JCAA

      


 

FISHERIES MANAGEMENT & LEGISLATIVE REPORT

by Tom Fote

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association January 1999 Newsletter)

I thought this quote was a great way to start off my report this month. As you read this report keep this quote in mind

"The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such. For him, skepticism is the highest of duties; blind faith the one unpardonable sin."

Thomas H. Huxley

A special holiday message to NJ’s outdoor writers:

Without your help we would be able to accomplish little. You keep us all informed and keep our legislators on their toes. Your articles are so well written and challenge all of us to do what’s best for the resource. We may not say thank you often enough but you need to know how much we appreciate all you do. We know this is more than a job!

Eel Bill Goes Down In Flames

On December 17th, the eel bill (A675/S457) was finally brought to the Senate floor for a vote. The final vote was 21 No votes, 5 Yes votes and 11 abstentions. On Thursday morning, as I spoke with various Senators, I was joined by Dave Pringle, NJ Environmental Federation, and Curtis Fisher, NJPIRG. They distributed their position paper supporting JCAA’s request for a No vote. Jim Donofrio, executive director of the RFA, also joined us and worked the halls. Every Senator let us know that they had received your faxes, letters and phone calls. This made our job easier. You had already convinced them to vote No. We just had to remind them and make sure they held the line. At the last minute, a letter from DEP supported the bill and it was a good thing that we were there to reinforce your work.

I was sitting next to JB Kasper in the gallery as this vote came up for a vote. There was a series of amendments on the floor to make S457 exactly like the Assembly bill (A675). When these amendments passed, the two bills became identical. Had S457 then received a Yes vote from the Senate, it would have gone directly to the governor for signature. It could have been signed into law before the new year began. JB got a little nervous.

But when the vote finally came and I saw only five green lights, I realized we had received our Christmas present early. I was never so happy to see so many red lights. The vote is posted below. Be sure to thank your Senator for a No vote. The thank you is as important as the original request.

Many people had simply assumed the bill would pass. One reporter present had already sent in a story recounting the bill’s passage. Imagine their amazement when the votes were counted.

Senator Cafiero and JCAA disagreed on this bill. We had some difficult discussions about this legislation. But I have to thank him for approaching this like a gentleman. He was always up front with us about the status of the legislation and, when he found out we could not attend one meeting, he rescheduled for us. Many of the abstentions came when Senators did not wish to vote against Senator Cafiero’s bill. He is well liked and respected by his colleagues. Senator Cafiero could have pulled this bill from the floor when he realized there was no chance it would pass. This would have allowed a later vote on the bill and forced us to continue fighting the same battle over and over again. This is a poor use of our limited resources and wastes what little time we have. But instead Senator Cafiero allowed a vote, knowing his bill would be defeated and let us off the hook. Senator Cafiero and Senator Bassano are now cosponsoring a bill to guarantee money for fisheries research. Senator Cafiero can be a valuable ally and we are looking forward to working with him.

Below is a thank you letter sent to all the groups who participated in this battle. Consider it a thank you to you as well.

In back to back days I saw what the recreational community can do when we work together and show up in force. We are only effective when legislators and bureaucrats know we speak for you. When I first began this work, I was warned by a veteran legislator that I would not win a battle on the day of a vote. Unless the groundwork is laid in advance, I am wasting my time. This was a great victory. The next battle in the NJ Legislature is about menhaden. Whether we win or not depends on what you are willing to do. We proved it is simply a matter of motivation. If you want the menhaden bill to pass and are willing to do the work, then we will be successful.

SENATE VOTE on BILLS S457/A675

Y=Yes N=No A=Abstention **=Not Present

NAME / District VOTE
Adler (D-6) N
Allen (R-7) N
Baer (D-37) N
Bark (R-8) N
Bassano (R-21) N
Bennett (R-12) A
Bryant (D-5) A
Bucco (R-25) A
Cafiero (R-1) Y
Cardinale (R-39) Y
Ciesla (R-10) N
Codey (D-27) N
Connors (R-9) N
DiFrancesco (R-22) N
Furnari (D-36) A
Girgenti (D-35) N
Gormley (R-2) A
Inverso (R-14) N
Kavanaugh (R-16) A
Kenney (D-33) N
Kosco (R-38) N
Kyrillos (R-13) A
Lesniak (D-20) N
Lipman (D-29) **
Littell (R-24) Y
Lynch (D-17) **
Martin (R-26) N
Matheussen (R-4) A
McNamara (R-40) Y
O'Connor (D-31) N
Palaia (R-11) **
Rice (D-28) A
Robertson (R-34) A
Sacco (D-32) N
Schluter (R-23) Y
Sinagra (R-18) N
Singer (R-30) N
Turner (D-15) A
Vitale (D-19) N
Zane (D-3) N

5 YES 21 NO 11 Abstained 3 Not Present

This is a thank you to all that helped especially Jersey Coast Anglers Association Member Clubs, New Jersey Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs and it’s member clubs, Recreational Fishing Alliance, Alliance for Living Ocean, American Littoral Society, NJPIRG , Sierra Club, Ocean County Izaak Walton League, New Jersey Environmental Federation, National Audubon Living Ocean Program, New Jersey Audubon Society, Jersey Shore Audubon, and many more.

Here is a Christmas Story with a happy ending. We have added that happy ending. Thanks for all the hard work you have put in on this issue. It shows what can be accomplished when we put in the necessary time. It also demonstrates what can be accomplished if we all work together and focus on the problem. Seventeen or eighteen years from now when you are frustrated in your work to protect the environment, you can think of this victory. You can think of all those eels from New Jersey and neighboring states that are heading out to spawn and know you had a large part in allowing this to happen. Because of all your hard work the 1998 and the 1999-year classes of immature eels have been allowed to come back into our waters to grow and take their place in the ecosystem. Mother Nature thanks you. This is when you feel that all the volunteer time that you have put in on an issue is well worth it and you can make a difference. We also need to thank all 21 Senators who voted against the bill. Those names will be at our web page and in this month’s JCAA newspaper. A special thanks needs to go to Senator Louis Bassano who led the battle against the bill in the legislature and in the Republican Caucus. We give a special thanks to Senator Joseph Vitale who spoke against this bill on the Senate floor and Senator John Adler and Senator Joseph Vitale who spoke against the bill to the Democratic Caucus.

Next year Jersey Coast Anglers Association and the New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen Clubs will call on you to fight more battles to protect the environment. Remember this victory and answer the call. You can make the difference in winning or losing. The menhaden issue is next and we will need your help to protect this resource. Again, thank you and have a Happy Holiday. This will probably be the best present I receive this holiday season.

Again thanks and have a prosperous New Year,

Thomas P. Fote

Legislative Chairman JCAA & NJSFSC

Bill A676/S581

This bill was introduced by Assemblyman John Gibson and Assemblyman Nicholas Asselta. The Senate bill was introduced by Senator James Cafiero and Senator Louis Bassano. This bill establishes a Fisheries Information and Development Center at Rutgers University and appropriates $500,000 to Rutgers to for the center. The $500,000 will be administered by Rutgers but will be available to any university that is approved for specific projects. We have worked hard with Assemblyman Gibson to develop a bill that would be acceptable to both the recreational and commercial community. This bill accomplishes that goal. For the first time we have a separate fund of money to do needed research on NJ’s marine fisheries. The board that will set the guidelines will include the chairman of the Marine Fisheries Council, three recreational and three commercial fishermen. This is the framework suggested by JCAA and would let the industry, both commercial and recreational, determine the particular studies that are done. The RFA has also been involved in this process. We would like the bill to allocate $1,000,000 rather than $500,000. There are so many projects that need to be done that $500,000 will not go that far. However, it is a good start.

This bill was heard December 10th before the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and was voted out of committee. It now goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

After a difficult fight over the eel bill, it is a pleasure to work together with legislators and the commercial community on this important legislation. You need to write your legislators and urge them to support this bill.

JCAA/ASA December 3-5 Workshop

The workshop on December 3 – 5 was well attended. There were representatives from groups from Maine to North Carolina. Congressman Saxton and his aide Sharon McKenna attended the highly migratory meeting and Paul Dement and another aid, from Congressman Pallone’s office, attended the summer flounder meeting. Everyone was impressed that NJ’s legislators take such an active role and support our issues so enthusiastically.

The discussions laid the groundwork for what happened at the ASMFC and Mid-Atlantic Council joint meeting on summer flounder, scup and sea bass. We all left with enough information to organize our state delegations and t our supporters. For the most part, we were able to present a unified position as a result of this work. In addition, the people who attended the highly migratory meeting are planning for the upcoming public hearings. It is important that we continue to share information and have meaningful discussions about issues before these hearings. It is really important for us to have a chance to meet face to face and have real discussions, not just trade emails and phone calls. As much work as it is to put these meetings together, the benefits are tremendous. I am always impressed with how much knowledge we have collectively. I learn something at every meeting.

Bill S1267 PUTTING PUBLIC HEALTH FIRST

Since our last newspaper, I spoke at the Senate Health Committee on Bill S1267 representing JCAA and the NJ Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs and Dave Pringle represented the NJ Environmental Federation. We were the only ones speaking in support of this legislation. Speaking against the bill were the Restaurant Owners Association, the Agriculture Board, and numerous commercial fishing organizations. Fortunately. Bill S1267 was moved out of the Senate Health Committee with vote of four to two. The Republican members all voted yes and the Democratic members all voted no. The Democratic members stated that a lack of support from the medical community influenced their vote. Since that meeting, we are gathering a list of doctors who will be available to testify in favor of this bill. In addition, we are in contact with groups representing learning disabled children and have their support.

Now it goes to the Senate Budget Committee. I can’t help but wonder why this bill is headed there. This will be a more difficult committee to convince. I cannot understand why the public should not have the same information we do about health advisories. I have reprinted my testimony for you information. You need to write your senators now. If your senator is on the budget committee, write, call, fax, email and generally let him or her know how important this is. If you are aware of someone with information or personal concerns about this issue, please send their names to us. In particular, I need letters and testimony from members of the medical/scientific community.

Senate Budget and Appropriations (Bill List)

Littell, Robert E. - Chair
Inverso, Peter A. - Vice-Chair
Bucco, Anthony R.
Kavanaugh, Walter J.
Kenny, Bernard F.
Kyrillos, Joseph M.
Lipman, Wynona M.

Support Bill S1267 PUTTING PUBLIC HEALTH FIRST

The JCAA and NJSFSC with its 150,000 members are supporting Senate Bill S1267 and would appreciate your support 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.

Thomas P. Fote

Legislative Chairman JCAA & NJSFSC

Illegal Striped Bass Sales - Tip Of The Iceberg

A couple of months ago there was a big bust on the illegal sale of striped bass caught in New Jersey and sold in New York. Dec. 8, 1998 commercial fisherman Ronald O. Ingold, Sr. from Edgewater, NJ pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court (Manhattan, NY) to conspiracy, having caught striped bass in the Hudson River and then sold them at the Fulton Fish Market, between March 1991 and May 1998. NJ law prohibits the commercial sale or possession for sale of striped bass. Sentencing is scheduled for March 18, 2000, with the maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for each of three counts. I have been told that NJ is also prosecuting him for this action.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. Federal Agents led this investigation because it deals with interstate commerce. They were able to provide the law enforcement often missing at the state level. This is not just about a NJ citizen selling striped bass in New York. There are tens of thousands of illegal fish being sold within New York but no one is being prosecuted because the fish are caught and sold within New York. There is a lack of New York law enforcement. There are certain fishermen landing hundreds of pounds of striped bass every night in the NY Bight where it is not legal to sell these fish but nobody seems to care. New York is not alone with this problem. It is happening in every state along the coast. It is not just striped bass but it also happening with every species when the commercial fishermen are trying to circumvent a quota. This is often where the excess mortality comes from. Some of us believe that commercial fishermen are underreporting their landings by half and selling the additional fish illegally.

The fines and other penalties in Federal Court are great and should really serve as a deterrent. This is not true in state and municipal courts. The fines are often so low that commercial fishermen simply see them as the cost of doing business. Being caught many times does not seem to have any impact on maintaining a commercial fishing license. Do any of you remember a case where the state and federal law enforcement spent tens of thousands of dollars to catch someone illegally netting in Raritan Bay. The fisherman’s gear was confiscated but when he reached municipal court, he was given only a $750 fine and his gear was returned. The $750 fine was less than one night’s profit from illegal netting. Until we have state laws like three strikes and you’re out, we will continue to see repeat offenders in the commercial community. Unfortunately, this gives all commercial fishermen a bad name, something that is unfair to the honest commercial fishermen of our state. JCAA is reaching out to the commercial community to work together to clean up both our acts and make the penalties for both commercial and recreational anglers true deterrents.

Summer Flounder Monitoring Committee Report: 11/17/98

This is an action alert that went out after the Monitoring Committee report when they were still insisting that we were going to land over 16.5 million pounds. This information was disseminated at the December 3-5 workshop. It is important to know the chain of events that led to the December 16 ASMFC & Mid-Atlantic Council Meeting.

Action Alert on Summer Flounder & Scup

JCAA has always supported conservation measures based on good science, even when it meant that our anglers caught less fish. However, we have also always challenged measures that are sold as good science when the science is flawed and the decisions are political. In particular, we have fought rules and regulations that unfairly impact on poor and subsistence fishermen. We have never believed the recreational anglers should pay the price when commercial interests devastate a resource. With that in mind, the purpose of this alert is to inform you of the latest proposals for summer flounder, scup and sea bass. The Summer Flounder, Scup and Sea Bass Monitoring Committees met on Thursday, November 19, 1998 to make recommendations to the Mid-Atlantic Marine Fisheries Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. The recommendations from each committee are below. These recommendations will be brought before the Management Boards during the week of December 15.

The three options for Summer Flounder recommended by the Summer Flounder Monitoring Committee are:

1. Preferred Option is 6 fish at 15inches and a closure from August 8 to Sept. 30 with at least one closure week in August.

2. 4 fish at 15 inches and a closure from May 1 (the actual wording implies that pre-May is open) to July 14.

3. 8 fish at 15 inches and a closure for July and August.

Scup Monitoring Committee recommended 8-inch minimum size and a 35-fish bag limit.

Sea Bass Monitoring Committee recommended no closed season, just a 10-inch minimum size.

If these options don't make you angry enough, read about the decision making process. The Summer Flounder Monitoring Committee meeting began on a strange note and went downhill from there. In his opening statement, Chris Moore, chairman of the management committee, said all committees would not let any member of the audience speak until after the committees voted on an issue. In 13 years of attending meetings sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Council, this is the first time I saw a real effort to stifle the public at a meeting. Their reasoning indicated committees were there to deal only with technical data and were not obliged to deal with social or economic issues. Such issues, they said, were for the Management Board. Dusty Rhodes and I indicated that we were present to provide information or ask questions about the technical data. After our comments, the committee, at the urging of Jim Gilford, Mid-Atlantic Council Chairman, agreed to hear public comments.

This would have been fine had the committee followed its own rules and stuck to making technical decisions. Instead, they deviated from their responsibilities and made decisions that are political in nature. For example, if each of their options meet the technical requirement, there would be no reason to have a preferred option. That decision would be left to the management board.

Not only did the summer flounder committee fail to follow their own guidelines, but the scup committee did no better. The most blatantly political decision was putting a bag limit on scup. There are no technical reasons for this option at this time. Some committee members indicated that a bag limit was necessary to get the recreational anglers accustomed to a bag limit so one could be imposed if the stocks increase. That’s right, increase! This way, if there are more fish, and we catch more fish, a bag limit can be imposed.

Their decision on a size limit was equally ludicrous. There is next to no chance that we will catch 7-inch scup in New Jersey, but if the opportunity arises, they want to make sure we can’t. It should be noted that we have not reached our quota in the last two years. You need to remember that at the last joint committee meeting, it was pointed out that an observer on board a vessel fishing for squid recorded that 180,000 pounds of sublegal scup were landed in two tows. The captain and observer reported most of those fish dead. Those two tows represent 10% of the recreational quota. We are clearly not the problem. Until the bycatch issue is addressed, there will be no solution to the problem with scup. For fisheries managers to continue to reduce the recreational catch when the problems are not recreational in nature is gross negligence and management at its worst.

In its discussion, the summer flounder monitoring committee pointed out the 1997 fluke catch was an anomaly. Dusty and I pointed out that there could be many reasons for that. I suggested that we use the average for 1993-97. As usual the committee decides to ignore this recommendation and instead used 1997 to project the catch during the last wave. They estimated that compliance would not be 100% so they decided to guess it would 75% thus calling for further reductions. They did this in spite of the fact that the landings were not adjusted for the periods of noncompliance in New York and Maryland and that in the second year of using the same size limit there is always better compliance. In each decision they chose the option that would most penalize recreational anglers in the final calculations. This means that instead of us needing to reduce 1998 recreational landings from estimated catch of 13.49 million, we need to reduce it from an estimated catch of 16.53 million pounds.

Finally in an uncharacteristic burst of honesty, Hannah Goodall, from the National Marine Fisheries Service, remarked "Isn’t part of our job to reduce recreational participation?" At last someone at NMFS spoke the truth about what NMFS goals are on the record.

Now, the frontrunner for JCAA’s most bizarre fisheries management explanation of the year. JCAA requested that we examine Jon Lucy’s study on hook and release mortality for summer flounder. This study found a 6% hook and release mortality rate rather than the 25% figure currently used by all the management boards. Remember that the 25% figure was a best guess rather than a scientific fact. In their usual attempt to muddy the waters and avoid the obvious, the committee made many suggestions regarding the study. They finally admitted that the hook and release mortality rate was probably closer to 10% than 25%. Like many of their previous "technical" decisions, this was based on their feeling not science. At least, we thought, using 10% rather than 25%, with or without scientific data, would improve the standing of the recreational anglers. Consequently that for the last 15 years we have been basing the total quota on a 15% over estimation of the hook and release mortality. No wonder we thought we would see some improvement in the total quota benefiting both the recreational and commercial communities.

And now our nominee for most bizarre explanation. Mark Taursario, National Marine Fisheries Service, told us that when he ran his model with the 10% figure, there were actually fewer fish since the overall mortality was lower. I guess this means that if we find a cure for cancer and fewer of us die, there will actually be less of us alive. I hope the US Census Bureau doesn’t get wind of this model before the 2000 census is completed or some of us are going to have to move out of the country. When asked if he could explain further, Mr. Taursario replied he could send us a textbook.

If your are as outraged as I am, you need to get to work. You need to write, call, fax or email your congressman, senator and governor, your members on the Mid-Atlantic Council and your members on the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Tell them you are sick and tired of this nonsense and your are not going to put up with it. Tel them you are insulted by the attitude of the committee who treats recreational anglers as if they have no brains at all and no right to a public resource. If you can attend one meeting, the December 15th Council/ASMFC joint meeting in Philadelphia is a must. We need everyone there to protest these decisions and let the ASMCF see the recreational community united.

Exact meeting information and directions will be posted on the JCAA Webster and distributed to the press as soon as possible. Send you email address to me (jcaa@jcaa.org) and I will get information to you. When NMFS tried to open the EEZ, New Jersey anglers turned out in force and stopped them. We need every state to do the same at the December meeting.

Thomas P. Fote

Legislative Chairman JCAA & NJSFSC

REPORT ON JOINT SUMMER FLOUNDER, SCUP AND SEA BASS MEETING

It was refreshing to walk into a meeting and see hundreds of members of the recreational fishing industry. You really turned out in force for this one and we had industry support as well. About four hundred of us were packed in a room that could easily have seated two hundred. It is always a concern when hearings are that crowded and people are forced to stand for hours. But I should never underestimate the behavior of the recreational anglers. You conducted yourselves in the best possible manner and impressed everyone, even our detractors with you patience, your knowledge and your commitment. It made me proud. At least twenty groups spoke during the first public comment period, making the same point over and over again. Fluke fishing is worth hundreds of millions of dollars to many states. It was clear that the recreational community opposes making decisions on flawed data. I was there representing Senator Bassano and voted for New Jersey on the ASMFC Board. I was hoping the council and board would do more to recognize the economic impact and at least admit how flawed the data is. It seems that some of the information we published makes people nervous. JCAA has no reason to apologize for telling the truth and we are very careful to get our facts straight.

We didn’t get all I hoped for, but I believe your presence guaranteed the best deal under the guidelines of the current plan. Thank you for all your support. Dusty Rhodes has summarized the results of the meeting in the following article.

Right now you need to contact the governor and your congressional representatives. Tell them you want them to contact President Clinton and Secretary of Commerce William Daley and ask them to make the National Marine Fisheries Service implement a higher quota than the one they approved. This would be an economic benefit for both the commercial and recreational communities and would be based on sound data. There is little lead time for this action and your letters need to go out immediately. This decision will be made in the first week of January.

RECREATIONAL FLUKE FISHERMEN FACE A 1999 SEASON CLOSURE

By Dusty Rhodes, Vice Chairman Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council

Recreational anglers face a shortened season next year as a result of measures set during a meeting between the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (Commission) in Philadelphia on December 16.

Despite arguments to the contrary from among the perhaps 350 members of the public who attended the controversial session, the Council and Commission voted to establish a closed season from September 12 to May 28 at a minimum fish size of 15 inches and an eight-fish bag limit. Predicated on a 1999 harvest limit of 7.41 million pounds, the measures are intended to reduce recreational landings 41% from the projected 1998 level of 12.5 million pounds.

The two management bodies also proposed an alternative measure based on a slightly higher recreational harvest limit of 8.08 million pounds, a figure previously recommended by the Council and Commission but rejected by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). If the NMFS reconsiders its earlier decision, recreational landings would have to be reduced 35% instead of 41%, resulting in a slightly shortened closed season which would run from September 20 to May 15, again at a 15-inch minimum size and an eight-fish bag limit.

Accompanying the proposed measures was a provision that individual states could attempt to establish a modified version of the 1999 measures under a flexibility capability which exists in the Commission’s portion of the Summer Flounder Management Plan. The modified version would still have to meet the targeted reduction (35% or 41%), but could provide some states with the flexibility to shorten the closure period. For example, New England states indicated they would seriously consider raising the minimum fish size to 16 inches in an attempt to forego or reduce a season closure. While that isn’t an especially viable option for states from New Jersey south, it’s expected that some of those states will attempt to shift the closure period somewhat.

Such "equivalency" changes will be the subject of a meeting of the Commission’s Fluke Management Board scheduled for January 14, 1999, at Alexandria, VA. Thus, final state-by-state measures won’t be known for at least a month, perhaps two, as managers await the decision of the NMFS concerning the measures proposed on December 16 and while they study individual state landings data to determine whether "equivalency" alternatives are worthwhile.

The havoc season closures will have on state economies has been estimated in the 100s of millions of dollars. And it’s especially tragic that such drastic measures have to be established when the fluke fishery is not only rebounding but has expanded beyond what NMFS data shows. After years of sacrifice and waiting, we have the robust fluke fishery we have anticipated, but not the management tools to effectively deal with the success to which we’ve all contributed.

Most of the managers who reluctantly voted for the 1999 measures fervently believe fluke biomass data is woefully inadequate, but had no choice since a fishery management plan is a law and under the law "over-harvest" must be dealt with. However, over-harvest is a relative term, relating to the biomass level to which landings are compared. At the moment, NMFS data says that the 12.5 million pounds of recreational fluke landings which occurred this year are too high a percentage of the biomass to be allowed to continue. But if the biomass is really as high as all indications suggest, both recerational and commercial landings could increase without damaging the resource. And therein lies the dilemma: at a time when commercial seasons end in days or weeks rather than months because of fish volume, at a time when recreational anglers can’t escape from fluke, we’re asked to believe a "modest" rather than a robust rebuilding.

If what we all have seen is just modest recovery, what the hell will a rebuilt stock be like? Can you imagine the glut of fish trying to get through an inlet in the spring? I’m not sure we’ll be able to run our boats through that logjam!

Yes, I’m just joking, black humor to been sure, but current circumstances point to how entrenched bureaucracy can become while reality and reason are abandoned along the way.

On another note, and the only really good news which came out of the December 16 meeting, the closed period for black sea bass was eliminated for 1999, and the scup measure of a seven-inch minimum size escaped change despite a Monitoring Committee recommendation to establish a 35-fish bag limit at an eight-inch minimum size.

Update on Menhaden Protection Bill S722/A1827

This is a repeat of the article from last month’s newspaper. The information hasn’t changed but it is even more important that you do something right away. The JCAA has been told that the Menhaden Bill will be posted for a committee hearing in the beginning of January. 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.

We will try to notify you when the hearing is scheduled. If you are interested in attending, send me your email address so you can receive any last minute information. Keep checking the outdoor columns in your local newspaper and our website at www.jcaa.org.

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

Overview of Draft Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Tunas

By Eleanor A. Bochenek, Ph.D.

NJ Sea Grant Extension Program Rutgers Cooperative Extension

The Highly Migratory Species Management Division of National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has prepared a draft fisheries management plan for Atlantic tunas, sharks and swordfish. If you fish for these species, you should become aware of the proposed regulations for recreational anglers.

I will present some information that is contained in the tuna’s section. For Atlantic tunas, both bigeye and bluefin are considered to be overfished. NMFS is proposing the following for Atlantic Tunas:

1. Recreational boats targeting Atlantic tunas must obtain a permit.

2. Tournaments must register and report landings of all Atlantic tunas.

3. Fishing season will start on June 1 and end May 31 for tunas.

4. For bluefin tuna the preferred alternative is the status quo for size limits, which is currently 27 inches curved fork length for recreational anglers. However, one alternative proposes to increase the minimum size for recreational bluefin tuna to 47 inches. Another alternative discusses increasing the minimum size for sale for bluefin to 81 inches and another alternative discusses reducing the minimum size for sale for bluefin to 47 inches.

5. Bluefin tuna bag limits for angling category: the preferred alternative is the current system that relies on in-season adjustments and another alternative suggests adopting a sliding scale daily catch limit for Coast Guard inspected vessels (for-hire boats).

6. For bluefin tuna angling category, NMFS proposes to establish a school reserve category of 20 metric tons This reserve would be used when angling category over harvests their quota (Preferred alternative).

7. For bluefin tuna effort controls in other categories, NMFS prefers the status quo. However, some other alternatives are to prohibit the use of spotter aircraft for all bluefin fisheries except the purse seine category , to prohibit the use of spotter aircraft in all bluefin tuna fisheries except purse seine and harpoon categories, and to reintegrate harpoon and general categories

8. Propose to close Florida Straits to pelagic longline fishing between July and September.

9. Preferred alternative for minimum size of yellowfin that can be harvested by recreational anglers is 27 inches curved fork length. This is the current size limit. Another alternative proposes to increase the minimum size of yellowfin for both commercial and recreational fishers to 47 inches.

10. The preferred alternative for yellowfin tuna bag limits is to have a recreational bag limit of 3 yellowfin tuna per angler per day. The other alternative is the status quo, no bag limit.

11. Propose to implement at-sea observer coverage on charter/headboat vessels in highly migratory species fishery (Preferred alternative).

12. Propose to require charter/headboat vessels to obtain an annual vessel permit and submit logbooks for all highly migratory species trips (Preferred alternative).

13. Propose charter/headboat vessels complete logbooks within 24 hours of each day’s fishing activities for multi-day trips and completion of logbook prior to offloading for one-day trips (Preferred alternative).

  1. Require vessel operator education workshops for all recreational highly migratory species vessel operators. Must attend a workshop once every two years and then to possess a certificate from that workshop on board at all times.

TROUBLED WATERS: A Call for Action

I found this Web Site on the Internet and thought you might find the press release and one of their articles interesting. You should visit the site at http://www.mcbi.org/trouble1.htm

NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release January 6, 1998
Contact: Dr. Elliott A. Norse
Amy Mathews-Amos
(703) 276-1434

1,600+ SCIENTISTS WARN THAT THE SEA IS IN PERIL, CALL FORACTION NOW

Washington DC...At the start of the United Nations’s International Year of the Ocean, more than 1,600 marine scientists and conservation biologists from 65 countries have issued an unprecedented warning to the world’s governments and citizens that the sea is in trouble. Troubled Waters: A Call for Action summarizes the urgent threats to marine species and ecosystems and calls for immediate action to prevent further damage.

Troubled Waters paints a dismaying picture of the destruction of marine biological diversity from five causes: 1)overexploitation of species, 2) physical alteration of ecosystems, 3) pollution, 4) alien species from distant waters disruptinglocal food webs and 5) global atmospheric change. Overfishing has decimated commercial fish populations and caused thecollapse of many fisheries worldwide, including the once-bounteous cod fisheries of Georges Bank off New England. Destructive fishing methods such as bottom trawling have crushed and buried bottom-dwelling species by scouring a vast area of seabed. Coastal development has consumed mangrove forests and salt marshes. Reef corals and marine mammals are falling victim to new diseases, perhaps caused by pollution. And global warming has dramatically reduced the sea’s productivity off Southern California since 1951 and contributed to the steep decline of salmon in the North Pacific.

The call for action comes from scientific leaders in renowned marine research institutions such as Woods Hole OceanographicInstitution, the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences, from scientists in universities,federal agencies, local governments, tribal fisheries commissions, conservation groups and private industry. Endorsers include marine scientists such as Drs. Jane Lubchenco, Past President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; Paul Dayton of Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Sylvia Earle of Deep Ocean Exploration and Research. Leading conservation biologists who are expert on conserving species and ecosystems on land and are all too familiar with threats to biological diversity, including Drs. Edward O. Wilson of Harvard University; Peter Raven of the Missouri Botanical Garden and Michael Soulé, the father of the science of conservation biology, have also endorsed Troubled Waters. The signatures were collected in only eight months, starting just before the first Symposium on Marine Conservation Biology in June 1997.

"A recent New York Times poll found that only 1 percent of Americans consider the environment the most important problem facing our country," said Dr. Elliott Norse, marine ecologist and President of Marine Conservation Biology Institute (MCBI), the nonprofit organization that coordinated the statement. "Because few of us spend much time below the surface, it is easy to overlook signs that things are going wrong in the sea." But the signs are increasingly obvious to the experts," according to Norse. "The scientists who study the Earth’s living systems are far more worried than the public and our political leaders. That’s a wake up call that nobody can afford to ignore."

Dr. JoAnn Burkholder of North Carolina State University, who discovered the linkage between coastal pollution and outbreaks of nightmarish fish-eating Pfiesteria piscicida, said "It’s hard to imagine that farming on land and building in cities could harm the marine environment and fishermen, but it does. The tons of sewage produced by millions of people don’t just go away when we flush... a lot of it winds up in our coastal waters. And construction, agriculture and logging send clouds of choking sediments and excess nutrients into marine waters, smothering sensitive habitats. What we do on land profoundly affects life in the sea."

"If it’s business as usual," said Dr. M. Patricia Morse, a marine biologist from Northeastern University, "we’ll see more declines in corals, fishes, marine mammals and seabirds. That spells disaster for industries like fishing and tourism that depend on healthy marine life, and for every human on Earth, because we all use goods and services provided by the sea every day. Oceans regulate our climate, provide a breathable atmosphere and break down wastes. Coastal wetlands protect our shores from flooding and storm damage, improve water quality and provide crucial habitat for fishes and other marine life. When we destroy these ecosystems, we lose both their products and services."

Troubled Waters calls on citizens and governments to act now to reverse current trends and avert even more widespread harm to marine species and ecosystems. It outlines needed changes, including elimination of government subsidies that encourage overfishing, an end to fishing methods that damage fish habitat, reduction of non-point source pollution from activities on land, cuts in emissions that cause global warming and the creation of an effective system of marine protected areas from the shore to the open ocean.

"Getting scientists to agree on anything is like herding cats," said Norse, "so having 1,600 experts voice their concerns publicly highlights how seriously the sea is threatened. Troubled Waters shows that the world’s experts want the public and our leaders to know that threats to marine species and ecosystems are urgent, and that we must change what we’re doing now to prevent further irreversible decline. A White House Conference on the Marine Environment would help to highlight what’s known about marine environmental problems and to address the most pressing ones. The International Year of the Ocean provides the ideal opportunity to move forward in protecting, restoring and sustainably using life in the sea. We need to do it for two reasons: because it’s essential to our well-being and survival and because it’s the right thing to do."

Bottom Trawling: An Overlooked Threat to the Sea

Because fishing provides a major source of protein for humankind, our ability to manage fish populations demonstrates how well we are doing at managing the sea when the stakes are highest. Unfortunately, fishery after fishery has collapsed worldwide. The teeming schools of Atlantic cod and haddock that fueled the economies of New England and the Maritime Provinces have declined so steeply that the United States and Canada closed cod fishing on the once-bountiful Georges and Grand Banks. In warm temperate and tropical waters, snappers and groupers as large as turkeys and sheep that once swarmed above reefs have all but disappeared; those few that remain now fit in a frying pan.

The obvious cause is overfishing, that is, catching fishes faster than they can replace themselves. But there is another, more insidious cause: Our species is altering the habitats where fishes feed, breed and grow to maturity. Some ways people do this include demolishing or poisoning coral reefs with dynamite, cyanide or bleach, polluting estuaries to the point where even tough species cannot survive and paving over mangrove forests and salt marshes to build shopping malls, golf courses, housing developments and roads. But the most widespread way that humans alter fish habitat has received remarkably little attention: bottom trawling.

Trawling is a method of catching fishes and crustaceans that accounts for more of the world’s fish catch than any other. In bottom trawling, boats or ships from 25 to 300+ feet long pull large weighted nets across the seabed. Often the nets are held open by a pair of otter boards or doors that can weigh from tens of pounds to more than a ton. A line stretched across the bottom of the net’s mouth can be weighted with metal bobbins, each weighing tens to more than a thousand pounds, or with metal tickler chains that disturb the seabed and cause fish or shrimp to rise from the bottom and get caught in the net. Rock hopper or roller trawls are equipped with heavy wheels that roll over obstructions such as boulders or coral heads, reducing the risk that nets will hang and be lost.

To determine how bottom trawling affects marine ecosystems, Marine Conservation Biology Institute held a scientific workshop at the University of Maine’s Darling Marine Center in June 1996. The seventeen participating marine scientists from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the USA and the UK concluded that trawling is the most important source of human-caused physical disturbance on the world’s continental shelves. Trawlers and other mobile fishing gear used to fish for shrimp, scallops and groundfish churn sediments on the seabed, overturn rocks and leave deep gouges in the mud. They crush or bury marine life such as lobsters, clams, corals, sponges and smaller creatures that live on or in the seabed, damaging them or exposing them to scavengers. Many of these species provide food and hiding places for other creatures. Thus, trawling reduces the structural complexity of the seabed in ways that harm commercial fishes, lobsters and other marine life whose early life stages benefit from complex seabed structures. Moreover, the clouds of sediment that rise into the water columns can affect ecological processes that rely on clear water, such as photosynthesis and food-finding.

The impacts of bottom trawling would not be such a concern if trawling were limited in scope, but trawlers sweep a vast area. Traditionally, bottom trawling occurred on the continental shelf at depths of tens to a thousand feet, but as more and more continental shelf fish stocks have been overfished, fisherman seeking "underexploited" species have trawled the continental slope in depths of a mile, even more. In recent decades trawling has also spread geographically from traditional fishing grounds such as Georges Bank along the continental margins of industrialized nations to waters of sparsely-inhabited developing nations and remote oceanic seamounts surrounding Antarctica. No type of seabed-sands, muds, rocky reefs, seagrass beds, mussel beds, sponge reefs or coral reefs—is immune from trawling now. Indeed, on bottoms with lots of "hangs", such as coral reefs, trawlers sometimes drag heavy gear expressly to pulverize them, or "condition the bottom" as it’s known. And a small number of boats can cover a lot of ground. For example, a small fleet of 100 shrimp boats towing nets 80 feet wide at 3 miles/hour for 10 hours a day for 200 days out of the year would cover an area larger than the state of Massachusetts. The USA alone has thousands of bottom trawlers, and some locations get trawled many times—up to 100 times—a year.

Trawling’s effects are similar to activities on land such as clearcutting. Indeed, the area of seabed trawled worldwide is at least 15 times the area of forest that is clearcut. Yet trawling’s impacts are so little-appreciated that it is even allowed in marine protected areas such as US National Marine Sanctuaries. The US National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and Regional Fishery Management Councils that develop management plans for marine fisheries are required under new federal law (the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1996) to protect essential fish habitat, and NMFS is examining the impacts of destructive fishing practices. With 5.8 billion people to feed, fish is an important source of protein and fishing provides a way of life for millions of people worldwide. But fishers, the taxpaying public and the rich diversity of marine life all pay the cost of destructive fishing practices. The growing body of scientific evidence suggests the need to lessen the impacts of trawling and the need to protect the most important marine areas from destructive activities.

 

[Contents] [Top]