JCAA

      


 

FISHERIES MANAGEMENT & LEGISLATIVE REPORT

by Tom Fote

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association April 1999 Newsletter)

 

What did the NJMFC decide on Fluke Council?

The New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council voted for a summer flounder season from May 15 to October 11, 1999, with an 8 fish bag limit at 15.5". This decision meets the guidelines of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and does not need their approval. There has been no clear majority in the opinions expressed by our members or our clubs. This was a very controversial issue with no winners. There should have never been a discussion about some of these choices. We should have been at status quo for 1999 using updated data. Having said that, we should thank the recreational representatives to the NJ Marine Fisheries Council. They did the best they could for all of us under difficult circumstances. Any choice, 15, 15 1/2 or 16 inches had a negative impact on everyone. There were no good choices. It is time to move on and see if we can get this problem corrected with new stock assessments so that the quotas can be higher. The National Marine Fisheries Service and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission also need to look at the real historical record and change the quota break down from 60/40 commercial to 70/30 recreational. Please read the article by Dusty Rhodes for information about suggestions for improving fluke management. On both councils, we have recreational representatives working hard and trying to accurately communicate your needs. They are doing the best they can under impossible circumstances and need your support.

A LIGHT DAWNS AT THE END OF THE FLUKE TUNNEL

By Dusty Rhodes Vice Chairman Mid-Atlantic MFC

It's too soon to break out the noise makers, party hats and bubblies, but the future for the fluke fishery took a decided turn for the better during the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council's (Council) meeting on March 10.

After considerable debate among Council members over how to manage the fluke fishery for the year 2000, it was decided that sufficient indications exist to warrant a reexamination of the overfishing definition developed in compliance with the Sustainable Fisheries Act (SFA) passed by Congress in 1996. It's expected the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), which has joint management responsibility for fluke, will ratify this move when it meets during the week of March 15. Lest you consider this ho-hum stuff, let's examine what this might mean to fluke fishermen along the East Coast.

The SFA requires fishery scientists to construct an overfishing definition which in turn sets the biomass target (expressed in pounds) needed to produce the maximum sustainable yield (msy, which is also mandated by law) from the fishery. That figure had been pegged at 338 million pounds, a level, which has rattled a few recreational and commercial cages. Moreover, until the biomass reaches at least one-half the target level (169 million pounds) the fishery will continue to be judged overfished. The last assessment, conducted in 1997 and fine-tuned with 1998 landing data, estimated the biomass at 121 million pounds. Incidentally, that's the highest it's been in the last 15 years, but given the overfishing definition as it now stands, still not enough to deem the fluke fishery no longer overfished.

The importance of reexamining the overfishing definition should not be underestimated. With a lower target would come a lower one-half target figure. And that means the fluke fishery, given that it continues to grow, would be judged no longer overfished sooner. Once that status is achieved, the potential for increased fluke quota for the recreational and commercial sectors rises considerably.

WARNING: Don't be misled into thinking the management system is shopping for an overfishing definition which provides maximum quota. Rather, it's conducting a creditable study which, should conditions warrant, will lead to a lowering of the target biomass and consequently more quota. But that's not guaranteed.

In concert with this reexamination, a new assessment of the fluke fishery should be completed within two months. If that assessment concludes the biomass has increased, and if the reexamination of the overfishing definition lowers the target, the stage will be set for a quota increase next year.

As a matter of fact, the projections from the 1997 assessment pointed to a modest quota increase in 2000 anyway (in the neighborhood of 20 million pounds). Thus, it's not hard to see why there's reason for cautious optimism.

But a final cautionary word is in order. A number of fishermen have expressed expectations for a "huge" quota increase. Don't set yourself up for disappointment. In the first place, what's huge to one is fair-to-middling to another. Say huge for the rest of this year and no quota increase will be judged enough. In addition, reflect on the realities of the fishery. If the total quota should be increased to, say, 30 million pounds, the recreational share would be 12 million pounds, admittedly a considerable jump from its present 7.41 million pounds. However, if 1999 landings don't drop significantly from the 1998 level, a 12-million pound quota would just work to prevent recreational measures from getting more stringent next year, but it wouldn't necessarily relax them.

So don't over anticipate. We'll know more about where the fishery is headed by mid year, and when the news is in, you'll be among the first to know.

NEW HEAD OF NMFS

Rolland Schmitten has left the National Marine Fisheries Service. The new Assistant Administrator for Fisheries is Penny Dalton. I wish Ms. Dalton the best of luck in her new position. She will need it. Every time NMFS gets a new assistant administrator, there is an expectation that there will be changes for the better. We usually receive all kinds of promises that things will change. They sit at meeting with us and promise us that the resource will be protected and the recreational sector will get a fir share of the resource and that there will be a friendlier environment for working together. We have been disappointed again and again. We are hopeful that Ms. Dalton will make promises she can keep. JCAA will be contacting Ms. Dalton and offering to work together on issues. On a personal note, I have known Penny for several years and found her intelligent and able to understand problems in the recreational sector. I am looking forward to working together.

MEMORANDUM FOR ALL NMFS EMPLOYEES
FROM: Rolland A. Schmitten
Assistant Administrator for Fisheries

SUBJECT: My Reassignment

It is with mixed emotions that I send you this message. Today, March 11, 1999, Secretary Daley and Dr. Jim Baker, will officially announce their intention to move me to the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Affairs in NOAA. I say mixed emotions, because this marks my 16th year with the National Marine Fisheries Service and I consider all of you more than employees, but my family and friends. I am honored beyond belief to have been so fortunate to have been your Assistant Administrator since October 1993. We have made tremendous achievements in all parts of the agency during this time. All of you deserve the credit the strength of our agency is its people. From our secretaries to our scientists, you are truly a wonderful and dedicated group of professionals. I have often portrayed NMFS as the little agency that could and I will never change my mind.

Secretary Daley and Dr. Baker will also announce their intention to appoint Ms. Penny Dalton as the next Assistant Administrator for Fisheries. Ms.Dalton currently serves as the senior professional staff on the Senate Commerce Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and has held positions withthe Committee since 1987. She has extensive background in a wide range of environmental, scientific and marine policy issues. She has a Masters in Marine-Estuarine Environmental Science from the University of Maryland and a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from Dickinson College. She has a wealth of experience on the Hill and is very knowledgeable about the Magnuson-Stevens Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. She also knows many of our constituents.

I am committed to help her succeed and I urge you to welcome her to the >job and help her as you have helped me. Both of these appointments are pending Department of Commerce, OPM and White House clearances. I will inform you as soon as I know the effective date.

Finally, to each of you, thank you for caring so much for our Nation’s living marine resources. You do make a difference. I would be honored to serve on your team anytime. God bless each of you.

Striped Bass Report

I attended two days of Striped Bass Board Meetings and Advisory Meetings at the March 15 - 16 at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission meeting. Unfortunately - or perhaps fortunately - no major decisions were made. There will be a discussion document circulated for your comments. The next year and a half will be crucial time in the management of striped bass. The last important decisions on striped bass were made in 1989 when the fishery was reopened. That affected the fishery for the '90's. The decision made in the next year and a half will decide how striped bass will be managed for the next ten years. There will great pressure to have higher commercial quotas on existing commercial striped bass fisheries and to open netting of striped bass in areas presently closed. There will strong pressure to open netting and allow hook and line commercial fishing in the Hudson River. There will also be extreme pressure to increase the already outrageous commercial fishing going on in the Delaware River. The states involved in the Hudson River and Delaware River producing areas are not working together to develop a systematic plan for their area. It is time for those of us who live in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware to work together and present our proposals with a united voice. This is not an easy task. But continuing to postpone working together we leave ourselves vulnerable to state by state maneuvering to get more fish for the commercial sector. This has already happened in the Delaware Bay. Now is the time to write to the governors of all four states and insist that they bring groups together to develop consistent plans for our mutual benefit. The recreational groups could easily come up with a fair and equitable system. The problem is the inclusion of the commercial fisheries from Delaware and New York. Of course, one solution would be to make striped bass a game fish in all four states.

It is important for you to keep informed about striped bass. We will be sending you updates in our newspaper and website. If you want to be on the JCAA email list, just send an email including your name, any club affiliation, phone number and address to tfote@jcaa.org.

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Report

I also attended meetings of the Weakfish Board, Eel Board, Summer Flounder Board and Bluefish Board. The weakfish stocks appear to be recovering and the recreational sector should remain status quo. The Bluefish Board held discussions on implementing the new amendment and the permitting process. There was no real discussion on stocks. The Eel Board continues to wrestle with the fisheries management plan. It looks as though it will be released for public hearing some time this year. Some of the states with a commercial fishery are looking for ways to further restrict this fishery. There is still a strong feeling among most states along the East coast that there should not be a glass eel fishery. To further reinforce that we should not have a glass eel fishery, I have included an article from Fish Farming International, February 1999. The next Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission week will be May 17 - 20 in Atlantic Beach North Carolina. Sometimes less is better and at this meeting, few decisions were made.

Who Gets to Eat Fish

By Brad Burns

A healthy resource is certainly the first priority of the recreational, saltwater, angling community. But it can’t be our only one. Perhaps some of you knew of the seminar held last fall at a college on the north shore of Massachusetts. Within a word or two the title was "Fisheries management, for food or for fun?" The theme of the meeting was that a fishery managed with recreation as the priority is not one that feeds people.

The truth is, of course, that recreational anglers eat the catch they take home. And who is more deserving, the person who caught their own, or the person who purchased it from a fish market. The commercial side of that debate claims that the market provides fish for those that don’t choose to, or cannot catch their own.

The market, though, is in itself inherently discriminatory. Not everyone has the same buying power in the market place; I suspect that many who are unable to catch their own fish are also unable to afford to buy them. Beyond that, as is the case with fisheries like bluefin tuna, the market for some fish is largely overseas, out of reach of local residents. We’re forced to come to the inevitable conclusion that wild fish are a limited resource, and that either by bag limit, or by price in the market, or both, these fish will end up being eaten by only a segment of those that might like to eat them.

This problem is not new; it’s just new in saltwater. One of the first fisheries conflicts to erupt in America was over brooktrout fishing in a now filled in lake, near what has become downtown Manhattan. The residents of the growing city caught brooktrout for their own consumption, and netters worked the waters for brooktrout for the market. The brooktrout fishery went downhill, and the town fathers put a stop to the commercial fishery. In their opinion it was clear that the rights of private citizens to their own harvest were superior to those who wanted to take a larger harvest to sell. Doubtless the town fathers knew that most non-fishing, city residents would no longer be able to enjoy eating trout from the lake, but they also new that was inevitable no matter what they did. The right of the private citizens to harvest their own fish from the public resource was deemed to be the most fundamental of all. I’ve never heard of a law dealing with inland fish, game, or birds, that curtails personal harvest so that market gathering can continue. But this is just exactly what we’re up against in tidal waters when NMFS says that no matter how many new anglers come to the saltwater they will all have to live with 40% of the overall total catch.

The commercial justification continues to be that they hold vicariously the proxy of the non-fishing - but fish consuming – public. Try explaining to a warden that you shot a double bag of ducks because your neighbor wanted to buy one from you. US Fish and Wildlife is saying, no, your right to that resource is a personal one; since there are enough of you hunting for your own use to shoot the allowable number of ducks, there is no commercial gunning allowed. National Marine Fisheries Service, on the other hand, says, you are not allowed to go fluke fishing today; the recreational quota has been reached. If you want a fluke, you must purchase it from someone to whom we have granted an exclusive right to harvest. Unbelievably, US Fish and Wildlife and the National Marine Fisheries Service have in effect adopted opposing positions on exactly the same issue.

Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and New Jersey have already done the right thing with striped bass, but that’s just four states, and one species of fish. And we’re not aiming to make every saltwater fish a gamefish. With many species – fluke included -there’s room for both recreational and commercial fisheries, though without question the commercial fishery’s fluke quota will need to be reduced. What we must do, is to make it clear to our fisheries managers that the right of private citizens to a personal harvest - tempered by a reasonable daily bag limit - is not to be eroded by commercial fishing. They are not fundamentally equal claims.

SAVE OUR EELS!

Fish Farming International, February 1999

Worldwide culture of eels is under threat because adult spawning stocks of European eel are under extreme pressure and too many of the juveniles they do produce are dying in transit, according to a European pressure group.

In a strong warning last month, the European Eel Fisheries Conservation Group (EEFCG) says that too many young eels taken from European waters are being exported across the world, most die before they reach maturity and their steady depletion threatens eel fishing in Europe, as well as further development eel cultivation.

The EEFCG says that it and other organizations are urging the European Union to regulate exports of tiny glass eels (elvers) until wild stocks are no long endangered and safe transport methods have been devised to minimize mortality after air shipment.

And in a report for the EU, the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) concludes that adult spawning stock of European eel (anguilla anguilla) is now outside safe biological limits.

With stocks diminishing, glass eel numbers will be reduced over future years, it says.

ICES admits that precise time scales cannot be applied as the time taken for adults to make the journey to their western Atlantic spawning grounds remains unknown.

So far it has proved impossible to breed eels in captivity, although some attempts have been made, and so far development relies on a steady and adequate source of elvers.

Although these account for only about 4% of the weight of the world eel catch, they total 97% of the number, and one third of the value. Some 95% are eaten, with the rest going for re-stocking and farming.

Market reports indicate that glass eel catches in the 1997/1998 season were the lowest ever.

Since 1995, the Far East has experienced the combined effects of local over fishing and significant growth in the eel market. One result is that 65 - 75% of Europe's glass eels are now being exported to the far East.

Of the total catch, it is estimated that no more than 25% go for direct consumption in Europe (chiefly in Spain). Less than 10% are sold to farms, but the developing recirculation technology will make this an increasingly important outlet.

Two European glass eel catchers, Portugal and Ireland, now ban exports. But France flew out some 150 tons in the 1996/97 season, Spain 70 tons and the UK 30 tons. At a price which can reach US$327/kg (3000 elvers), this is a lucrative trade.

But it is also very wasteful, the EEFCG explains.

Live elvers are flown out packed in dry ice in a state of suspended animation and may remain so for 24 - 36 hours. It is now suggested that eventual EU legislation may require consignments to be air-freighted in tanks equipped with oxygenation systems, the method usually used for surface transport in Europe.

It is also suspected that the reduced atmospheric pressure in aircraft may affect the eels. Handling on arrival is another problem, adding to the transshipment losses of around 50%. Overall, some seven in ten of all elvers shipped out are believed to die before reaching harvest weight of 250 grams.

China's total eel harvest is estimated around 80,000 tons a year, and some 50,000 tons are probably farmed European eel.

But European aquaculture experts calculate that a harvest of this size could be achieved with 250 million glass eels, 500 million less than 1996/97 exports. Their calculations are based on the much higher survival rates recorded for eels transported in tanks by road in Europe.

A 70% mortality rate for exports cannot logically be justified under any circumstances, warns Danish bioscientist Christian Graver. "This is pure waste," he told FFI.

"We must learn a lesson from a country like China, which imposed a ban on glass eel exports some years ago. Unfortunately, China has yet to balance this with restrictions on catches or introduce other conservationist legislation.

"The growing scarcity of glass eels in Chinese waters means that its eel farming and processing industry has had to turn to Europe to make up for the shortfalls."

"Chinese scientists have shown that their own wild eel stocks are approaching the brink of extinction. The same fate will befall the European eel if steps are not taken to reverse the situation. There will be a disaster which many have seen coming."

Update on Menhaden Protection Bill S722/A1827

We are still waiting for the Menhaden Bill to be posted for a vote by the Senate. It is up to the Senate President to post this bill so you need to continue to write, call and fax his office. We would like this bill in place for the upcoming season. Any further delay in the Senate will make it difficult to get this bill through the Assembly in a timely manner. I have included the Menhaden Fact Sheet developed by Len Fantasia below. You can see how much menhaden we will save by eliminating the reduction fishery. In the seven years listed, the reduction boats have averaged 72% of NJ's harvest of menhaden. In order to protect the resource and the bait industry, we need to eliminate the reduction boats. The Menhaden Bill would accomplish this. The organizations working on this bill are continuing to contact legislators. Now it is up to you to do your part.

You need to write Senator Donald DiFrancesco and let him know we want this bill posted for a full Senate vote as soon as possible. You also need to write your local Senator and ask him or her to vote yes. We have come a long way, this is not the time to sit back and expect someone else to write the letters and make the phone calls. If you want this bill to pass, now is the time to write your letters.

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

MENHADEN PROJECT FACT SHEET – FEBRUARY, 1999

Menhaden Stocks In Serious Decline

Ref. ASMFC – Menhaden Reviews

 

Total Landings 1997 – 259,100 Metric Tons

  • Approaches trigger of 250,000 Metric Tons
  • Indicator of change – decline of 68% from 1991
  • Landings 29% below 43 year average

 

Estimated Population 1997 – 4.55 billion fish

  • Section 3.2.1 of the FMP considered a population of 4.65 billion severely depressed during the 5-year period 1964 – 1968
  • 1997 is lower than 5-year mid-sixties average
  • 1997 population is 57% below 43 year average
  • 1997 population has declined 58% from 1991
  • Exploitation rates are increasing in face of a declining population – 29% in 1993 to 37% in 1997.

Age 0

Landings – 1993/1996, Lowest 4-Year Period Since 1970

Recruits – 1995, Lowest Ever Recorded, 1996 Lowest in 29 Years

 

Age 1 Recruits

1997 & 1996 – Lowest Levels Ever Recorded – 1955, 40 Years

1997 & 1996 – 1.1 Billion, Below 2.0 Trigger

3 Year Average – Below Trigger – Downward Trend Since 1985

 

Age 2 Recruits

1996 Lowest Level Since 1972 – Downward Trend Since 1983

 

Age 3 Landings – 29.9%

  • At or above 75% median for 5 years, high level of adult fish
  • Exceeds trigger of 25%

 

Growth of Inshore Bait Industry – New Jersey Division Fish & Game

1989 – 1.0MM 1993 – 26.7MM 1997 – 31.9MM

1990 – 7.8MM 1994 – 37.5MM 1998 – 25.0MM

1991 – 15.4MM 1995 – 35.3MM

1992 – 25.3MM 1996 – 33.7MM


Number of Bait Permits

1990 – 6 1997 – 36


Percent of N.J. Landings by Reduction Boats

1990 – 90% 1997 –

1994 – 43% 1998 –

1995 – 77%

1996 – 66%


Bait Harvest Zone 1 – Sandy Hook/Raritan Bay

% Of Total Bait Million Pounds

1994 10% 3.0

1995 7.6% 2.6

1996 13% 4.4

1997 22.8% 7.3

1998

In-shore nursery areas for forage and predator species are being over fished.

Ref. – J. Amer. Fisheries Soc. 124.520-537, 95

MAKE STRIPED BASS A GAMEFISH COASTWIDE IN THE YEAR 2000  - SUPPORT HR 393

JCAA LETTER ON HMS BY TOM FOTE

Rebecca Lent HMS Division NMFS
1315 East-West Highway
Silver Spring MD 20910

Dear Rebecca,

Amendment 1 to the Billfish Fishery Management Plan and the Swordfish, Shark and Tuna Fishery Management Plan are literally overwhelming in their size and ability to confuse those that plans will impact. The four volumes with a combined page count somewhere around 1,500, plus addendum’s and additional reference material, makes it near impossible to comprehend their entire content. However, that being noted, the intent of the plans is clear highlighted by several themes interwoven throughout the documents that need be pointed out before any specific comments are made.

  1. The biased in favor of commercial fishing interests is undeniable in both plans. They are crafted to shift the impact of rebuilding away from commercial harvesters, even though the scientific and statistical data used in these documents clearly indicate the damage done to the stocks being addressed arise from commercial overexploitation. The plans purposely avoids implementing the necessary restrictions on commercial harvesters to stop the continued decline of overfished stocks which makes any chance of accomplishing rebuilding an impossibility.
  2. The unbridled and total disregard for recreational fishing and the recreational fishing industry and the enormous benefit it has to national and regional economies through the imposition of regulations that are unnecessary and clearly ignore the historic participation of this user group in both the billfish and HMS FMPs. The most telling fact is that these regulations will have no significant impact on reducing fishing mortality, dead discards or enhancing stock rebuilding in any of the fisheries being addressed in the plan, yet will cause serious economic harm to the recreational fishing industry as a whole, and specific segments of that industry will be impacted severely. The cost will be jobs, economic benefits to the nation and a loss of individual freedoms, all in the name of protecting the commercial fishing participants that caused the depletion of the fisheries, damaged the long-standing and historic recreational fisheries, and continue to overfish these important resources under the direction of the National Marine Fishery Service/Highly Migratory Species Division.

At its December meeting, Jersey Coast's Anglers Association approved three motions regarding these two plans which we ask you accept as formal public comment on behalf of our 65 member clubs and also on behalf of the New Jersey Federation of Outdoor Clubs and its 120,000 individual members.

1- Amendment One to the Billfish Management Plan is totally unacceptable and should be withdrawn in its entirety. The regulatory measures listed as preferred alternatives are biased against recreational fishermen and make no attempt to reduce the major source of billfish mortality identified in the plan, i.e. commercial longline bycatch. Until NMFS/HMS is willing to implement regulations that will impact longline bycatch mortality, we can not support any measures in this draft amendment.

This plan will be recognized as the hallmark of HMS management in that it accomplishes nothing and, in its entirety, is little more than window dressing. While the original FMP identified recreational use of the billfish resource as the greatest benefit to the nation and prohibited commercial retention of marlin and sailfish, the regulations being suggested in Amendment 1 will harm this economic benefit to the nation by negatively impacting the recreational use of these fish, even though recreational harvest has already been reduced to a few hundred fish a year¾ less than 4% of the total billfish fishing mortality annually. Yet, knowing full well that commercial longlining presently accounts for 96% of the total fishing mortality of these "recreationally important fish" through bycatch while ostensibly prosecuting other fisheries, nothing in the plan even attempts to reduce this egregious bycatch.

Since this plan meets none of the goals established in its preamble, while doing serious harm to the recreational fishery the plans was designed to protect, the preferred alternatives should be revised and true conservation measures that reduce bycatch mortality in the longline fishery implemented immediately.

2- The Highly Migratory Species Management Plan for Atlantic Swordfish, Sharks and Tunas targets recreational interests exclusively to shoulder any mortality reductions while allowing commercial harvesters to continue unabated. In the case of yellowfin tuna, there is no biological need to impose any restrictions on recreational harvest, yet a bag limit is the preferred alternative while no corresponding regulatory measures are proposed for the commercial harvesters.

On Yellowfin Tuna: There is absolutely no biological reason to propose a recreational bag limit of three yellowfin tuna per person per trip. The stocks are not overfished and there is no data indicating the need for a recreational bag limit. Even if fishing mortality reductions were needed, measures to limit yellowfin harvest by the recreational user group and not the commercial harvesters would be patently unfair and inequitable and in direct violation of a number of National Standards. This proposed final rule smacks of the "bluefin tuna scenario" which saw a recreational bag limit imposed with ineffective commercial measures, only to see that bag limit lowered from 4 fish per person per day, to two per person, to one per person, to one per boat, while commercial interests continued to overfish. We will not stand by and allow it to happen again with yellowfin, the single pelagic species left that is not classed overfished and that supports the largest number of angler trips to fish for highly migratory species. The importance of yellowfin to the recreational offshore fishing industry is paramount.

On Large Coastal Sharks: The regulations relating to large coastal sharks prohibit all recreational harvest without reducing commercial landings of these critically endangered species, is also in violation of National Standards. This is not only unacceptable, but contradicts the Sustainable Fisheries Act. While NMFS/HMS continuously invokes "historical fishing rights" as the reason for allowing continued commercial overfishing, even for scarce resources like large coastal sharks, there is no dispute over the fact that shark fishing was almost entirely a recreational fishery and of great economic value prior to the development of the shark fin market in the Orient. Shark populations remained healthy until commercial exploitation began in 1986. NMFS bears the primary responsibility for the crisis the stocks are in today by declaring coastal sharks an "underutilized" species and encouraging commercial fisheries for them. Fisheries which anyone with even the most rudimentary knowledge of shark biology and the history of intense shark fisheries that occurred in other areas of the world, knew could only result in exactly what happened¾ the crash of shark populations in a few short years and a declaration that the stocks as overfished.

Even though the Shark Evaluation Workshop in 1994 concluded that "any harvest level for large coastal sharks would further endanger the stocks and prevent any chance at rebuilding," NMFS/HMS went on its merry way and ignored the pleadings of conservationists and sportsmen’s to end the commercial carnage. NMFS/HMS has selectively ignored the historic and economic aspects of the recreational shark fishery, and the simple fact that it was the only fishery for sharks that was sustainable, while refusing to follow the advise provided to them by assessment scientists and their own advisory panels because of some misguided loyalty to commercial users, sighting "socio-economic effects" on commercial participants in the fishery for their lack of early action. No such concern for the sustainable and economically more important recreational fishery has ever been recognized.

While recreational fishermen today harvest few, if any, large coastal sharks and commercial fishermen continue to fish at unsustainable levels that ensure no rebuilding of the stocks under NMFS direction, the only proposed final regulations being recommended are to impose a "no harvest" provision on recreational fishermen. No one involved in fishery management can be this blind without the blinders being applied from above. The unwillingness to impose a commercial closure on the harvest of large coastal sharks in this plan is dangerous and assures continued stock declines and insure no rebuilding in our lifetimes! This is disgraceful.

On Pelagic Sharks: For more years than most can remember, sportsmen have been begging NMFS to develop a serious FMP for the conservation of mako and thresher sharks, especially the shortfin mako. The mako, in particular, is the primary target species of recreational shark anglers, the glamour game shark. We have watched stocks decline as fishing effort from the longlining fleet increased until today, when catching a mako is a rare event for the majority of recreational anglers. Yet NMFS/HMS still refuses to even recognize there is a problem! Since the longliners can’t fill their quota, NMFS seems to feel that indicates there is not much pressure on the stocks, when in reality, it is a clear indication that there are not enough left to fill the quota. Fishermen and scientists in the know fell the decline in mako stocks is on the order of 90% since 1970.

Swordfish: The measures imposed on longline fishermen that are supposedly aimed at conserving swordfish are wholly inadequate and do nothing to protect juveniles, reduce bycatch, or reduce the overall commercial quotas. If the decline in swordfish populations is to be reversed and honest rebuilding is the goal, this plan falls far short of the goal.

Final comments: The National Marine Fisheries Service/HMS division, with the publication of these draft management plans and the list of preferred alternatives, has shown that the goals set for the Sustainable Fisheries Act, to reduce bycatch, halt overfishing and rebuild overfished fisheries, do not apply to them. The term "fair and equitable" is not in the agency vocabulary where recreational fisheries are concerned. The clear and present danger represented by these plans to recreational fishing and the recreational fishing industry has never been so blatant and undisguised, as is the bias toward commercial fishing interests.

We can not sit by and watch these fisheries sacrificed on the alter of continued commercial overfishing and we will not. If this is the best NMFS/HMS can do for the nation’s precious marine fisheries resources, than this division has no business in fisheries management.

Cc: President Bill Clinton, Secretary of Commerce William Daley, Governor Christine Todd Whitman, Senator Lautenberg, Senator Torricelli, Congressman Andrews, Congressman LoBiondo, Congressman Saxton, Congressman Smith, Roukema, Congressman Pallone, Congressman Franks, Congressman Rothman, Congressman Payne, Congressman Frelinghuysen, Congressman Menendez,

Personal Watercraft Written Testimony to the Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans for the Coastal Zone Management Act

Submitted by Tom Fote, Jersey Coast Anglers Association representative to Barnegat Bay Watershed Association, Ocean County, New Jersey February 25, 1999

Current Personal Watercraft (PWC) definitions:

A personal watercraft is a Class A power vessel designed to a) be operated from a sitting, standing or kneeling position, b) equipped with an internal combustion engine that powers a water jet pump, and c) cannot be operated to disengage the pump to prevent the vessel from making headway. (New Jersey State Police 1996)

Personal watercraft means a motorboat that uses an inboard motor powering a water jet pump or a caged propeller as its primary source of motive power and that is designed to be operated by a person standing on, kneeling on or sitting astride the watercraft. (Wisconsin)

Needs Assessment:

There is a strong need for federally mandated uses of the approximately one million personal watercraft (PWC) that ride upon United States waterways. Manufacturers estimate that about 200,000 PWC are sold each year. At this time, at least half of the states in this country have some form of proposed or disputed restriction or guideline for the use of PWC. This is a growing problem that needs to be addressed federally. (Issues and Problems Associated with Personal Watercraft in Barnegat Bay, Page 11 provides a brief list of states with restricted area uses. See attached.)

Each region should not have to defend its ecosystem separately to regulate the documented misuses of PWC. With federal mandated guidelines, each state could modify the guidelines to fit the needs of that particular region and water body. Region after region are going through the same or similar processes with the local legislators to try and find a suitable definition and constitutionally correct controls for theses crafts. In Barnegat Bay, Ocean County, New Jersey, the Barnegat Bay Watershed Association has been working in conjunction with several groups to negotiate with local and state legislators and state agencies, including the NJ Boat Regulatory Commission, to define and identify key areas of concern regarding PWC.

The 1993 A Watershed Management Plan for Barnegat Bay included 12 Action Plan items to address PWC. These action items included, increasing the presence of NJ Marine Law Enforcement Officers on Barnegat Bay during the peak boating season, posting no wake zones where vessel wakes are documented to be causing erosion of natural shorelines, identifying special use areas, and improving public awareness of existing vessel speed and operation regulations. These types of actions are applicable on a federal level.

Attached is an August 7, 1998 letter prepared by BBWA to Governor Christine T. Whitman of New Jersey identifying seven recommendations for personal and environmental safety and responsibility by users of PWC. There is also a research paper entitled Issues and Problems Associated with Personal Watercraft in Barnegat Bay by Melissa R. Chin that details environmental concerns of operating PWC. We urge Congress to review the attached documents and work toward creating federal guidelines for the following issues:

* ENVIRONMENT: Restricting shallow water uses in sensitive habitats. It is documented that by operating a PWC in shallow waters, bottom sediments can be stirred up, this in turn suspends the sediments and decreases light penetration and oxygen to aquatic life. Operating PWC close to shore, near colonial waterbird nesting sites disturbs the birds, causing them to fly away from the nests and exposing the eggs to increased amounts of harsh sun rays and also leaving them wide open to predation. (See attached study by Joanna Burger, Ph.D., entitled Effects of Personal Watercraft on Nesting Common Terns.) Peak use of PWCs corresponds temporally with the nesting season for a variety of colonial waterbirds that nest in Barnegat Bay as well as other NJ estuaries.

* EDUCATION: Broaden boater education and curriculum for PWC users.

* ENFORCEMENT: Increasing funding for enforcement agents to patrol the waterways seeking abuses by PWC. Encourage local law enforcement officers to assist in enforcement of navigation regulations within their respective jurisdictions. If all states required licenses and those licenses were treated like automobile privileges, such as fining those without a license and confiscating the vessel of those operating PWC without a license, PWC problems would be greatly diminished. A harsher penalty, such as paying to have the vessel towed to be confiscated, and regular enforcement will ensure the safe and appropriate uses of PWC by licensed users and owners.

PWC Facts:

This is not an attempt to single out one particular waterway user, as we all need to be responsible on our waterways. But recreational boaters have been navigating US waterways for hundreds of years, PWC are a new phenomenon that contribute to approximately 1/3 of new recreational boat sales in the United States.

While recreational boating fatalities overall have decreased, PWC fatalities have increased from 20 per year in 1988 to 83 per year in 1997 (National Transportation Safety Board - Safety Study, PWC Safety Report 1998). In 1997 four out of ten accidents on the water involved PWC operation. The primary reason given for this trend is inexperience, inattention, and use of excessive speed. The overall average age of the victims in the accidents ranges from the teens to mid thirties, yet the average age of the owners is in the early forties. This indicates that the owners and users are different audiences. These statistics and facts lend themselves to strengthening the need for more education and enforcement. Forty percent of all boating accidents include PWC. These crafts can go into extremely low waters, effecting the sea grasses and juvenile fish while disturbing nesting birds. PWC engines operate differently than inboard or outboard motors. PWC operators tend not to drive in a linear fashion which contributes to the problems. (See attached 9/2/98 aerial photograph.)

Conclusion:

It is clear that this is a growing national issue. Congress can begin by focusing its attention on the coastal zone, by strengthening the laws controlling PWC in environmentally sensitive coastal areas. However, the problems are not isolated in the coastal areas, as many inland freshwater lakes and rivers are encountering the same types of concerns. For the safety of the users, other boaters, and for environmental sensitivity, we urge Congress to focus on this issue by synthesizing all state initiatives into one guiding piece of legislation which every state can implement to meet their needs.

Letter on PWC to Governor - By Barnegat Bay Watershed Association

Governor Christine Todd Whitman
CN 001
State House, Trenton NJ 08625-0001

Re: Personal Watercraft

August 7, 1998

Dear Governor Whitman:

For a state that has worked hard to project itself as a tourist destination, we should not forget that it is also one of the most populated states in the union. Many of its shoreline residents feel that their lifestyles are being impacted by the burgeoning use of personal watercrafts.

To invite visitors to "come down to Barnegat Bay", the "best place to ride jet skis", does a disservice to the local population. Many stakeholders of the Bay live here purposely to sail, fish and dream. These pursuits are almost impossible when you are surrounded by 60 mile per hour thrill seekers on PWC's. Sure it's fun - but is it beneficial to the Bay, to the citizen's quality of life?

From California, Washington's San Juan County to Maine and Florida, the furore continues. Many vacationers are so distraught at this water pandemonium, that they vow not to return. This is counterproductive to New Jersey's welcome and begs for some controls. The Barnegat Bay Watershed Association wishes to add its voice to the examination of this important issue.

In May our Personal Watercraft seminar highlighted insights of biologists, the NJ State Police, the Personal Watercraft Association and members of several environmental organizations. The reiteration of concern for the disturbance of nesting birds (endangered species among them) and wildlife; noise, water and air pollution; the damage to spawning grounds in our rich estuary; and the disregard by irresponsible riders of (boating regulations) which has produced an unenviable accident rate (50% of all boating accidents); all have been well documented in the media.

Over one million personal watercrafts share our congested waterways. Because Americans don't like regulations, a consensual agreement may be to everyone's benefit. The Barnegat Bay Watershed Association offers the following recommendations.

1. Environmentally sensitive areas of the bay, where large beds of submerged aquatic vegetation, shellfish beds, etc. abound, should be off limits to PWC's. The nutrient life needed by bay creatures for growth should be open to as much sunlight as possible, not constantly having sediment stirred up by jet engines. Boat engines can also kill a significant number of organisms as they are sucked up through the engine.

2. Set a sensible speed limit, (30 to 35 mph), along all of Barnegat Bay, except when leaving and returning to shore. Larvae and eggs float on our shallow bay, from April thru October. Some PWC engines can reach maximum speed in less than four seconds. According to the California Air Resources Board, emissions from a jet ski engine in two hours are equivalent to emissions from a 1998 car operating for about 130,000 miles.

3. Personal Watercrafts should be prohibited from operating within 100ft of the shoreline [and persons in the water.] The need for this regulation is evident in a quote from the "Kawasaki Riders Handbook", telling us that "High RPM operation of PWC's in very shallow water can cause significant erosion. This regulation would also give good service to the abatement of noise for shoreline residents and their safety.

4. Diligent regulatory enforcement by Marine Police or municipalities is a must. Might not a "deputy marine police squad", be formed, by municipalities that have high bay traffic in the summer, at significant savings to the state? They should ride PWC's themselves to make the enforcement effective. We also suggest highly visible identifications on each watercraft rider, possibly on the vest worn by the user.

5. Limit children under 16 years of age from driving a vehicle. This may bring down the horrific numbers shown by the Federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta (1997). A PWC user is 8 times more likely to suffer injury than a power boater.

6. We also support the broadening of the PWC curriculum within the New Jersey Licensing course. As rental businesses do not need to give the certified safety course to their clients, they should be responsible for their renter's actions. Each should have a designated use area beyond the channel markers, patrolled by a spotter from their property.

7. We would like to see the establishment of a carrying capacity for the bay because of the shallowness of the water.

No, you "can't legislate common sense" but you can legislate personal and environmental safety, for all stakeholders. The Barnegat Bay Watershed Association hopes that as more and more people buy boats and kayaks, increasing the demand for space on an already over stressed waterway, intelligent regulations, vigilantly enforced, should bring harmony to divergent groups and peace to one of our states greatest natural resources - The Barnegat Bay.

Sincerely,
Angela C. Andersen
President, BBWA

cc: Commissioner Robert C. Shinn, NJDEP
9th, 10th & 30th District Legislators

PUTTING PUBLIC HEALTH FIRST

Senate Bill S1267

Nothing has changed since last month. Please read the following and contact the legislators listed below.

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 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.

 

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