JCAA

      


 

FISHERIES MANAGEMENT & LEGISLATIVE REPORT

by Tom Fote

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association December 1998 Newsletter)

JCAA/ASA December 3-5 Workshop

Enclosed is a letter sent to many groups along the coast about the December workshop. We have expanded the workshop to include highly migratory species. This workshop is by invitation only to various groups along the entire coast. If your group did not receive an invitation and you are interested in attending, please call me. In addition, we invited environmental groups for discussions on collaborative strategies to protect the resource. There will be an additional meeting organized by JCAA for New Jersey groups interested in highly migratory species. If that meeting is of interest, contact John Koegler.

After this workshop, we will be coming to you for your support. If you do not take action on highly migratory species this part of the recreational fishing industry will be gone. If NMFS has its way, we will be out of the fishery for sharks, tuna and billfish. It will become an entirely commercial fishery like bluefin tuna. We need the same enthusiasm for highly migratory species that we have demonstrated for striped bass. We can no longer rely on NMFS to look out for the recreational fishery. They are clearly "out to lunch" where the recreational fishery is concerned. We need to put our efforts with our elected officials.

The striped bass workshop will concentrate on beginning the discussion of Amendment 6. It is important that we begin to develop common goals for 2000. I am not expecting a decision at this meeting but hope we will lay the groundwork for the future. How do you feel about the issues facing striped bass for 2000? JCAA would like to know. The JCAA striped bass committee will be meeting after the December workshop and will consider any ideas we receive. Please write, fax or email us.

It is important that we leave this meeting with a plan for 1999 on summer flounder. Please see the following article for more information.

To Interested Groups:

In response to a number of critically important fisheries management plans and proposed regulations, Jersey Coast Anglers Association and American Sportfish Association are sponsoring important workshops December 3 – 5, 1998. With what is scheduled to take place with summer flounder, striped bass, bluefish, billfish, sharks, and tuna in the coming two months, we must all take this opportunity to come together, discuss the issues and try to reach consensus opinions to bring forward.

By the year 2000, ASMFC, the Councils and NMFS will make decisions and put regulations in place for these species that will affect their abundance for the next ten years and determine what the saltwater recreational fisheries and industry will look like well into the future. We must find a way to stop being ignored by the management community. All recreational fishing advocacy groups must work together now to protect the resource and stop the management process from destroying the recreational fishing industry. Recreational fishermen can not continue to pay the price for rebuilding fisheries destroyed by commercial excesses and government mismanagement. There is simply too much at stake right now to fail. We must put aside our differences and bring united force to bear on these problems now.

The workshop originally scheduled for December 4 & 5 has been expanded to include a day devoted to Highly Migratory Species on December 3. With the release of the draft billfish, tuna, shark and swordfish FMPs, and the rush to implement these incredibly lopsided and commercially biased regulations, it is imperative we review them and plan our responses and actions. We will start this meeting by 10:00 AM.

In order to get some key players to attend it was decided to start on December 3, before the summer flounder, striped bass and bluefish meetings start. Most of the people invited represent groups in their respective states. Many of national groups have already said they will be represented at this meeting.

The night of December 3 is a scheduled dinner meeting with members of four environmental organizations, Center for Marine Conservation, Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society and Natural Resources Defense Council. These four groups have also been invited to attend Friday’s meeting but not the working sessions on Thursday and Saturday

The first day of the December 4 &5 meeting will include briefings by MAFMC & ASMFC on bluefish, striped bass and summer flounder. On the second day we will break up into working groups on summer flounder and striped bass in the morning and then meet as a group to review the working groups’ discussions. You might consider bring two people to represent your organizations so you can participate in both groups.

The meeting will be held at the Interpretive Center in Island Beach State Park, South Seaside Park, New Jersey. If you have never been to Island Beach State Park you will be visiting one of New Jersey’s true environmental treasures. It has nature trails, bird watching areas, fishing and 11 miles of undeveloped Barrier Island. Many birds winter over at the park so bring your binoculars. Striped bass and bluefish are usually still on the beach in the park at this time, so bring your gear. If you want I can try to arrange for someone to take you fishing one of the mornings.

The two motels listed are a block from the beach and have reasonable rates. Island Beach Motor Lodge is located at the entrance to the park where the meeting will be take place. To set up the meeting rooms and send you materials before the meeting I need to know if you are coming by November 25. We are presently putting together the agenda and meeting materials and I will send them to you when you confirm you are coming.

Island Beach Motor Lodge, 24th & Central Ave., South Seaside Park, NJ 08752, (732-793-5400). Rooms starting at $25.00 for a single and $35.00 for a double during the week and $35 and $45 for Friday and Saturday. Efficiency apartments and penthouse rooms are available at reasonable rates. This is right next to Island Beach State Park where we will be meeting.

Windjammer Motor Inn, First & Central Ave., Seaside Park, NJ 08752, 732-830-2555, rooms are usually $40.00 on weekends and $30.00 during the week.

New Jersey Sea Grant will be coordinating the meeting and handling the registration. Contact person is Barbara at Dr. Eleanor Bochenek’s office. Bochenek@AESOP.RUTGERS.EDU. Please email, call 732-349-1152 or fax 732-505-8941. We need to know who is attending as soon as possible.

If you have any questions or comments contact me by email at tfote@JCAA.org, fax 732-506-6409 or phone 732-270-9102.

American Sportfishing Assn. Meeting

I attended the ASA Annual Meeting in Florida from October 27 – 31. It was interesting to see the direction the industry is headed. More manufacturers have come to realize that they need to involve themselves in fisheries management. It is clear that more fish mean more jobs and more income. It is surprising that some of the largest tackle manufacturers do not belong to ASA. They are missing an excellent chance to support their industry. In the past few years, ASA has proved they can do much more than run a trade show. They have been on the front lines in fisheries management and conservation. For example, through the work of ASA, there is Wallop-Breaux money available for promoting sportfishing. This led to the inaugural board meeting of the Directors of the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. This board is a partnership of the Fish and Wildlife Service, the boating industry, the tackle manufacturers, and state agencies. They will decide how to spend 36 million dollars over the next five years with the goal of raising awareness of the benefits of sportfishing. Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs and Pathways to Fishing are two examples of programs that will receive funding. These programs are designed to promote positive outdoor recreational activities for youth and offer them opportunities to protect our natural resources. ASA is also opening a new retailer’s membership. Ask your tackle store owners if they belong to ASA.

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Meeting

It was interesting to see the restructuring of the boards of ASMFC. Those of us who have attended ASMFC meetings for many years recognize how substantial the changes really are. The meetings are totally open to the public, anyone can comment. Now, even the makeup of the boards has changed. There have always been three commissioners from state; the state director, the Governor’s appointee and the Legislative appointee. However, these three commissioners were not given equal authority. Originally, only state directors sat on boards. This was changed a few years ago to allow for one governor’s appointee and one legislative appointee to represent the entire group. This year the policy board decided on a one-year trial period for all boards. All interested state commissioners will now be allowed to sit on any board. Each state will vote as a caucus. New Jersey generally used a caucus policy since I have been involved in the process. This has not been true for other states. This gives Governor’s appointees and Legislative appointees the same power as a state director. I got involved with ASMFC eleven years ago, hoping I could help change the process. I am delighted with this change. This has been a tough battle and many commissioners’ work hard to make this happen.

This does not mean that all is well at the ASMFC. We need to maintain a constant vigil. The latest vote by the policy board on summer flounder just proves again that they don’t have a clue. Having the opportunity to speak doesn’t mean that anyone is listening. This also means that you must communicate regularly with your Governor’s appointee and Legislative appointee. If you are mailing a copy of your newsletter to the state director, add the Governor’s appointee and Legislative appointee to your mailing list. All position papers should be sent to all three commissioners. JCAA will be posting a complete mailing list on the WebPages. You can contact ASMFC for a copy, 202-289-6400.

I will give a full report on the ASMFC meeting at the November 24 JCAA meeting. I hope to see all the club representatives there. I know the fishing is good but you need to attend this meeting.

Summer Flounder Report

Following is the summary of the hook and release report. At the policy board meeting at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council meeting, New Jersey made a motion for the hook and release data to be considered by the monitoring committee. The policy board voted this motion down by two votes, calling the motion out of order. After the vote I had a lengthy discussion with several state and federal representatives and requested a peer review of this study before the monitoring committee meeting. This should clear up any questions about the data. The actions of the policy board appear even more ludicrous when we consider that the original 25% figures were never peer reviewed. There was no scientific study to peer review since the entire matter was resolved over a cup of coffee, not while studying the data. Councils and commission and NMFS have always told us that they use the best scientific data available. They pretend to base their decisions on the data they have. Now they actually have data and they are ignoring it. This will be one of the topics at the December workshop. The monitoring committee will be meeting on November 19 in Baltimore.

At the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission meeting we found out that NMFS has decided on the 18 million-pound quota for 1999. This is not the 20 million pounds we were hoping for. I am hoping the ASMFC will accept the hook and release mortality study, do a regression analysis and decide on a larger quota before the season opens for the 1999 fishery. We will need your help to put pressure on ASMFC and the MidAtlantic Council.

Also see : "Release Mortality in Virginia’s Recreational Fishery for Summer Flounder, Paralichthys dentatus"   By Jon Lucy & Tracy Holton at VIMS

Update on Menhaden Protection Bill S722 A1827

The JCAA has been told that the Menhaden Bill will be posted for a committee hearing after the first of the year. JCAA and other organizations have worked hard to get this bill to this point but we need your help. To get this bill passed, we need you to start doing your part. I know you have heard us say this before but some of you have not done it. Now is the time to write letters, phone, fax, and call legislators and tell them to move this bill and vote YES. 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. 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 as a guide. If you have any questions, give us a call. We need your help to protect the menhaden resource from collapse. If this resource collapses it will have a serious impact on many of the species we catch in New Jersey. We need to get this done before next season. We have had some of the best surf fishing for stripers and blue in years in New Jersey. Why? Because there are baby menhaden in the surf. No Menhaden, no bass or blues! It is up to you.

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.net

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.ne
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Highly Migratory Species Articles

Following are two articles discussing the recent proposals on highly migratory species. I found Ken Hinman’s article extremely interesting and hope it will help you understand the proposed changes.

Good First Step, Or a House of Cards? Ken Hinman Nation Coalition for Marine Conservation

 The U.S. government finally responded to growing public concerns over the plight of billfish, sharks and tunas - and to a 1996 federal mandate to restore their depleted populations as rapidly as possible - by proposing the first-ever recovery plans for these species. The National Coalition for Marine Conservation says the plans, if implemented with tougher measures to reduce bycatch, could be the first step toward creating healthy, sustainable fisheries that anglers and conservationists have been waiting for. But it’s still a big "if."

The draft Fishery Management Plans for Highly Migratory Species (HMS) and Billfish, released in October by the National Marine Fisheries Service, feature solid targets for ending overfishing, but include timetables that are too lengthy for some species. The plan failed to include any rebuilding plan for bluefin tuna. The 10-year rebuilding schedules for swordfish and billfish must now be adopted by ICCAT, the international body that sets Atlantic-wide catch levels for overfished swordfish, blue and white marlin, and bluefin tuna. (Sharks are managed solely under domestic rules.) A key proposal for dealing with swordfish bycatch by counting discards - 40,000 swordfish discarded dead in 1996 - against landings quotas also requires ICCAT approval, says NMFS.

"The plan looks good on the surface, but because it relies so heavily on ICCAT, it’s really a house of cards," says NCMC President Ken Hinman. "If the U.S. isn’t successful in getting ICCAT to act, it all falls apart."

The plan’s major defect: the lack of measures to avoid or minimize longline bycatch, one of the chief sources of mortality in the offshore fisheries. A single area closure is proposed off south Florida to reduce bycatch of juvenile swordfish. (A regulatory framework is established to add new closures in the future, if necessary).

The NMFS plan doesn’t minimize bycatch, as the law requires. Instead, bycatch mortality is deducted from the total allowable catch. In the case of pelagic sharks, a new discard quota provided for blue sharks - blue shark bykill sometimes exceeds the entire pelagics quota - is added on top of the existing quota.

"If discards are not accurately reported and total mortality is not counted against catch limits," warns Hinman, "there is no way we can reach our rebuilding goals. NMFS needs to expand the one proposed area closure to protect other bycatch hot spots, and take action to control the number of fish caught and killed, not simply how they are counted. When the law says ‘minimize bycatch,’ that’s what it means."

Russ Dunn of the Ocean Wildlife Campaign agrees. "While accounting for all sources of mortality is critical to rebuilding depleted HMS populations," he says, "it is better to avoid catching and killing non-target and undersized fish in the first place." The OWC is an alliance of five major environmental groups, including the NCMC, working together to conserve the ocean’s giant fish.

The NCMC is also troubled by the apparent bias in favor of commercial fishing in both the HMS and billfish plans. For example, minimum size limits and a bag limit are proposed for billfish in order to reduce landings mortality by 25%. However, no measures are recommended to reduce U.S. longline bycatch, which kills six times as many marlins as do U.S. anglers. Sport fisheries for large coastal and small coastal sharks would be catch-and-release only, but allow commercial fishermen to continue landing sharks, albeit at a substantially reduced level. A per-trip bag limit of three Yellowfin tuna per angler is recommended to control fishing mortality, but no Yellowfin quota is proposed for commercial fishing.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is taking public comment on the billfish FMP through January 3, 1999, and on the HMS (tuna, swordfish and shark) FMP through January 25. Write: Dr. Rebecca Lent, NMFS HMS Division, 1315 East West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910.

Agency comes up with plan to slow overfishing - Fred Deegenthe Sun Herald

The National Marine Fisheries Service recently announced its draft management plan for over-fished stocks of Atlantic swordfish, sharks and tunas. Among other management measures, the plan would prohibit the use of gill nets for catching Atlantic tuna, adopt a June-May fishing year, and limit long-line access to the fishery.

Several alternative rebuilding programs are being examined for blue fin tuna. NMFS does not identify a specific preferred alternative for rebuilding, because new information on stock status and negotiations at the upcoming 1998 ICCAT meeting could result in some new alternatives that have not been identified at this point.

The preferred management alternative for Atlantic blue fin tuna rebuilding will be developed following this month’s ICCAT meeting. Here are some of the management measures being considered for individual species:

Big eye tuna: Adopt a 10-year rebuilding program to be negotiated at ICCAT.

Yellow fin tuna: Limit recreational anglers to a creel limit of three fish per angler per trip.

Atlantic swordfish: Adopt a 10-year rebuilding program which would require a 27 percent decrease in the total North Atlantic swordfish harvest level (estimated to be 8,000 metric tons annually), which would be negotiated at ICCAT in 1999. The draft plan includes adopting a three-month time-area closure in the Florida Straits for long line vessels to help protect juvenile swordfish populations; requiring a vessel monitoring system and gear marking to enforce time-area closures; counting dead discards of swordfish in Atlantic fisheries against the total quota; deducting recreational swordfish landings from the incidental swordfish quota; providing workshops for long line vessel operators; establishing a limited access provision for the long line and hand gear fisheries and placing limits on gear and deployment in these fisheries. Finally, measures designed to reduce long line fishery by-catch of swordfish would also be adopted.

Atlantic sharks: Establish a limited access fishery and add 15 species to the current list of five species that are prohibited from retention or landing, including dusky sharks. Also extend the finning prohibition to all species.

Large coastal sharks would be divided into two sub categories, ridgeback and non-ridgeback. A minimum size limit would be established for ridgeback species under current catch levels. The non-ridgeback quota would be reduced by 66 percent.

Measures to account for all sources of fishing mortality also would be established as well as seasons.

The pelagic shark quota would be reduced to account for porbeagle catch and blue shark dead discards over and above 10-year average.

The small coastal shark quota would be reduced by 80 percent.

Here’s the bottom line for those of us that fish for sharks as a sport:

Catch and release only would be permitted for coastal sharks; a bag limit of one pelagic shark per vessel or trip would be established.

All sharks landed by recreational anglers would be required to have heads, tails and fins attached.

Other proposed measures for all highly migratory species fisheries:

Requiring observers on blue fin tuna harpoon and purse seine vessels; requiring completion of logbooks within 24 hours after hauling a long line set; requiring mandatory registration of shark, swordfish, tuna recreational fishing tournaments; requiring permits and logbooks for highly migratory species charter-headboat operators, with a provision to carry observers if selected; The Highly Migratory Species Advisory Panel, established through the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, would replace the Shark Observation Team.

The public is invited to comment on the draft proposal through Jan. 25, 1999. Get copies of the proposal from and return written comments to:

Rebecca Lent, Chief of Highly Migratory Species Management Division, 1315
East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD
Fred Deegen is deputy director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.

CRABPOT BAN IN North Carolina

In a victory for recreational crabbers, the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission has banned crab pots inland waters. The commercial crabbers and North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission opposed this move. This ban will take effect in July 1999. Many anglers had supported this ban, complaining that pots get in the way of fishing and boating. There will be efforts made to redesignate areas with large crab populations but smaller populations of game fish for commercial crabbers. We need to look at what happened in North Carolina as we deal with the same problems here. Many boaters have complained about the increasing number of commercial crab pots. Marinas are reporting a booming business in repairs necessitated by boats encountering crab pots.

Naturally clean   - Skidaway Institute project tackles mercury in the environment. By Gail Krueger Savannah Morning News

Spartina marsh grass and yellow poplar trees may be the next high-tech weapons in the fight to clean up toxic forms of mercury in the environment. Small stands of spartina—the familiar green grass that is the dominant plant in area salt marshes—are being grown at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography’s BERM. And, they are sucking up methyl mercury—mercury’s most toxic form.

The project is allowing scientists from all over the world to test a variety of bioremediation strategies to remove contaminants from estuarine and freshwater environments, said Richard Lee, a biochemist at the institute, which is a unit of the University of Georgia.

BERM stands for Bioremediation and Environmental Research Mesocosms. It’s a fancy name for an outdoor laboratory that looks like a huge raised patio deck covered with kiddie pools and greenhouses.

Bioremediation is the use of natural biological processes to break down or detoxify pollutants. It uses microbes and higher organisms—such as spartina—to remove the contaminants. In most cases, the organisms are already present in the soil or water.

"Nature does a better job of cleaning up than we do. In some cases it (bioremediation) is a lot more practical than digging up lots of soil and carting it off," Lee said.

The first project in the BERM is three tanks of mini-marshes—those kiddie pools of spartina—to test the cleaning power of spartina and microorganisms on contaminants from the LCP Chemical site in Brunswick.

The former chemical plant where LCP produced chlorine gas, hydrochloric acid, bleach and caustic soda is on the federal Superfund list. Its mixture of mercury and other toxins makes LCP the most polluted site in the Southeast, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Much of the mess, especially the mercury and other toxins, has leached into Purvis Creek, the Turtle River and the surrounding marshes.

Sediment from the contaminated marsh sits in one tank at the BERM; spartina grows in a separate tank of contaminated sediment; and uncontaminated marsh sediment from around Skidaway Island sits in a third as a control.

The spartina has taken up about 10 percent of the mercury from the sediments in one tank, processing it from a toxic inorganic form to a naturally occurring vapor form, Lee said.

Once the rate of the natural process is established, Lee and other scientists can look at ways of speeding it up. Adding specific fertilizers might be one way of increasing the mercury uptake; genetically altering the plants may be another.

Lee is looking for financial support to start another bioremediation research project at the BERM to see how well marsh plants will do cleaning up coal tar sites scattered all around the state.

Toxic coal tar is an artifact from when natural gas was produced by burning coal. One such site is at Trustees Garden in downtown Savannah. Atlanta Gas is working on a plan to clean it up in a more conventional way—by digging up the contaminated soils and hauling them away for incineration at an approved plant.

That is the most common way such sites are cleaned up, Lee said. He thinks plants and bioremediation might offer another way.

"I think the same technology could be used to help these sites as well. When they are in populated areas, it might be more practical than digging it up," Lee said.

Meanwhile, other University of Georgia scientists are genetically altering fast-growing yellow poplar trees so they can take mercury out of the soil. UGA researchers, including geneticist Rich Meagher, are fitting poplar trees with a gene borrowed from mercury-resistant bacteria.

In laboratory trials, yellow poplars with the gene showed a 10-fold increase over control trees in their ability to absorb toxic mercury ions and convert them to a vapor. It all falls under the category of helping nature heal itself, Lee said.

Environmental issues reporter Gail Krueger can be reached at 652-0331.

Web posted Sunday, November 8, 1998

PERSONAL WATERCRAFT

Whether I am at Barnegat Bay Watershed meeting or one of the many club meetings I attend, the subject of personal watercraft (jet skis) always comes up. They are a booming industry and are causing all kinds of controversy. I hope you find this article interesting. After attending several workshops I realize that we need not only appropriate laws but also we need enforcement as well. Much of the problem could be corrected if existing laws were enforced. Municipalities and townships don’t have the staff to provide consistent enforcement. Neither do the New Jersey State Police. Some of the available boats can’t really follow personal watercraft.

In a previous newspaper I discussed my concerns about some of the pending legislation. However, there is one change I think would help. Many of the problems are caused not by owners but by users. We require a license for personal watercraft in New Jersey. But if you get caught driving one without a license, all you get is a ticket. The person who loaned it to you pays no penalty at all. Two of the most serious accidents on Barnegat Bay involved nonlicensed users of PWC. If we used the same policy we used with cars, we could make it much more uncomfortable and expensive for people who operate personal watercraft without a license. Immediate impoundment and stiffer fines would cause both owners and unlicensed users to think twice. It would be inconvenient and expensive to get your PWC from a private impound lot.

Personal Watercraft Make Waves

"As the legislative noose continues to tighten around the neck of the personal watercraft industry," said Jet Sports Magazine, "PWC are facing a doubtful future on many of our nation's waterways."

The National Park Service (NPS) defines these machines as "high performance vessels designed for speed and maneuverability and often used to perform stunt-like maneuvers." They are "a blast to ride," wrote Pacific Northwest commentator Richard Hazelton. More than 1.3 million PWC are now in use, under names including jet ski, waverunner, wavejammer, wetjet, sea-doo, wet bike and surf jet. PWC, some 11 percent of all US-registered boats, figure in more than 35 percent of all boating accidents.

A recent NPS document about the PWC situation goes on to categorize public complaints about PWC, which "are often operated in an aggressive manner." Offenses include "buzzing swimmers, failure to control their vessels, going in circles for long periods of time, underage operators, and not observing ‘no wake' zones." Noise and wildlife disturbance is other frequent criticisms. In a letter to Soundings, Stephen D. Keiss of Greenville, North Carolina termed PWC "the single biggest threat to recreational boaters ever."

In reaction, most Atlantic Coast states have tightened their rules. Bans on nighttime PWC operation, increases in minimum operator age, and outright prohibition in some areas, notably including parts of the Florida Keys, are widespread. At the federal level, NPS last month proposed the outright prohibition of PWC "throughout the National Park System except where specifically authorized." After publication of the final rule, a "two year grace period" would apply in some park units where superintendents could make local rules. Atlantic coastal areas designated for the grace period include Assateague Island, Canaveral, Cape Cod, Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout, Cumberland Island, and Fire Island.

After the current public comment period expires, explains Carol Anthony at NPS, "it will take approximately a year to get the entire regulatory process in place." PWC "surely have their place in some parts of the system," she continues. "But they certainly do not belong in our more pristine areas."

For its part, the industry has been working ever harder with state officials to introduce and promote safety courses for PWC drivers. And on another front-making PWC conform to tightening EPA hydrocarbon emissions standards for marine engines-notable progress is being made toward greater cleanliness and efficiency. Conventional two-stroke engines for PWC are responsible for 1.1 billion pounds of hydrocarbon emissions each year, according to a San Diego Earth Times report, and "discharge as much as 30 percent of their fuel and oil unburned directly into the water." More and more marine engines, however, are being equipped with a new microprocessor-controlled technology called FFI (FICHT Fuel Injection) that first appeared in Germany in 1993 and has more recently been improved by Outboard Marine Corporation, makers of Johnson and Evinrude engines. FFI's smart electronic control unit monitors fuel flow for a wide range of PWC engines, reducing hydrocarbon emissions by 70 to 80 percent and raising fuel efficiency by 35 percent by closing the exhaust at the moment of each injection.

To register your views about how and where PWC should operate, contact NPS through November 16 at comments@pwc.nps.gov. You can reach the Personal Watercraft Zone Internet Magazine at http://www.pwczone.com.

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