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FISHERIES MANAGEMENT & LEGISLATIVE REPORT

by Tom Fote

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association (December 1999 Newsletter)

 

   

Striped Bass Report

There were state plans put forward for Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and North Carolina at the Striped Bass Board meeting in Connecticut. New Jersey is working on its proposal for year 2000. I talked at length with the Division of Fish & Game, Senator Bassano and John Connell about many options we are considering to meet the addendum.

I made a point at the Striped Bass Board Meeting of finding out why some states are going to be allowed to use 32 inches instead of 28 inches when doing their state plans. This is an important point since that affects the proposal that the state summits for approval. It is also confusing to the public and needs to be clarified. We continue to get more calls from the public about having the same regulations up and down the coast. Any discrepancy in size again gives the impression that some states are being treated differently. In this case, 28 inches was included in the public hearing documents as the size for eight-year old fish. Some states use 32 inches as the size of eight-year old fish in their state.

I thought you would find the article below about PCB advisories very interesting. There has been no movement in the Senate Budget Committee to hear bill S1267 that would accomplish this. I do not know if there is enough time in the lame duck session to pass this bill but we will be working with the sponsors to reintroduce this bill in the next session. This bill would require that all the fish advisories be posted in fish-markets and restaurants. There is a lot of information on this bill in the January 1999 JCAA Newspaper which you can find at our web page.

Trenton Times  Friday October 22

By J.B. Kasper

There has been much written about the proposed changes in the striper bass regulations for the year 2000. There is no question that the changes would be grossly unfair to recreational fishermen and while not dealing with the real problem the over fishing by commercial fishermen. This double-dealing has been going on for years with all the fisheries; however, in the case of the striped bass it has reached Hypocritical proportions. Here’s what I mean.

On page 28 of the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Digest ( 1999 Marine Issue) advisories on the consumption of striped bass are posted for state wide waters and in specific for Newark Bay (do not eat), the Hudson River (do not eat more then once a week), Raritan Bay (do not eat more then once a week), Northern Coastal Waters (do not eat more then once a week), the lower Delaware Bay and River (do not eat). The advisories are based on PCB, Dioxins and Chlordane Contamination.

In the 1999 Pennsylvania Summary of Fishing Regulations and Laws on page 59 a consumption advisory on striped bass is posted for the Delaware River from Yardley to the Delaware State Line. The advisory warns people not to eat more then one meal a month or no more the 12 meals a year and, is based on PCB contamination. The advisory includes the tidal waters of the Schuylkill River from the Fairmont Dam to the Delaware River at the Navy Yard. On a recent fishing trip to Virginia I picked up a copy of the 1999 Virginia Freshwater Fishing Regulations and just out of curiosity if checked out the fish consumption advisories and guess what. On page on page 34 of the regulations a consumption advisory on striped bass is posted for the waters of the Roanoke River and other state waters. As with other states, PCB contamination was listed as the problem and people were urged not to eat more than two eight-ounce meals a month.

Similar consumption advisories have been issued by states up and down the East Coast and were mandated by the federal government several years back. The thing that amazes me is that state and federal governments issue warnings for recreational fishermen, yet allow commercial fishermen to harvest the fish and put them on the market for the general public to buy with no warnings of any kind. Talk about a set of double standards, I guess commercial fishing nets must purify the fish through some secret process unknown to the recreational fishermen.

In the ‘80s one of the reasons commercial fishing was closed in the Hudson River was the high level of PCB contamination that the fish had. I remember one public hearing during the battle to open up federal waters (EEZ) past the three-mile coastal waters of the states, several organizations opposed the opening of these waters specifically because of the PCB contamination. PCB contamination is still high in the Hudson River and commercial fishermen want to open up the river to commercial netting. If the state of New York goes along with this insanity they are doing the same thing other states such as Maryland and Delaware are doing. Allowing commercial fishermen to circumvent consumption warnings and take PCB contaminated fish from the Hudson River and sell them to the public.

There is currently a piece of legislation in the New Jersey Legislature (S-1267) that would mandate consumption warnings be posted at fish markets, sea food counters at supermarkets, and other places that offer sea food for sale including restaurants, warning people of the possible health risks associated with eating certain fish (striped bass being one of the most prevalent). It’s obvious that the commercial fishing industry want’s no part of this legislation and will use every means at their disposal to stop it. The bill, however, is a sensible piece of legislation that should be supported by all consumers. The Jersey Coast Anglers Association was the first to come out in support of the legislation, however, it has drawn very little support elsewhere.

The striped bass is a gamefish in New Jersey and as such can not be commercially caught from New Jersey waters or sold legally in the Garden State. The Delaware River is a classic example of a double standard in the regulations. Consumption advisories, as previously stated, have been issued by both New Jersey and Pennsylvania for the waters of the Delaware River within their jurisdiction. The same fish that swim in the Delaware River also travel into Delaware Bay were they are netted by commercial fishermen, legally in Delaware waters. The stripers don’t magically loose their PCB contamination when they enter the bay, like we take off out coat when we go into a house. These fish are sold in Philadelphia and other Pennsylvania markets, despite the fact Pennsylvania has issued a consumer advisory on the fish. Now there is a double standard if I every saw one.

Striped bass can not be commercially harvested in the waters of Pennsylvania and they are considered a gamefish with a 28-inch size limit, a closed season in March and April and a 2 fish bag limit. It’s time the state of Pennsylvania closes the loop hole in the law that allows the sale of commercially caught striped bass, especially since the fish that are making the market come from the waters of the Delaware where they have a consumption advisory on the fish.

If you stop to think about it the tobacco industry has been sued countless times for selling a product that is considered a health risk; the auto industry has been sued numerous times over autos with defects that posed health risks and other industries that produce products that are a health risk have ended up in court. We also put warning labels on cigarettes, alcohol and other products that pose a health risk to the consumer. We even put warning labels on kid’s toys. So why do we allow the commercial fishing industry to catch and put on the market striped bass that are contaminated with PCB and other toxins without an accompanying warning to consumers? The mere fact that this type of hypercritical management takes place in regards to the striped bass fishery is one of the biggest reasons that the striped bass should be made a gamefish throughout the US.

You can reach us with your fishing or hunting reports, comments

or questions by fax at (215) 295-0902; by E-Mail at J.B.Kasper@worldnet.att.net; ;or by mail at J.B. Kasper c/o TheTimes, 500 Perry St., Trenton, NJ 08605

Bluefish and Striper Letter Response by NMFS

The following letter was received from the new Assistant Administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service, Ms. Penelope Dalton, in an attempt to answer questions posed by this association regarding votes taken by NMFS personnel on management plan provisions for bluefish and striped bass.

Ms. Dalton simply does not get the point, especially if conservation is her goal. In one part of the letter regarding Ms. Pat Kurkul's votes supporting the transfer of recreational quota to the commercial fishery of over 3 millions pounds, while opposing an increase in recreational bag limit from 10 to 15 fish. All we ask is that the Service is consistent. If they are so worried about the overfished bluefish stocks, how can they justify a transfer of uncaught recreational quota to the commercial fishery where it is sure to be harvested! This borders on the absurd. Where is the conservation in that position. Kurkul's vote shows the NMFS bias to continually support any measures aimed at maximizing commercial harvest, while maintaining unnecessary restrictions on the recreational sector.

Maybe the real reason is that Ms. Kurkil didn't want to increase the recreational bag limit was so there would be no way for recreational anglers to harvest their quota, thereby guaranteeing their would be enough fish to transfer to the commercial sector and to cover the overages that we are convinced will be found when NMFS gets better data on the commercial harvest.

As far as the striped bass issue, there were two ways to reach to mortality goal. One would have a bigger impact for the coast and the other would have a bigger impact on the producing areas. This is an allocation issue. NMFS should have either voted against both or abstained on both, not picked one over the other when it comes down to an allocation decision.

I would say have a good laugh when you read Ms. Dalton's explanations, but it's not a laughing matter. Actually, it's a crying shame for the recreational community.

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES ER VICE
1315 East-West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910
THE DIRECTOR

Dear Mr. Fote:

Thank you for your letters to President Clinton and Under Secretary Terry Garcia regarding recent votes taken by representatives of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) concerning bluefish and striped bass.

Regarding the vote taken by Patricia Kurkul, Northeast Regional Administrator, NMFS, concerning bluefish at the joint August 1999, meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Bluefish Board. At that meeting, the Council/ ASMFC developed recommendations for annual management measures for the bluefish fishery for the year 2000. The annual measures include a quota for the commercial sector and a target harvest level for the recreational sector. Since 1991, there has been an individual possession limit for the recreational sector of 10 fish/person. It is my understanding that you were the maker of a motion to increase the recreational possession limit to 15 fish/person.

The bluefish stock is overfished and the Council/ASMFC have adopted a joint management program to rebuild it. The program was approved this year, and establishes a schedule of fishing mortality reductions over the next several years. This schedule builds on the fact that the fishing mortality rate has been decreasing for the past several years. To prevent the incongruous possibility that the fishing mortality rate could actually be allowed to increase while the stock was under a rebuilding program, the management plan established a policy within the rebuilding program that for any given year, the fishing mortality rate target will be set at either the level specified in the schedule, or the level estimated to have occurred the previous year, whichever is lower. This will allow the rebuilding plan to take advantage of the fact that fishing mortality has been dropping for the past several years.

It would be inconsistent with the rebuilding program to allow any liberalization in management measures for either the commercial or recreational sector. The Council/ASMFC recommended that the commercial quota for 2000 should be maintained at the same level as 1999. Therefore, to be consistent with the treatment of the commercial sector, and the policy stated above, Ms. Kurkul voted against the motion to increase the recreational possession limit. I note that there was only one vote in favor of the increase in the possession limit.

You state that Ms. Kurkul voted for an increase in the commercial quota; that is not accurate. The bluefish management program recognizes the fact that the bluefish fishery is predominantly a recreational fishery. The management plan allocates 83 percent of total allowed catches to the recreational sector and 17 percent to the commercial sector. However, for several years the harvest level in the recreational sector has been much lower than the share specified in the plan. As a result, the plan specifies that catch allowance may be transferred annually from the recreational sector to the commercial sector if it appears that the recreational sector will not fully harvest its allocation. That was done at the August meeting in order to prevent the need for a reduction in the commercial quota, 3.6 million LB of harvest was transferred from the recreational sector allowance to the commercial quota. This leaves the commercial quota at the same level as 1999 (9.58 million LB) and leaves a recreational harvest limit of 25.7 million lb. The Council/ASMFC felt this was appropriate in light of the fact that the recreational landings for the past 5 years have ranged between 12.0 and 14.0 million-lb.

I shall address the recent vote taken by Ms. Anne Lange regarding striped bass during the meeting of the Striped Bass Management Board (Board) of the ASMFC during its September 14, 1999, meeting. The major conservation issue facing the Board at that meeting was overfishing (in 1997, 1998, and likely again in 1999) of striped bass older than 8 years of age. The NMFS vote was based on the best scientific information and advice provided by the Technical Committee that those older age classes of striped bass needed immediate protection during the year 2000 fishery. While allocative effects sometimes result from conservation decisions, the overriding and paramount concern of the Board was to protect the older fish that contribute most to spawning biomass, and therefore, the future of the striped bass population. Both the commercial and recreational sectors of the fishery will be impacted if the option in question is ultimately selected by the Board.

I appreciate for your interest in these important fisheries.

Sincerely,

Penelope D. Dalton
Assistant Administrator for Fisheries

Holgate Access

Robert DeLeonard
PO Box 511
Seaside Park NJ 08752

November 17, 1999

Dennis Schvejda dschevda@igc.org
NJ Sierra ActivistConservation Chair

Dear Dennis,

I am writing to clear up some misconceptions about beach buggy use at Holgate as mentioned in the SIERRA ACTIVIST of November 9.

While it is true that the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge is protected under the Wilderness Act of 1964, the beachfront that abuts the property is public land, which has been used by mobile surf fishermen for generations before the refuge was established.

These "beach buggies" are inspected, insured, street legal pick up trucks and sport utility vehicles that drive at slow speeds along the beach looking for a good place to wet a line. They are not those ATV dune buggies that you pictured on your cover racing aimlessly down the beach. That picture was not even taken in New Jersey as evidenced by the mountains in the background. It is not consistent with the NJBBA code of ethics to walk on the dunes, let alone drive on them, as they are a very fragile and priceless part of the ecosystem.

Congressman Edwin B. Forsythe was an avid beach buggy surf fisherman. When the (then) Brigantine Refuge was brought into the Federal Wilderness program, Holgate was not going to be included. It was later added at the urging of surf fishermen who were conversationalists and environmentalists before the practice became fashionable. Congressman Forsythe made sure before recommending that the 256 acres of Holgate were included that beach buggy access for surf fishing on the state owned land in front of the refuge would always be allowed to continue. The congressman who is credited with establishing wilderness in the most densely populated state and for whom the refuge is named would be shocked and dismayed at this back door attempt to circumvent his wishes.

Congressman Jim Saxton is Congressman Forsythe’s successor. As such, he is well aware of Mr. Forsythe’s intent. Rep. Saxton helped negotiate the agreement between the Forsythe management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, so he knows the situation from the beginning. Call him an "ally" if you wish, but he sees any action against Rep. Forsythe’s wishes as an attempt to "strong arm" the public out of state owned public land. Congressman Saxton is being kind. I consider it part of an ongoing federal land grab that may soon affect homesteads.

Endangered piping plovers are not an issue in this case. Fishermen agreed to a partial closure to vehicles during the nesting season from April 15 – September 1 to avoid disturbing the area for the recovery of the species. The only issue is that Refuge Manager Steve Atzert thinks that mobile sport fishermen have a negative impact on the public’s ability to enjoy the wilderness. The public is not permitted in the wilderness land only on the beach. This applies to walkers as well. Beach buggy operators are happy to share this resource with any user groups.

Yours in conservation,

Bob DeLeonard, President
New Jersey Beach Buggy Association

LONGLINE BILLS INTRODUCED:

NO REAL PROTECTION FOR SWORDFISH

The bills we've been hearing about for the past couple months have been introduced, one version by Senator Breaux and the other by Congressman Saxton. We will cover the minor differences between these two versions in the next issue of the JCAA Newspaper. Even though we do not support the Saxton version of the bill for a number of reasons, there are some small conservation benefits included that do not exist in the Breaux bill.

We have included a reprint of an excellent article written by Ken Hinman of the National Coalition for Marine Conservation that was originally published Fly Fishing in Salt Waters, which we strongly urge you to read. Hinman's take on the entire process and the negative effects it is causing in the recreational and conservation communities is right on target.

While we will get into the lack of substance of the bills in the next issue of the paper, we feel obligated to address the inflammatory and purposely misleading comments made by the groups involved in the negotiations that led to the introduction of the Breaux Bill, S 1911. These three groups have attacked the many organizations that signed on to a letter listing concerns about this proposed legislation (see copy following this commentary), concerns that are certainly warranted and by no means frivolous as these groups infer. The groups in question are none other than the Billfish Foundation, the Coastal Conservation Association and the American Sportfishing Association, which have been involved in the meetings with the lobbying group for the longline industry, the Bluewater Fisherman's Association. The groups in support claim the closed area and longline boat buyouts will produce quantifiable conservation of swordfish and reduction of bycatch of billfish. They base their claims on the areas to be closed in the Gulf of Mexico and along the East Coast as far north as South Carolina. They also claim that the boats marginally involved in this fishery will be bought out and no longer able to participate in longlining.

JCAA concedes that by closing areas in the Gulf and Southeastern states, there will be some conservation and some reduction of billfish bycatch. We do not concede that by buying out the small, marginal boats involved in the fishery without a corresponding reduction in quota for those boats removed, that there will be an reduction in overall effort, total harvest of swordfish and bycatch in other areas. This has been proven in other fisheries where boat buyouts have been tried without being tied to quota reduction. The end result was the removal of the weakest boats in the fleet and the existing boats became stronger, both financially and politically. The lobbying efforts of this strengthened commercial group fought for quota increases, and not surprisingly, got them. The quotas increased in the fishery as a result. The losers were the taxpayers who paid for the buyout and the fishery, which did not receive the conservation benefits the buyout was supposed to provide.

In the rosy press releases being sent out by the groups involved in this legislative initiative, there is inference made about who will pay for the buyout. Let's look at who is really paying for the buyout, because when you give it a hard look, the picture changes. The recreational angling community is being saddled with paying for 50% of the buyout. This is supposed to be accomplished through a $25 dollar permit being required to fish recreationally in the closed areas. This is on top of the already required NMFS permit, which was just increased from $18 to $25 dollars. The NMFS permit is used for no other purpose that to track the number of recreational vessels involved in pelagic fishing and supposedly costs them $25 just to administer the permit. This means that recreational fishermen are not only being forced to pay for the overfishing and bycatch sins of the longline industry through reduced catches and fisheries closures on recreationally important species, but now we are being a asked to dip into our pockets to finance a consolidation of the entire longline fleet to make it stronger!

Let's look at what the longliners are actually paying for their 50% of the cost of this buyout. NOTHING!!! The cost of the $.05 per pound levy on swordfish being assessed to the commercial side is not paid for the by the longliners, but by swordfish dealers. Guess who pays for that? Not the longerliners, the consumer. And you will have to pay a $.05 per pound levy on swordfish imported from other countries, which further reduce any impact on the U.S. longliners who are benefiting from the fleet reduction without quota reduction!

The proponents of this bill claim it will protect juvenile swordfish and reduce billfish bycatch because of the closed areas, but in reality, there is no reduction of quota and no reduction in overall effort (hooks in the water). That means the existing longliners, which will be the largest, most mobile of the fleet, can transfer their fishing effort to other areas at will. It also means they can target other pelagic species like increasingly valuable bigeye tuna, longfin and yellowfin. Both bigeye and longfin albacore have been declared fully utilized by ICCAT and NMFS. They can not sustain increased commercial fishing pressure. The move to the areas where these species are most prevalent will see a marked increase in bycatch of mako sharks, white marlin, the most threatened of the marlin species. These areas also have large populations of blue marlin and the even more threatened bluefin tuna, which will be impacted by the transfer of effort. These very serious issues are not addressed in the Breaux Bill and are being totally overlooked by the groups pushing this legislation.

JCAA has always lead the way in working with other recreational advocacy and conservation groups to promote the protection of marine resources. While we do not always agree with other groups, we respect their right to their positions and understand that disagreements will occur. JCAA has a lot of history in highly migratory species conservation. We have individuals working within our association who have worked to promote conservation of pelagic fisheries that predate even the Magnuson Act. While we understand that this bill might have some appeal to groups in the Gulf and in Florida and if our view was as regional in nature as some groups, we might feel a little differently. However, JCAA has always looked at the bigger picture, even when regulations and legislation might have a small benefit to our region alone. Legislation of this nature must insure the most good for the resource throughout its range and not just in one area or another. These are highly migratory species and must be managed that way.

The proposed legislation being promoted by these groups does not effectively conserve and protect pelagic species from the ravages of longlining throughout their range in U.S. Atlantic waters. It sets the stage for dividing the recreational community along regional lines without attaining the conservation benefits we all seek. The final problem we have with the legislation is philosophic. Once again, we reward the very people responsible for the destruction of these public resources.

It accomplishes all this to benefit the commercial longliners who have fished these important species to their current low levels of abundance and does it by making those not responsible for the problem pay the bills! The recreational fisherman and taxpayers of this country.

Divided We Fall:The Recreational Community Splits Over Longliner Proposal

by Ken Hinman Reprinted from Fly Fishing in Salt Waters November/December 1999

Ten years after flexing their political muscle to outlaw the sale of Atlantic marlin and sailfish, recreational anglers were pumped up again for another showdown. With the government drafting new plans for the highly migratory species fisheries and threatening once again to leave out badly needed measures to limit the number of billfish and other overfished species killed as bycatch on drift longlines, a revolution was underway.

By the beginning of 1999, the US pelagic longline industry was more vulnerable than ever and ready for a fall. Weakened by declining catches of the target species they've overexploited, many longline operations are struggling to stay afloat financially. At the same time, longlining - the principal source of mortality for severely depleted swordfish, sharks and marlins - was caught I the glare of a national spotlight the likes of which it had never experienced. The unmanageable gear was at last being seen for what it is: multi-mile, multi-hook lines that act as an underwater minefield, catching and killing pelagic fish indiscriminately and thwarting the best efforts of fishery managers to protect both its intended and accidental victims.

New federal requirements to develop recovery plans for all overfished fisheries and minimize bykill of non-target species had mobilized the recreational and environmental communities as never before. More than 5,000 fishermen and conservationists responded to the National Marine Fisheries Service's request for public input on how to restore our offshore fisheries. Strong action to tame uncontrolled longlining was the No. 1 recommendation.

By late spring, nearly every major organization representing offshore fishermen was calling for an end to longlining in the US pelagic fisheries. Under extreme pressure, the agency in May promised to close large coastal areas to longlining by the fall. Fishing and environmental groups filed a lawsuit to hold the government's feet to the fire.

It was them that things started to unravel. Several national sport-fishing organizations suddenly broke ranks and cut a deal with representatives of the longline industry, taking them up on their offer to trade certain area closures for, among other things, financial compensation to vessel owners affected. Although the nature of the deal raised legitimate concerns with a number of other organizations, it was how the situation was handled more than anything else that splintered the previously united recreational fishing front. It distracted attention from everyone's real goal - everyone but the longliners, that is - and ultimately jeopardized chances for achieving it.

The Deal

Ironically, a deal that is being characterized ad "an unprecedented act of cooperation between recreational and commercial fishing interests" began as anything but that, considering it was negotiated by the recreational fishing groups involved without cooperating with their peers. It soon became clear, from their public actions and activities behind the scenes, that these groups were pursuing their own ends by working to undermine the efforts of those following other means.

The Coastal Conservation Association, The Billfish Foundation, American Sportfishing Association and the longline industry's Blue Water Fisherman's Association agreed to jointly seek legislation that would close southern coastal areas to longlining and offer to buy out vessels impacted by the closures, should they wish to depart the fishery. (The money would come from government loans to be repaid by the remaining longline fleet and a $25 fishing permit for offshore anglers.) Conditions to the deal required that the parties would not pursue additional regulatory action against the more than 100 boats left in the fishery.

Three other organizations - National Coalition for Marine Conservation, Recreational Fishing Alliance and International Game Fish Association - are leading a separate initiative whose long-range goal is to phase out drift longlining in US waters. (This initiative is now endorsed by nearly 100 additional groups and associations.) The groups are also urging the US government to take a leadership role in obtaining no-longlining zones in international waters. In the interim, the groups have been pushing NMFS to implement area closures in US waters as a first step. NCMC, along with the National Audubon Society and Natural Resources Defense Council, sued NMFS in June to compel swift regulatory action on the area closures, resulting in a court-sanctioned agreement to produce a Proposed Rule by December 15.

The closure areas in the buy-out legislation are similar to the areas NMFS is considering adopting as an amendment to its Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Tunas, Swordfish and Sharks. Moreover, the NMFS amendment does not feature a buy-out. Leaving aside the buy-out aspect, which many anglers and conservationists find distasteful but are willing to swallow if it's the price to pay for real and lasting conservation, the two approaches on the surface seem similar and not mutually exclusive. Unfortunately, that's not been the case.

Friendly Fire

The efforts of those behind the campaign to end longlining have pushed NMFS to finally take meaningful action to curtail longlining as well as forced the longliners to the negotiating table. The buy-out deal, on the other hand, has helped the prospects for NMFS action by forcing the longline industry to endorse the need for substantial area closures to reduce bycatch. But the four groups advocating the buy-out route have adopted the position that it's their way of the highway.

Blue Water Fisherman's Association has labeled the recreational fishermen and conservationists not supporting their deal - and there are many - as radical "fringe" groups. Sadly, the sport-fishing organizations working with them have acted to substantiate that claim, making them unwitting players in a misguided game of good cop/bad cop.

One of the groups went so far as to attack the sponsors of the anti-longlining initiative in print, misrepresenting their objectives and ridiculing their efforts, clearly in order to discourage its members from supporting it. The groups have been lobbying NMFS to not go forward with its Proposed Rule to implement area closures, slowing the agency's progress by giving it hope that Congress will get them off the hook. The lawsuit to force NMFS to meet federal mandates to reduce bycatch was single-handedly keeping the agency on track, so the groups even tried to persuade the plaintiffs to back off long enough to allow Congress time to pass their legislation first.

Ends and Means

The pros and cons of the buy-out deal never got a fair hearing. (Draft legislation was not made available to outside parties until late October.) Instead, its backers tried to rush it through Congress by the end of the 1999 session without giving anyone else the opportunity to weigh in on important issues, i.e., whether it's wise to make commercial fishing a compensable property right, who pays for that compensation, how much and under what circumstances.

For the record, my organization, the National Coalition for Marine Conservation, and I do not support linking area closures to a buy-out in the drift longline fishery. We are concerned that the approach taken by the groups involved could make it more likely, not less, that drift longlining will continue to plague our offshore fisheries. This particular arrangement would leave the US longline industry stronger, economically and politically, than it is today, while dividing and weakening its opposition.

Holding conservation hostage to compensation would set a dangerous precedent for fisheries management and undermine the mandates of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. In particular, this kind of brokered third-party deal would diminish the prospects of NMFS ever becoming an effective steward of our large pelagic fisheries at a critical time when both the law and public pressure have brought the agency closer to living up to its responsibilities than ever before.

NCMC supports regulatory action by NMFS, as required by the Magnuson Act. Such action is anticipated late in 1999, followed by public hearings and adoption of a "final rule" next spring. We've urged Congress to take up the question of a vessel buy-out next year, after approval of the final rule, permitting a full public hearing on the issue of compensation to affected fishermen and its implications for fisheries conservation and management.

What is probably most disturbing about this whole ugly affair, however, is the division and enmity it has created within the recreational fishing community. As of this writing, the open dialogue that should have taken place before we got into this whole sorry situation is finally underway. I believe the goals of all the recreational fishing and conservation groups involved are the same; the return of billfish, tuna and shark populations to healthy levels. As long as that's true, we will come back together. We can only hope that while we've been away, we haven't let an opportunity slip by.

Ken Hinman is the president of the National Coalition for Marine Conservation. Contact him at 703-777-0037.

Letter to Congressman Saxton on the Longline Bill Dated October 22, 1999

The Honorable Jim Saxton, Chairman

Dear Chairman Saxton:

We thank you for welcoming us into the process of finding a legislative solution to a true conservation problem. At your invitation, we have closely scrutinized the proposal worked out by the executive directors of the Billfish Foundation, the Coastal Conservation Association, the American Sportfishing Association and the Bluewater Fishermen's Association. We find the proposal fundamentally flawed, but do have suggestions that would make palatable a bill that would truly result in conservation of our highly migratory species.

 

First, we will itemize our concerns with the proposal's approach and details:

 

1) It does not conform to the rebuilding provisions mandated by Congress in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

2) It does not address actual reduction in mortality, fishing effort, quota or number of hooks.

3) A $25 tax per individual recreational angler is unworkable, unreasonable and unsupportable, as the proposal does not offer any reduction in commercial take of the species in question, so no conservation benefit is gained by the recreational angler footing the bill. Further, while it clearly protects the commercial entities from overpayment, it does not require that the repayment proposal for the recreational sector cease once the loan is repaid.

4) There are no hard targets in conservation or by-catch reduction set out in the proposal. While the Gulf of Mexico HMS closed area does sunset after four years, ostensibly to allow further scrutiny by Congress, there are no provisions for future reductions in mortality, effort, quota or number of sets and hooks to achieve by-catch reduction and the goal of maximum sustainable yield. It appears substantial longlining effort has moved outside and beyond the suggested closed areas. A current detailed chart of fishing effort should be provided by NMFS.

5) No where in the bill is "substantial adverse economic impact" on US lineline fishermen defined or demonstrated. Compensation is not based on anticipated losses as a result of the area closures.

6) The eligibility and buyout requirements are too broad. Tax returns and certified logbooks for the years in question should be the bare minimum requirement. Consideration should be given to basing compensation on net income rather than gross value of landings. Further, it makes eligible boats that conceivably have not fished the closed areas for over five consecutive years.

7) It does not define charterboats and headboats, important components of the recreational fishing industry that will be affected by this proposal, particularly because the buyout scheme allows vessel owners to retain their boats for other uses besides commercial fishing.

8) Its scientific monitoring provisions provide an open door for bought-out vessels to continue longlining in closed areas in the name of scientific research. It does this by changing the Magnuson definition for "fishing" to allow the Secretary to authorize such a program. It contains no language to require 100% observer coverage on these vessels, no limitation on tonnage, no restriction to bar boats that have been bought out from participating, nor a prohibition on the sale of scientific specimens after tissue sampling occurs. This is unsupportable.

9) It offers up the Mid-Atlantic Bight as the premier Yellowfin tuna fishing ground to the remaining longline vessels that will necessarily be displaced by closure of their more convenient fishing grounds. The Yellowfin tuna fishery creates a greater interaction with white marlin, which is the most threatened species of billfish, and the last remaining concentration in U.S. waters is in the Mid-Atlantic Bight. An effort shift to northern waters would result in an increased interaction with pelagic sharks, which are approaching an over-fished condition.

10) It does not include pelagic sharks for protection.

The undersigned realize that this proposal has been presented to you as a unified effort of the players involved in highly migratory species. By now, it must be evident to you that it is not. In order for those of us truly concerned about the conservation and wise use of these fish to support a buyout of longline capacity, we must see the following components included:

 

1) Rather than simply focusing on reducing the number of fishing vessels, it must take the necessary step of reducing the number of nontarget fish caught, particularly commercially overfished marlin and juvenile swordfish of pre-spawning age. This is the only way that maximum sustainable yield, as required by Congress in the Magnuson-Stevens Act, will be achieved. There are several approaches that can result in reaching the conservation goals in Magnuson:

(a) Gear Restrictions, including number of sets and hooks, length of main line and soak time - a commensurate reduction in gear percentage, using logbooks submitted to NMFS, should be required to affect real conservation and effort reduction.

(b) Quota Restrictions - a reduction in quota commensurate to reduced effort should be required.

 

2) Any proposal that uses time and area closures to limit by-catch must protect the Mid-Atlantic Bight from overfishing and gear conflict, particularly in the least regulated fishery for Yellowfin tuna, in light of white marlin interaction.

3) Any proposal must include hard targets for conservation and by-catch reduction. If the targets are not met, there must be a ratcheting mechanism to implement additional by-catch reduction measures to allow the fisheries time and opportunity to recover.

4) Any proposal should not depend on self-reporting by the pelagic longline fleet, but instead on transponder use to track movement of the boats. Onboard observers should be required to assist in the garnering of science, and in finding specific hotspots for by-catch of marlin and juvenile swordfish for other longliners to avoid. Further, penalties for fishing in closed areas by vessels participating in the buyout should include complete repayment of the buyout moneys received by the vessel owner.

5) Total allowable drift longline gear should be reduced by a commensurate percentage amount as has been reported in logbooks to NMFS. For example, a vessel participating in the buyout has, by law, logbooks that quantify the amount of gear set, including length of line and number of hooks. This amount of effort should be reduced from the fishery for the overall fleet.

Again, we thank you for bringing us into the process. Working together, we are certain there can be a solution to the dire problem of longline by-catch of commercially overfished highly migratory species. This proposal, as it stands, is not the answer. Unless the components listed above are addressed, we will be forced to actively oppose any forthcoming legislation. These fisheries are far too valuable to leave to chance.

Thank you for taking our views into consideration. Please do not hesitate to call any one of us to discuss our concerns and our suggestions.

Sincerely,

James A. Donofrio, Executive Director
Recreational Fishing Alliance

Ken Hinman, President
National Coalition for Marine Conservation

Tom Fote, Legislative Chairman
Jersey Coast Anglers Association

Pete Barrett, Associate Publisher
The Fisherman Magazine

Dick Weber, Owner
South Jersey Marina

Mike Leech, Executive Director
International Gamefish Association

Raymond Bogan, General Council
United Boatmen of NY/NJ

Len Belcaro, Publisher
The Edge Big Game Journal

Stephen Sloan, President
Fisheries Defense Fund

Cantey Smith
Charleston, SC – NCMC & RFA Member

Phil Kozak, President
National Fishing Association (NFA)

Jim Smarr, Texas State Chairman
Recreational Fishing Alliance

Bob Zales, II, Regional Director of Mexico
President, Panama City Boatmen Association

Capt. Joseph McBride, President
Montauk Boatmen & Captains Association

Mick Blackistone, VP of Government Relations
National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA)

CLEAN WATER ADVOCATES OPPOSE DEP PROPOSAL DRAFT RULE WEAKENS WATER QUALITY STANDARDS

On Thursday, November 18, t5he state’s leading clean water advocates gathered to state their opposition to a draft DEP proposal that fails to address critical surface water quality protection issues and weakens existing standards. The groups noted that while the draft contains some improvements over earlier proposals, New Jersey’s rivers, lakes, and streams, already suffering from severe and unaddressed water quality problems, would be even further degraded if the proposed changes were to be adopted. The current draft, which is scheduled to be formally proposed in late December and adopted in the spring, was released to stakeholders earlier this month.

This current Surface Water Quality Standards (SWQS) water proposal is the outcome of a three-year stakeholder process established by Governor Whitman. Environmentalists walked-out of that process in April of this year citing concerns, supported by a coalition of the state’s major water providers, that the stakeholder discussions focused on unacceptable weakening of existing water quality protections. In the wake of that walkout, the environmentalists issued a report; New Jersey’s Waters at Risk, chronicling the DEP’s failure to implement key provisions of state and federal clean water mandates. The environmentalists now say their worst fears about the proposal are moving forward.

"The DEP’s current plan does not meet the intent and rigor of the Governor’s commitment to water quality, and fails to address New Jersey’s pressing need for stronger water quality and public health protections," said Jerry Flanagan. "We need Governor Whitman to get personally involved with this critical DEP proposal in order to ensure that New Jersey’s water resources are adequately protected."

In January 1996 the DEP issued a huge 1,500 page regulatory proposal that, if adopted, would have changed water quality standards to allow millions of gallons of more pollution into New Jersey waterways. Following massive public outcry against the proposal, the Whitman Administration announced that it would not adopt the key rollback sections of the proposal and initiated the current stakeholder process with the goal of creating a clean water program "that will protect our natural resources well into the 21st Century". However, the environmentalists now say the DEP has failed to live up to the Governor’s intent.

"We need to be involved in overdrive to meet the Governor’s goal of stronger water quality protections, but we’ve been stuck in neutral for 3 years and the DEP’s about to put us in reverse!" said David Pringle, Campaign Director for New Jersey Environmental Federation.

If adopted, the current SWQS proposal:

Surface Water Quality Standards (SWQS) establish the basis for the protection of aquatic life and human health from both the acute and chronic adverse effects of specific pollutants. The standards provide the environmental quality indicators and enforceable standards limits that protect the state’s water quality.

"This is another water disaster to hit New Jersey. Despite this year’s floods and droughts, this proposal fails to learn the harsh lessons of our recent extreme weather conditions. New Jersey needs tough new water protection reforms," stated Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club.

In the last several months, the Clean Water Now! campaign, a coalition of the state’s leading environmental organizations and outdoors groups have conducted a massive public campaign to educate New Jerseyans about water quality problems. As a result, there has been overwhelming public support for stronger clean water protections. In recent months, a bi-partisan letter of 113 New Jersey mayors along with 30,000 postcards from New Jersey residents were sent to the Governor asking her to direct policy to establish pollution reduction initiatives and additional clean water protections.

"Throughout the state, waters are contaminated, or the fish that are in them are contaminated," said George Howard, Executive Director of the NJ State Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs. "There’s a tremendous lack of knowledge as to how much contaminants we have."

Menhaden Protection Bill S722/A1827

There is some negative, erroneous information being distributed by the Cape May Seafood Association in regards to bill S722. The information distributed contends that this bill would put restrictions on the bait industry and be detrimental to them. They know this is not true. Bill S722 was amended prior to passage by the Senate to exclude the bait industry in New Jersey. This bill only deals with the reduction boats. The excuse given to me for this blatant misrepresentation of S722 is that the Assembly bill, which has never been heard, has not been amended. The authors of this statement were present when the Senate bill was amended and they have no excuse for this type of misrepresentation to their members or anyone else. They have recommended their members write to the Assembly and get this bill killed. You need to double you efforts and contact you legislators and particularly the committee right now. We have only a few legislative days left in this session. Here is the information below.

The NJ Senate voted on Menhaden Bill (S722/A1827) on June 21 and we are still waiting for the assembly to act. This bill would get the large Reduction Boats out of state waters. This bill now has to go to Assembly for passage. This is our best chance to get something done with regard to Menhaden this year. You need to continue putting pressure on the NJ Assembly to get this bill moved. We can accomplish passage of this bill this legislative session and it effects the entire New Jersey Coast. The key people to move this bill are Assembly Speaker Jack Collins and Assemblyman John Gibson, chair of the Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee. The Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee is the next step for this bill. You need to call, write or fax each of these assembly representatives and let them know you want this bill (S722/A1827) posted as soon as possible. You should also remind them that this is an assembly election year and you are concerned about their actions. In addition, you need to contact you local assemblymen and women, asking for their help to get this bill posted and their vote for this important legislation.

Speaker Jack Collins R
Suite C 63 East Ave
Woodstown, NJ 08098-1499
PHONE (856) 769-3633 FAX (856) 769-0049
AsmCollins@njleg.state.nj.us


John C. Gibson, - Chair R Legislative District 1
2087 South Shore Rd., Seaville, NJ 08230
PHONE (609) 624-1222 FAX (609) 624-0244
asm.jcgibson@worldnet.att.net

Connie Myers, Vice-Chair R Legislative District 23
124 W. Washington Ave., Washington, NJ 07882
PHONE (908) 835-1202 FAX (908) 835-1205
asw.cmyers@worldnet.att.net

Larry Chatzidakis, R Legislative District 8
Suite 103, 3000 Midlantic Drive, Mount Laurel, NJ 08054
PHONE :(609) 234-8080 FAX NUMBER (609) 234-3990
asm.lchatzidakis@worldnet.att.net

Clare M. Farragher, R Legislative District 12
40 Broad Street, Broad Street Professional Plaza,
Suite 4, Freehold, NJ 07728
PHONE (732) 462-9009 FAX NUMBER (732) 462-5467
asw.cmfarragher@worldnet.att.net

Scott E. Garrett R Legislative District 24
61 Spring St., 3rd Floor, Newton, NJ 07860
PHONE : (973) 579-7585 FAX NUMBER (973) 579-4902
asm.esgarrett@worldnet.att.net

Barbara Buono D Legislative District 18
1967 Rt. 27, Suite 20, Edison, NJ 08817
PHONE : (732) 287-5609 FAX (732) 287-5640
asw.bbuono@worldnet.att.net

Herbert Conaway D Legislative District 7
Delran Professional Center 8008 Route 130 North
Delran, NJ 08035
PHONE : (609) 461-3997 FAX (609) 461-3823
asm.hcconaway@worldnet.att.net