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Support the Artificial Reef Program

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association April 2008 Newsletter)

 

Please send similar letters to your state senator and to Senate President Richard Codey so we can get the pots off your reefs.  

More information about Pots Off the Reefs at www.njreefrescue.com or JCAA newspaper archives.





 

Dear Senator,

I am writing to request your support in moving Senate Bill 336, which prohibits the use of traps on artificial reefs, up for a vote before the full Senate, and also for your vote in favor of this bill. This bill was passed favorably out of the Senate Environment Committee on February 21, 2008 without a vote against it. Moreover, last session’s bill, S2635, was unanimously passed out of committee and it was also unanimously passed when voted on by the Senate.

New Jersey’s artificial reef system is one of the nation’s most successful reef building programs. Though it occupied just 0.3 percent of the sea floor off New Jersey’s coast, a 2000 study by the state’s Division of Fish and Wildlife revealed that 20 percent of New Jersey’s recreationally landed fish come from the state’s 15 reefs. As even more and more severe fisheries restrictions are being placed on New Jersey’s 800,000 anglers and the more than 500,000 out-of-state anglers who fish New Jersey’s waters, the reef sites have become even more important to the state’s recreational anglers. In the case of summer flounder, aka fluke, the reefs provide the best opportunity for most recreational anglers who target fluke to catch at least one that meets the new minimum size of 18 inches.

The artificial reefs provide a tremendous trickle-down economic effect in both shore and inland communities, as these anglers support marinas, boat liveries, bait and tackle stores, fuel stations, restaurants, convenience stores, sporting goods stores, toll highways, hotels/motels, real estate rentals, etc. These economic generators add $4 billion to New Jersey’s economy, $150,000 in sales taxes, and provide for 37,000 related jobs.

Another issue here is the very legality of the use of traps on the artificial reef sites. According to the state-approved 2005 Artificial Reef Plan, the intent of the reef sites is for “hook-and-line” angling activities. Continuing to allow fixed gear on the reefs is in complete disregard for this Department of Environmental Protection-approved measure.

Furthermore, the continuingly increasing use of fixed gear for commercial fishing purposes on New Jersey’s reef system may directly violate federal law. For more than 20 years, the administration of the reef program has been funded by Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish (Wallop-Breaux) Restoration Funds. These funds are derived from an excise tax on recreational fishing purchases, and as a “user pay, user benefit” program, federal law requires that these funds be used to benefit recreational fisheries. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Federal Assistance Toolkit, Part 521, Section 2.9 lists ineligible activities for the use of these funds, with paragraph C specifically disallowing their use for “Providing services or property of material value to individuals or groups for commercial purposes or to benefit such individuals or groups.” Violation of these rules is subject to repayment of funds.

The majority of states that have artificial reef programs, including New York, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, have identified traps as incompatible with their reef programs and no longer allow traps on their reefs. Furthermore, the removal of traps has been supported federally by classifying artificial reefs in federal waters for a number of those states as Special Management Zones (SMZs), restricting the use of traps on those sites.

The issues are clear and the precedent has been set: Traps are not compatible with the purpose or the laws governing New Jersey’s artificial reefs. I look forward to your support in enforcing this mandate and voting for Bill S336. I would be most appreciative of your assistance on this bill.

Sincerely, .....

 

 

 

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