recreational fishing is not out of control, as these groups would lead you to believe. Every year since the beginning of the plan, bag limit and size limits have gotten more restrictive to curb recreational landings. In early years, recreational fishermen were fishing well below their harvest target. Now, it appears we are fishing over our target, even though we are dealing with size limits that have increased every year for the past four years and bag limits that have decreased.

We can understand NMFS is having such a problem dealing with this as they have precious little experience dealing with rebuilding stocks. Most of their FMPs have been abject failures. The ASMFC has had some experience dealing with expanding stocks in striped bass. While we don’t agree that the stocks are "rebuilt" they are growing. ASMFC realizes that even if the recreational community exceeds its harvest target, it is important to be consistent with a regimen of management measures for a few years and chart the recovery. This has not been done in the case of fluke. The quotas, mesh sizes, bag limits and size limits have been changed annually, without any real scientific monitoring of the effects of each measure in the recovery process. The recreational catch should be used as is a bellwether to help chart stock increases, since recreational fishing is a fishery of opportunity. For example, the scientists continue to tell us there is a truncation of year classes in fluke. Yet recreational fishermen are seeing a wide variety of sizes and year classes of fluke. Since recreational fishing is basically opportunistic, with minimal gear efficiency, we can more readily reflect an increase and decrease in any stocks. Our catch increases and decreases more dramatically than the commercial harvest.

The recreational community got screwed in the initial formation of the plan through a process that has been repeated in one Fisheries Management Plan after another. The years used to determine the recreational/commercial quota split are always those of the poorest recreational catches after the stocks have been reduced by commercial excesses, yet the commercial harvest during those years remained high. While fluke are split 60/40 commercial/recreational, the more accurate historic split would have been just the opposite. There are time series in past years when recreational harvest was 70% and commercial 30%. It is just another example of how the management process has consistently rewarded the destroyers of the stocks.

Yet, these environmental groups choose to ignore many of these important issues and strike out at the recreational user groups while ignoring all the other problems. Not only are they taking aim at the recreational fishing industry, they are compounding the problems of the subsistence fishermen, the poorer among us who have been driven out of fisheries by excessive size and bag limits. This is most prominent among shore-based anglers and partyboat patrons.

We don’t expect the environmental community to be cheerleaders for the recreational community any more than they should be cheerleaders for the commercial industry. They should be working toward saving and conserving stocks that are truly in dire straits. Fluke are rebounding rapidly. That is the root cause of the increase in the recreational catch and these groups know that in no uncertain terms. They also know that there is no way an emergency closure of the recreational fishery would take place in time to make any difference this year. But their position makes headlines and gets financial support. Maybe that’s the bottom line with these groups.

Some recreational groups are ready to discontinue working with the environmental groups that have taken these positions, but JCAA is not ready to close the door. We feel there are many issues we need to work on together to accomplish common goals. However, these groups must prove to us they truly want to work in concert and not just when the power of the recreational fishermen (our votes and the jobs we represent) can benefit their own interests.

In some of the correspondence I received about the summer flounder letter I realized that there is also some confusion about two groups, National Coalition for Marine Conservation and Center for Marine Conservation. A lot of people are making the same mistake and thinking they are the same group. Ken Hinman is President National Coalition for Marine Conservation. This organization has been around for a long time and has worked with JCAA on many issues. I am a member of NCMC and have attended many of their workshops over the years. One of the best workshops I ever attended was the one they put on called Stemming the Tide that dealt with habitat degradation and how we could stop it. The NCMC did not sign onto this letter. The group that endorsed the letter on summer flounder is the Center for Marine Conservation.

Bluefish and Summer Flounder MAFMC And ASMFC Joint Meeting Reports

I attended the Joint meeting of the MAFMC and ASMFC on Bluefish and Summer Flounder. I had to leave before some of the decisions were made on Bluefish to attend another meeting. I asked Dusty Rhodes, Vice Chairman of Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council and New Jersey’s ASMFC Recreational Bluefish Advisor, to write a report on Bluefish meeting for the JCAA Newspaper. Gary Caputi’s report on the Summer Flounder meeting follows Dusty’s report along with an article by Joel Arrington on CCA’s comments on Summer Flounder letter by the environmental groups.

Bluefish, Where A-Ok Is Just An Illusion

By Dusty Rhodes

We’ve come a long way from 1995 when the specter of a three-fish bag limit haunted the recreational community. Just one year later, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) bluefish assessment sent even more shockwaves through anglers with a rebuilding schedule that promised to ratchet down the bag limit even more.

But that was then and this is now.

On Wednesday, October 7, 1998, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) in concert with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) Bluefish Board passed the long awaited amendment 1 to the bluefish plan. Embodied in that amendment is a rebuilding schedule based on a reexamination of the previous assessment with the potential to favorably alter the seascape of bluefish activity for the next nine years. That schedule and the presumption of a larger bluefish biomass than previously calculated established a starting quota and a target mortality rate well above 1997 recreational/commercial bluefish landings. After five years, amendment 1 had finally put bluefish on an even keel.

Sadly, it was just an illusion. Although the chilling truth about the bluefish plan as now amended is scarcely apparent to the average angler, it becomes all too real after close inspection. To understand my admittedly dour reaction, let’s examine the preferred rebuilding schedule set forth in the amendment.

The proposed rebuilding schedule will span nine years during which fishing mortality will gradually decline by 40 percent. It defines a starting mortality rate (F rate) of .51 for the first two years (this is approximately a combined commercial/recreational harvest limit of 40 percent of the presumed biomass), followed by an F rate of .41 for three years (a 21 percent reduction from the previous rate, or a 31-32 percent harvest limit). In the final four years, the schedule provides for an F rate of .31 (the remainder of the 40 percent reduction), which will drop the harvest percentage under 30 percent. In terms of quota, the combined commercial/recreational limit will be 36.84 million pounds in the first year of the schedule, growing to 81.15 million pounds in the final four years, all based on the presumption of a larger and a growing biomass.

Sounds like good news when you consider the 1997 recreational/commercial bluefish landings were just over 24 million pounds. That figure provides ample proof we will enter the first year of the amended plan (perhaps 1999) UNDERFISHING bluefish quotas and mortality targets!

However, NMFS objected to the fishing community being allowed to harvest up to the quota and mortality targets in the rebuilding schedule. Citing that bluefish had to be rebuilt, NMFS reasoned that any harvest level under that which was specified in the amended plan would serve to hasten the recovery.

That’s true, but SCIENTISTS who predicted stock restoration in nine years by following the prescribed limits had designed the rebuilding schedule. Since we are already under those limits, it seems harsh to suggest that attained harvest levels should redefine mortality targets. Yet that is exactly what has happened because the amendment was changed so that when measures are set for the next fishing year, the mortality target would be the lessor of what the rebuilding schedule specified or the fishing level attained in the most previous year evaluated.

In other words, performance and preference would set mortality levels for subsequent years, not fishery biology or science! Much worse, instead of a reward for landing fewer fish, we’ll actually receive a penalty.

That’s because under this scenario, either poor recruitment or fish movements beyond angler reach could result in unusually low landings. And that would translate into a new, lower, mortality target for subsequent years even though bluefish abundance might subsequently soar.

Admittedly, all of this might evaporate into a salty mist if the bluefish biomass continues to grow. Nevertheless, a startling concept has been introduced into fishery management whereby practice governs target levels. Equally unfortunate is the fact that this changed was supported without any accompanying analysis and was touted as a "conservation" move. To my way of thinking, however, it’s an example of conservation convenience; the kind embraced as long as the other fellow’s ox is gored. Since the recreational sector is by far the larger participant in this fishery, this move has particularly chilling prospects for anglers.

That’s not the only disappointment in the amendment. In the process, the right for party and charter boats to sell bluefish was lost. Regardless of your position on such sale, recognize that the activity is a tradition involving fish caught LEGALLY during recreational fishing WITHIN the proscribed quota. Thus, sale is a disposal, not a biological, issue. Yet despite strong arguments to the contrary, the Council and the ASMFC opted to eliminate party and charter boat sale.

Don’t be mislead into thinking that the goring of someone else’s ox is of no concern. Ox goring is habit forming and could quite easily lead to your doorstep. You should be especially concerned that neither the alteration to the rebuilding schedule nor the loss of party/charter boat sale was biologically rooted. Have we entered the era when attitude and whimsy guide fishery management?

Coupled with the loss of sale rights was the loss of the individual bluefish permit. Heretofore, a federal permit allowed the harvest of bluefish above the recreational bag limit. It has been the only mechanism to "license" commercial fishing, and individuals who obtained one could also harvest bluefish above the bag limit even if they weren’t "traditional" commercial fishermen. With this amendment, the individual permit has been eliminated, replaced by a boat permit intended to allow "true" commercial fishing. From the management perspective, I have to tell you this was an expected change, and a necessary one to effectively control and monitor commercial landings. Yet, there remains the question of a third category of fisherman, the shoreline angler who can’t afford a boat or the cost of a regular trip on a party boat. Those essentially subsistence fishermen have been systematically disenfranchised by escalating regulations. An argument for recognition of this third category, essentially directed at state directors because this is really a state issue, went unheeded. Little is known about the harvest levels from such fishermen, but again, decisions without data were made, and it’s difficult to make a case for a biological basis for the elimination of this third angler category.

The final bluefish issue involves a transfer of unused recreational quota to the commercial sector such that the latter sector’s quota would be brought up to while not exceeding 10.5 million pounds, the average of landings during the years of the bluefish plan. I had originally supported this measure on the basis of a show of willingness to work with others involved in the management process. From a broad perspective, the outreach made sense and would actually "cost" the recreational sector nothing. But as events would have it, I was once again reminded of the wisdom in Leo Dorocher’s ageless observation that "nice guys finish last."

After all that had transpired during amendment 1 adoption, I and the other recreational-based members of the Council and ASMFC could not support this measure. In fact, it was mentioned that since "conservation" had driven the alteration of the rebuilding schedule, eliminating the quota transfer would surely hasten bluefish recovery. Want to bet how those "conservation-minded" members of the management fraternity voted? Don’t bother. The quota transfer is in and as much as five million pounds could be transferred in any year, yet party boat sale, which by any count has to be but a fraction of that total, was rejected.

As I stated at the beginning of this report, the average angler will quite likely see the bluefish plan differently. After all, the 10-fish bag limit was upheld (a try for a 12-fish bag limit went down in defeat while the commercial transfer sallied forth), a 12-inch minimum size was eliminated and as long as biomass continues to grow, the oddity in the rebuilding schedule will pass unnoticed. But it’s the ATTITUDE and the PERSPECTIVE embodied in this amendment which should concern us. The bottom line is that the recreational sector took hits while the commercial sector was rewarded. And none of the hits were based on fishery biology. Therefore, they were attitudinal and whimsical at best.

The final irony is that eliminating the link between recreational catch and commercial quota was one of the objectives of amendment 1. Yet, the rebuilding schedule modification restores a portion of that relationship, something I’m quite certain commercial members hadn’t realized when they voted for the change. Now, how much quota is available to transfer to the commercial sector is even more dependent on recreational performance. If landings drop far enough, the transfer quota could run to a trickle.

Fluke Amendment and Emergency Closure: Amendment 12 To The Summer Flounder, Scup And Black Sea Bass Plan

By Gary Caputi

There were few surprises in the approval of Amendment 12, which was required to bring the plan into compliance with the Magnuson-Stevens "Sustainable Fisheries Act" as passed by congress over a year and a half ago. SFA mandated the implementation of a timetable for rebuilding overfished species if one was not already in place. It required the Council to identify "Essential Fish Habitat" for each species so moves to protect such habitat can be mounted in the future. It mandated the Council to address bycatch reduction, a problem of significant proportions, especially in the scup and summer flounder portions of the plan. The latter two factors alone required the plan amendment and while Council went through the motions as required by the law, I fear that the actual outcome of these new efforts will vary greatly with just how serious NMFS mandates movement on the problems.

For example, fisheries managers have known for years that the biggest problem facing any recovery of the scup (porgy) stocks is the enormous bycatch mortality caused in small mesh trawl fisheries, specifically the illex and lolligo squid fisheries. Will new regulations actually address and reduce this bycatch? I fear that this amendment does little or nothing to take action to correct these problems.

Bycatch by the commercial trawl fishery and hook and release mortality have always been a major concern in the summer flounder (fluke) fishery and shadows the efforts toward recovery. The institution of 5-1/2 inch mess throughout the net reduced the bycatch in the directed fishery dramatically. Undersized fluke were getting through the nets and a far greater number of fish were surviving long enough to spawn. In my opinion, that was the single most important reason the stocks are recovering at such a rapid pace. Hook and release mortality in the rec fishery continues to be a problem. Anglers are charged with the death of one out of every four fluke they release, undersized or otherwise. While this has been debated for years and more recent studies clearly indicate that the mortality rate is probably closer to 12%, not 25%, with the increased sized and reduced bag limits on recreational fishermen, the number of fish being caught and released has increased dramatically.

These two problems are both increasing exponentially because of the rapidly rebuilding stocks of fluke we’ve been blessed with in recent years. As trawlers encounter greater numbers of fish, the numbers they must discard due to closed seasons and strict trip limits are increasing. That means dead fluke are being shoveled over the side at ever increasing rates in the directed fishery. More fluke are dying while commercial boats are targeting other species, since they are so prevalent due to population expansion. They are being caught in nets being towed for a wide variety of other species and the result is the same, dead fish over the side. In a recent meeting, a commercial dragger from Montauk railed the joint management body with being responsible for massive regulatory discards of fluke and I honestly believe this is a huge problem with far reaching implications. These problems must be better documented and dealt with if the rebuilding is to be sustained.

On a more pressing note, there was a call for an emergency closure of the recreational fishery due to harvests that preliminary data from the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistical Survey (MRFSS) seem to indicate are way over the harvest target. The first three waves out five for 1998 indicate anglers could be fishing at the rate 3 times their harvest target of 7.4 million pounds. Keep in mind that anglers have been over their harvest target by over 3 million pounds in 1996 and 1997. If these numbers are not an anomaly, drastic measure will probably be taken at the December meeting where recreational bag and size limits will be set for 1999. It is very possible a return to closed seasons will be discussed, if not implemented. Do keep in mind that the data the harvest projection is based on is preliminary, unchecked and could possibly change.

With this preliminary data fueling debate, some egos and grabs for press attention, first the North Carolina Fishermen’s Association, a commercial lobbying group under the direction of Jerry Shill, wrote letters to the Secretary of Commerce demanding an immediate closure. That was followed two weeks later by similar letters to the Secretary and to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission requesting an emergency closure were sent by a coalition of environmental and conservation groups including the Center for Marine Conservation, National Audubon, Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council. A representative for these groups was given the opportunity to present the letters to the joint meeting of the Council and Commission. It was decided that no action would be taken at this time concerning the request, since the season was winding down and such action would only hurt the southern states where recreational catch rates during the fall and winter are minimal.

However, these requests for closure of the recreational fishery and the apparent overfishing we are experiencing have far more serious implications. We are obviously dealing with a stock that is rebuilding at a pace far in excess of our most optimistic hopes. With the plan now at Fmax, the lowest harvest rate necessary to rebuild and sustain a rebuilt fishery, and due to the lack of any new assessment data from 1998 (the Northeast Fishery Science Center did not do a complete assessment of fluke last year at a time when the charting the rapid rebuilding of the stocks was desperately needed), the angling community stands to take a major hit in bag limit and possible closed seasons in 1999. This will be determined at the joint meeting of the Council and Commission’s Summer Flounder Board at the Raddisson Hotel in Essington, PA on December 15, 16 and 17.

One last note. The North Carolina Fishermen’s Association, the very same group that is calling for an emergency closure of the recreational fishery, sued the Council and Commission in federal court and won a victory before a very commercially friendly judge there, who order an increase in commercial allocation of 400,000 pounds to the 1998 quota. So much for their thinly vailed cloak of conservation. NMFS is appealing the ruling.

Flounder feature for N&O

By Joel Arrington

This is the unedited manuscript I submitted. The Raleigh, NC, News & Observer ran an edited version October 11.

Four national environmental groups joined a commercial fishing lobby last month in calling for an Atlantic Coast-wide closure of recreational fishing for summer flounder. With the prime weeks of the North Carolina season approaching, anglers should not panic, however. The closure is almost surely not going to happen. A closure would mean that through the remainder of the year, anglers would have to release alive all the flounder they catch while fishing for other species. Already they have to return all flounder under 15 inches in total length they catch in the ocean.

Organized anglers agree that changes should be made in how summer flounder are managed. But they say the environmentalists’ projections of how much they will exceed their quota this year are incorrect, that a closure would be unfair to southern states, ineffective in correcting problems with the stock and, in any case, politically unfeasible.

The Environmental Defense Fund, the Center for Marine Conservation, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Audubon Society joined the New Bern-based North Carolina Fishermen’s Association in asking the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to close ocean waters from Maine to Florida "until measures are adopted to control recreational fishing impacts" on summer flounder (fluke).

The North Carolina commercial fishing season was closed back in the spring because fishermen already this year caught 70 percent of their annual quota. Rules will allow fishing to resume in November and continue until the quota is reached.

Because state commercial fishermen exceeded their 1997 quota, rules reduced this year’s quota by the amount of excess. Supporters of the recreational closure initiative argue that anglers, who exceeded their 1996 and 1997 quotas, too, should be held to the same standard.

"Recreational anglers caught more than seven million pounds of flounder in excess of quotas during 1996 and 1997," said Dr. Douglas N. Rader, senior scientist with EDF. "Projections of 1998’s recreational catch, based on mid-year numbers, suggest that anglers will take over 20 million pounds of fluke – almost three times the 1998 recreational quota."

Bob Hayes, the Washington, DC-based counsel for the Coastal Conservation Association, an angler interest group, said NMFS has no authority to close state waters where anglers catch summer flounder. If the ASMFC wished to close fishing, he said, it would legally be required to step through a series of findings, meetings, and waiting periods that would delay any closure until well into 1999.

" The ASMFC is unlikely," he said, "to get every state to close the fishery in time to have any positive conservation effect." Dan Whittle, attorney with the EDF, said his group recognizes that it’s late in the season, and "difficult for the ASMFC to achieve these conservation goals. We are just urging it to do whatever it can to put the issue on the front burner."

There is broad agreement on the necessity for change in the summer flounder management plan supervised by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council in federal waters and by the ASMFC in state jurisdictions. Wayne Lee of Kill Devil Hills, a recreational member of the MAFMC summer flounder advisory panel, advocates a five-point plan he believes would solve most of the problems that appear to be slowing the recovery of the summer flounder stock. They include:

In endorsing these proposed changes, the North Carolina chapter of CCA points out that most recreational landings -- 70 percent of the 1997 total—occur in New York and New Jersey. The fishing season there ends by the middle of October, so any closure late in the year would have little or no effect where most of the fish are caught. The states that would bear the burden of the proposed closure would be Virginia and North Carolina which do not catch many summer flounder until late in the year and which together took only 18 percent of 1997 landings. North Carolina anglers caught three percent.

The CCA explained in a letter last month to N.C. Fisheries Director, Preston Pate, that North Carolina already is being treated unfairly by a management plan that forced an increase in the anglers’ minimum size to 14 inches in 1997. That reduced N.C. recreational landings by 61 percent. An increase to 15 inches this year probably had a similar effect, the CCA argues, but figures are not in.

The letter points out that anglers failed to catch their quota in the three years before 1996. Since the stock has begun to recover, increased participation by anglers caused quota over-runs although each theoretically remained within fishing restrictions set by the management plan. Managers, in other words, failed to anticipate increased fishing pressure in setting daily creel and size limits.

Bo Nowell of Raleigh, a former CCA-NC president, said the closure proposal would "close the barn after the horses have escaped." While supporting Lee’s five points, some of which the environmentalists support, he described the closure initiative as "symbolic more than realistic," and invited support for "a plan rather than a press release."

CCA’s Dick Brame suggested the environmentalists’ proposal was calculated to influence public perception. "Common goals mean they stand with anglers on just about every issue," he said. "Wouldn’t it help their image to be seen once in a while with commercial fishermen?" Whittle denied the closure initiative was motivated by a desire to do anything for appearances. "It’s a major conservation issue," he said, "and it carries a real sense of emergency." East Coast summer flounder landings declined from about 70 million pounds in 1980 to less than 15 million pounds in 1990. But numbers have increased recently. In August the ASMFC voted to raise to 20.2 million pounds the amount that can be landed in 1999. That is up from 19.6 million pounds this year.

These same environmental groups, however, have asked NMFS to overturn that allocation as "irresponsibly high" and inconsistent with the fishery management plan. While the summer flounder stock has begun to rebuild under the management plan, full recovery could take 10 years. "Failure to impose effective measures to limit recreational mortality," the environmentalists claim, "will imperil the hard-won summer flounder recovery currently underway."

end –

JCAA HMS Report- John T. Koegler

NMFS Highly Migratory Species Division has been very active preparing fisheries management plans for Billfish, Tuna and Swordfish. There will be large volumes of information to read, understand and comment on. These plans will set the course for the future of recreational offshore fishing. Beware past plans have always shorted recreational interests in a major way. For example, we are eliminated from the school bluefin fishery by regulations that allow such low harvest numbers that a recreational fishery cannot exist.

The NEW proposed Blight plan is a perfect example of the problems we face. "In the draft Atlantic Billfish FMP, NMFS proposes to increase the minimum size limits for blue marlin to 99 inches lower jaw fork length, sailfish 63 inches and white marlin 66 inches. The plan defines when a billfish stock is overfished and establishes Atlantic wide target catch levels to provide for rebuilding of billfish stocks within 10 years. The plan prohibits use of multiple hooks per bait or lure, establishes a bag limit of 1 billfish per vessel per trip with a provision to set the bag limit to zero when landing limits have been reached, and prohibits the retention of spearfish. The plan implements HMS charter/headboat logbooks, permits and observer programs and proposes to develop educational/outreach programs for commercial and recreational fishermen to enhance post release survival rates. What has been proposed eliminates us from this fishery. If the intent was to establish Atlantic wide CATCH levels, which includes catch and release fishing then anglers have been eliminated. Not having a copy it is impossible to know if this is what the plan proposes, or is only a printing error.

If you care enough to want a copy call Sarah Mclaughlin at 1-301-713-2347.

The Mid-Atlantic Council reviewed NMFS’s 3 new HMS plans at their last meeting. However, none of the plans were available. During this committee meeting New Jersey’s Bruce Freeman proposed to resolve the angler Bluefin tuna quota dilemma by closing the angler fishery for one or two years, so an accumulated quota would be large enough to permit an angler bluefin fishery to exist during the third year. The committee rejected this item, but it was presented later to the full council. The Mid-Atlantic council voted and approved this item and will send it to NMFS. Understand the real problem is quota and allocation. When Carmen Blondin, head of U.S. ICCAT delegation, set angler quota allocations in 1991 locking us in at 8% of the U.S. bluefin tuna quota. He destroyed the recreational bluefin tuna fishery and allowed for the growth of the commercial tuna fishery. This 8% has resulted in the allocation of one school bluefin tuna per boat for the 10,000 plus angler fleet. This was the quota left after the commercials received over 80% of the US quota tonnage. In 1995 the quota problem became impossible when NMFS changed the formula used to count angler landings. The new formula doubled previous angler landing numbers. As a result, we have been eliminated from this fishery by regulations, poor management, and failure to obtain accurate angler landings. The same issue is present in swordfish, sharks, tunas, and billfish. The angler quota is now so small that for all intents and purposes we have been eliminated from the small school fishery. Once the recreational angler gave up the right to sell, NMFS tried to eliminate us from the fishery. A two-day workshop has been proposed for November in Philadelphia.

This quota issue will confront anglers when the other offshore tunas become regulated. Currently, NMFS reports to ICCAT that anglers 1992 yellowfin tuna landings were 1,075 Mt. NMFS ICCAT estimates bigeye and longfin albacore landings are each less than 200 Mt. Based on previous New Jersey data, we alone land far more of these tunas. The result of imposing regulations using NMFS/ICCAT numbers in these offshore fisheries for 19 Atlantic states plus the Caribbean will result in angler elimination from all tuna fisheries, just like bluefin.

It is clear and evident those ICCAT issues are controlled by the State Department. Do US international treaties stand in the way of real compliance by most other ICCAT members? Based on current data, it appears that other governments lack the will to control their fishermen and reduce landings to sustainable levels in any HMS fishery. This position is supported by a letter just sent from the federal Fisheries Councils to the head of the Department of Commerce. This raises the international compliance issue to the cabinet level. Their letter follows a very strong letter from New Jersey Congressman Rob Andrews on the very same issue last month. His letter was supported by many other Congressional Representatives. Will anything change? Participate, fight or be eliminated from these fisheries will be your choice. Sunday, November 1-3 ICCAT advisors meet in Silver Spring MD. Public comment is limited to Sunday November 1 from 1 to 5 PM.

Management issues are coming along so fast it is difficult to understand them before major decisions are made. Votes are cast for management plans that affect us before their intent and direction is understood. The voting process has become so political it is hard to get a vote based on the issues. The problem is not simple. There is too much to know and understand. Whenever these plans do come out, NMFS does not allow for enough time to digest and comment. The process has become too political. Data are presented that appear to require major changes. A careful read of the data finds major errors. When the numbers are corrected only minor adjustments are needed. You will find this out when the fluke and other key angler fishery regulations are finalized for 1999 and beyond in all key fisheries.

Internet Address: Maury.Osborn@noaa.gov.

 

New Jersey Division Of Fish and Game at The Crossroads

The Passage Of S1378 Is Critical To The Future Of Scientific Fish & Wildlife Management In New Jersey

By George P. Howard , Executive Director New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmens Clubs

For the past 50 years , ever since New Jersey’s last constitutional convention in l948, New Jersey citizens with an interest in wildlife, and particularly New Jersey sportsmen, have benefited tremendously from the professional management of our wildlife resources provided by the Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife. From whitetailed deer to waterfowl, shorebirds, wild turkeys, shad and large mouth bass, the application of scientific wildlife management principles to wildlife populations and their habitats by the New Jersey Fish and Game Council, has provided extensive benefits to wildlife and humans alike.

That the financing of fish and wildlife management in our state has over the years been provided entirely by the New Jersey sportsmen, is probably of less importance than the fact that for most of these 50 years the funds were always available when needed. Sportsmen’s license fees and excise taxes on sporting equipment have long supported the New Jersey Division of Fish and Game and it’s management programs. From wildlife law enforcement to fresh water fish and game management, New Jersey sportsmen have always paid the bills, and in many cases enjoyed the benefits that have accrued from the management programs their funding supported. While adequate funding for Fish & Game was available for most of the last 50 years, it is unfortunately true that much needed funding has been lacking recently, and that popular and essential programs have had to be curtailed for the lack of funds.

The legislative failures of recent New Jersey license fee increase proposals have negatively affected our wildlife resources, and those charged with managing them. The New Jersey sportsman, who in many cases is the primary user of the resource, has also been impacted. S 1378, if enacted into law this winter, promises to relieve this situation and place New Jersey once again in a leadership role as far as scientific management of the wildlife resource is concerned. S 1378 is practically identical to the sportsmen initiated license fee increase bill which came so close to passage in the legislature’s last session. With the support of the sportsmen, wildlife enthusiasts, and legislators from both sides of the aisle, the future of S l378 in the present New Jersey legislature appears much more promising than past attempts.

Without the funding contained in S 1378 the future of many Division programs are at risk. Without professional biologists to collect data and develop management programs, necessary support staff, and an adequate law enforcement capability to enforce laws and regulations, every program offered by the Division of Fish, Game, and Wildlife will be impacted. New Jersey’s outdoor enthusiasts can expect shorter seasons, smaller bag limits, and fewer recreationally opportunities. To ensure that there are stable fish and wildlife populations and wildlife oriented recreation for our children and grandchildren to enjoy, we must adequately fund wildlife management in our state. The wildlife resource of the state belongs to all of us. We are collectively responsible for protecting it , and part of that responsibility is being willing to pay for it.

S1378 will require a one time only fee increase (generating $2.6 million dollars), to ensure the future of the Division of Fish, Game, and wildlife and it’s management programs through the year 2002. The proposal allows youths under the age of l6 to hunt, fish, and trap for free and provides half price deer and turkey permits for young sportsmen. With the passage of S1378 sportsmen related programs which suffered recent cuts due to a lack of funding can be reinstated, and much needed initiatives such as the renovation of the Hackettstown hatchery for warm water fish production , and the long awaited urban fishing program can be initiated.

S 1378 1999 Proposed Schedule of Fees for Hunting and Fishing Licenses

License or stamp Total Cost

Resident fishing $22.25
Senior fishing 12.25
Res. Youth fishing FREE
Res. Trout stamp 10.50
Non-Res, fishing 33.75
Non-Res, Youth fishing FREE
Non-Res,. 7-day fishing 19.25
Non-Res. 2-day fishing 8.75
Non-Res. Trout stamp 20.00
All-Around sportsman 72.00
Res. Firearm hunting 27.25
Senior firearm hunting 15.25
Res Youth Firearm hunting FREE
Non-Res. Firearm hunting 135.25
Non-Res. 2 day hunting 36.25
Non Res. Youth firearm hunting Free
Resident Bow & Arrow 31.25
Senior Bow & Arrow 16.25
Res Youth Bow & Arrow Free
Non-Res Bow & Arrow 135.25
Non-Res Youth Bow &Arrow Free
Pheasant & Quail Stamp 40.00
Youth Pheasant & Quail Stamp Free
Res Waterfowl Stamp 5.00
Non-Res Waterfowl Stamp 10.00
Resident trapping 32.25
Res. Youth trapping FREE
Turkey permits 21.00
Deer permits 28.00
Youth deer & turkey permits 12.00

In l998 the very future of fish and wildlife management in our state is at risk. The enactment into law of S 1378 is essential, if we and those who come after us, are to continue to enjoy the benefits New Jersey's wildlife resource has to offer.

Vote Yes On Public Question number 1 On Nov 3rd Save A Million Acres Of Open Space

By George P. Howard, Ex. Director NJSFSC

November 3rd is Election Day. This years ballot contains a most important referendum - Public Question # 1 - a constitutional amendment which will provide dedicated funding needed to protect a million acres of New Jersey’s fast disappearing open space, farmland, and historic resources. For all New Jersey citizens, and particularly for sportsmen, a "yes" vote on Public Question # 1 on Nov.3rd will be one of the most significant votes ever for the future quality of life in our state. The very future of our state is at stake, together with the future of our open spaces, forests, farmland, parks, wildlife, water, historic, recreational and esthetic resources which are daily disappearing under the onslaught of the rampant uncontrolled development rapidly devouring New Jersey.

Since l961 more than 500,000 acres of New Jersey’s open space and farmland have been lost to over-development and sprawl. A "Yes" vote on Nov. 3rd is our last chance to make meaningful progress toward the preservation of the open space resources so necessary to our future. Public Question #1 has been a long time coming and will finally provide the stable and adequate financial resources needed ($1,85 billion dollars) to guarantee the future quality of life in New Jersey.

The funding provided by this initiative will require no new taxes. It will dedicate $98 million dollars per year of the states existing sales tax revenues over the next 30 years to finance the acquisition of open space, provide capital development for outdoor recreational facilities, and preserve farmland and historic resources. For the first ten years of the program the dedicated revenues will be leveraged with #1.0 billion dollars in bonds to generate the total $1.85 billion dollars needed. The general guidelines for the open space program call for preserving 500,000 acres of farmland, 200,000 acres of recreation and natural resource areas (forests, parks, and wildlife management areas), 100 acres of watershed areas, and 200,000 acres of Greenways (open areas that connect parks, natural areas, and stream corridors).

Public Question # 1 has the support of the governor and the legislature as well as New Jersey’s leading environmental, farmland, and historic preservation organizations. It’s passage is also endorsed by the state’s top business leaders including the New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce, the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, PSE&G, Merck & Co., Bell Atlantic to name a few.

There is much to be gained by the passage of this most important referendum. This is our last chance to preserve meaningful amounts of vital open spaces essential to our future. These areas will be lost forever if action is not taken now. The passage of Public Question # 1 is a giant step toward a guaranteed quality of life for future New Jersey citizens our children and grandchildren. If for whatever reason Question # 1 doesn’t pass it will be too late for much of New Jersey’s open space. We will have lost hundreds of thousands of our most important acres - farmland, forests, wilderness, parks, watersheds, and wildlife habitats.

Be sure to vote on November 3rd and VOTE YES ON PUBLIC QUESTION # 1. This could be the most important vote you will ever cast.

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