Fisheries Management & Legislative Report

by Tom Fote

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association March 2003 Newsletter)



There is a new session of Congress and It is time to reintroduce the Freedom to Fish Act at the Federal level.  Congratulations to Assemblyman Robert Smith and Assemblyman Steve Corodemus for introducing the NJ version of the Freedom to Fish Bill.  The RFA was instrumental in promoting this legislation at the state level.  JCAA will support Assemblymen Smith and Corodemus to insure passage of this legislation.  Now comes the hard work.  JCAA will work with the RFA to gather support throughout the state for this legislation. 

The NJ Freedom to Fish Act prohibits closures to rod and reel fishing unless there is a clear indication that this type of fishing is causing a specific conservation problem and that less severe measures will not be adequate.  This bill would also require periodic review of any closures, a scientific basis for the size of any closure, and provisions to reopen areas to rod and reel fishing whenever the basis for the closure no longer exists.  This bill establishes requirements that must be met before any of the stateís marine waters can be closed off to rod and reel fishing. 

You need to write your local NJ Senators and Assemblymen and ask them to support this legislation. 

Remember, this bill only covers state waters.  It does not cover the EEZ 3-mile mark to 200-mile mark.  That is why the Federal legislation is so important.  Last year, the only NJ legislator to cosponsor the Federal Freedom to Fish Act was Congressman Saxton.  We need to do better.  The Freedom to Fish Act (S.1314 and H.R.3104) amends the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to prohibit any fishery management plan prepared by a Regional Fishery Management Council or the Secretary of Commerce from establishing areas closed to recreational fishing unless:

  1. there is a clear indication that recreational fishermen are the cause of a specific conservation problem and that less severe conservation measures will not adequately provide for conservation and management of the affected stocks of fish;
  2. the closed area regulation includes specific measurable criteria to determine the conservation benefit of the closed area on such fish and provides a timetable for periodic review of the continued need for the closed area;
  3. the closed area is no larger than that which is supported by the best available scientific information;
  4. a provision is made to reopen the closed area to recreational fishing whenever any such condition that was the basis of the closure no longer exists.


It also amends the National Marine Sanctuaries Act to direct the Secretary to provide such a Council with the opportunity to propose and revise all regulations applicable to fishing within designated marine sanctuaries according to the standards and procedures of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. It requires such regulations, upon approval by the Secretary, to apply within the exclusive economic zone and allows them to be applied within a State, with the approval of the State's Governor or pursuant to the Secretary's authority under such Act.


The Freedom to Fish webpage lists the following organizations as supporters of this legislation; American Sportfishing Association, Bass Anglers Sportsmanís Society, Coastal Conservation Association, International Game Fish Association, Jersey Coast Anglers Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Recreational Fishing Alliance, Sportfishing Association of California and United Anglers of Southern California.  We need you and your organization to become part of this effort.  All you need to do is go to the Freedom to Fish webpage at http://www.freedomtofish.org.  This webpage is interactive and allows you to send a letter to your Federal legislators from any state.  We have two years to pass this bill.  Letís get it done


Subway Car Update

In the last few weeks JCAA has been participating in negotiations with the DEP to secure 250 subway cars for the artificial reef program.  With an article, included below, appearing 2/16 in the Star Ledger, I felt it was appropriate to update everyone on the status subway cars and tell you about the negotiations. 

We were offered a deal to get 250 cars.  The conditions that Clean Ocean Action and the American Littoral Society want imposed as part of the agreement are totally unacceptable and so is the attempt to bypass the public hearing process.  JCAA has been in communication with other organizations and they agree that we should not accept the imposition of these additional criteria on the artificial reef plan.  We have a draft artificial reef plan, ten years in the development by scientists at the Federal and State level, which was scheduled for public hearing and comment.  Somehow this plan has been sidetracked and these two organizations are trying to dictate the criteria used in this program. 

Some of their demands are not based on science but just their feelings.  The rest of their demands totally ignore existing science.  If we use their criteria we will waste valuable taxpayers money on needless studies.  We will also be stopped from accepting any subway cars for at least the next 10 years and prevented from receiving other material indefinitely.  We canít imagine that Clean Ocean Action or the American Littoral Society would accept the results of additional studies anyway since they totally ignore the existing science when it doesnít support their ideas. 

All in all, we cannot and will not accept the imposition of their criteria on the artificial reef program.  We understand that sticking to our principles and insisting that the public hearing process goes forward and the rules be followed may cost us these 250 subway cars.  But in the long run, accepting these demands would set a terrible precedent for the artificial reef program and for all future fisheries programs in New Jersey.  In the past we have always known that there would be public hearings and all interests would be heard and considered.  Even when the final solution was not one that we preferred, at least we had the opportunity to see the process through to its legal and appropriate conclusion.  If Clean Ocean Action and the American Littoral Society feel strongly about their position, they should attend the public hearing like the rest of us and submit their comments at that time.  That is how the democratic process should work.

Rumors abound that certain legislators would make political hay if the subway cars were used and that these legislators would blame Governor McGreevey for ocean dumping.  I have been in personal contact with several of these legislators and their offices and was told this was not true.  I was assured that they understand the importance of the artificial reef program and the due process necessary to make changes to the plan.  Clean Ocean Action and the American Littoral Society have already cost us 400 of the original 650 cars.  When the Assembly Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee held public hearings last April, there were still over 400 cars available.  We are now down to 250.  Governor McGreevey and Commissioner Campbell must let the public process go forward.  They must take the 250 subway cars and use them immediately.  They must not acquiesce to demands that are not based on science which circumvent the public process.  You need to support the Division of Fish and Wildlife and the plan they developed with the best scientific information available.  You need to let Governor McGreevey know that you want the 250 cars used immediately with no strings attached. 

Governor James McGreevey
P.O. Box 001
State House, Trenton, NJ 08625‑0001
PH     609-292-6000 
FAX  609-292-3454

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