Fisheries Management & Legislative Report

by Tom Fote

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association December 2003 Newsletter)

Working together in the NGO community

It is a shame that we have to spend so much time on issues that really should be non-issues. I am upset that every statement is put under a microscope because of the strain with the NGO  (Non-Governmental Organization) community.  I feel some people are just looking for things to discredit a person or group. JCAA is an NGO as are some other recreational and commercial fishing organizations.  Some NGOs have decided to ignore this and treat all recreational and commercial organizations as the enemy. It has made some groups look for allies in the wrong place. It has also made most recreational anglers and commercial fishermen very suspect of the motives of other NGO groups that do not fish for consumption and we are always looking for their hidden agendas. Since I am also legislative chairman for New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen Clubs, even though I do not hunt I believe the same feelings are true in the hunting community. Without the help and support of fishing and hunting groups many of the environment successes in the last 100 years would not have happened. Just think of all the land that has been purchased to protect the environment and wildlife with hunting and fishing funds.  How many land acquisitions, state and federal parks and environment laws been passed due to the hard work of fishing and hunting groups.

We also have some NGOs that think fishing and hunting should not occur at all and this also makes it tough for the community to work together.

What are the costs of these divisions?  As I see it, the distrust among groups that should be allies has brought us to a standstill on many important issues.  It also puts legislators in a difficult position as they are torn between two constituent groups.  The groups that oppose our work in conservation and environment are united and can take advantage of our dissension to meet their own aims. 

Some of our environmental allies are occasionally oblivious to the consequences of their actions and don’t see the big picture.  What they think is a minor point with little impact may, in fact, have a major disruptive impact on the fishing community.  For example, the subway cars.  People who fought against the subway cars had their stated reasons but they were totally unaware of the positive social and economic impact of those cars for the recreational fishing community.  The reefs built with these subway cars provide quality of life for the anglers who want to bring fish home to eat.  They provide jobs to the recreational industry because the reefs encourage more people to fish.  The same was true of summer flounder.  One of the lawyers said to me, “It’s only a million pounds.  What’s the big deal?”  A million pounds meant 20 - 30 days closure in states.  A million pounds meant people didn’t fish for those 20 – 30 days, bringing no fish home for personal consumption and no money spent.  I would guess along the coast the total economic impact was in excess of $250,000,000. 

Some of us who have been doing this for a time wonder where it all went wrong. We wonder when friends became adversaries, allowing our opponents easy victories. 

What I do know is that I spend an inordinate amount of my time on the 3% of the issues that we disagree on instead of the 97% that we all agree on. Most of the time these issues are not even crucial to the environment.  I have certainly been guilty of taking things personally.  But I have also learned how destructive this can be.  We are only successful when we can leave our egos in the parking lot and focus on the big issues that unite us. 

My involvement in the Barnegat Bay Estuary Program has taught me many lessons.  Most importantly, I have learned to put myself in the other person’s shoes and find ways to work for consensus.  Consensus means none of us win and all of us win.  We find ways to satisfy the varying needs and opinions that bring us to the table and allow everyone to participate in the decision-making.  On occasion, we will not reach consensus for the group and will take the issue off the table.  That may leave groups or individuals to pursue an issue on their own outside of the framework of the umbrella group.  At least the discussion gives us all a better understanding of the different positions and an opportunity to come back together again as a functioning community.  I believe it also leads to more civility and understanding.  We may be adversaries on occasion when we decide the issue is important enough but we can take those adversarial positions outside of the group, allowing the group to continue functioning on issues where we agree.  

Summer Flounder, Scup and Seabass

The Mid-Atlantic Council meets in Delaware from December 2 – 4, 2003.  If tradition holds, we will be dealing with the recreational measures for summer flounder, scup and sea bass on Wednesday.  When I have firm schedule, I will email it to you.  Last year this meeting was in North Carolina and many people could not attend.  This year it is much closer to home.  That means we need to be out in force.  The concerns about the Marine Recreational Survey will be driving us crazy again!  According to the Marine Recreational Survey, New York has serious problems with regard to summer flounder and other species.  Remember, it was New York that was pushing hardest for recreational paybacks.  This should be an interesting discussion.  Will New York voluntarily participate in recreational paybacks?  When the charts and tables are ready, I will email them to you and post information on the JCAA website.  If you are not on my email list, please contact me at tfote@jcaa.org   or use the “Subscribe” link on our home page.  The meeting place is Sheraton Suites 422 Delaware Avenue Wilmington, DE 19801 Tel: 302-576-8005. 

Striped Bass Controversy at NMFS & ASMFC

JCAA’s preliminary position on the opening of the EEZ for striped bass fishing is included elsewhere in this newspaper.  The hearing, scheduled for 11/18, will take place will have already taken place before you get this newspaper.  However, the comment period will be open until 12/22/03.  I hope that your clubs and you as individuals will send your comments to the National Marine Fisheries Service.  We shouldn’t waste the cost of the hearings that will take place over the next two years, the time spent by the NMFS staff and our personal time.  I hope NMFS will understand our position and stop this process now.  JCAA is proud to join with CCA and RFA in opposing the opening. 

The Striped Bass Management Board meets on December 16 at 9:30 AM at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City.  I hope some of you can attend and see how the process works.   New Jersey wants the striped bass board to rectify the producing area boondoggle.    New Jersey will not allow this type of discrimination and will take whatever steps are necessary to resolve this issue.  It was bad enough that we were discriminated against in the final weakfish amendment.  We can’t allow this to happen again.  Governor McGreevey is fully aware of the problems with the weakfish amendment and the potential problems with striped bass.  After the December 16th meeting, I will be making formal recommendations to the Governor’s Office and to the NJ Legislature. 

More Striped Bass News

I was just reading that Maryland's striped bass juvenile index was 25.8 this year, the fifth highest in the fifty year history. Ten years ago that would have been news in every fishing column from Maine to North Carolina.  But now it hardly rates a sentence.  In 1991, we based the whole opening of the striped bass fishery on the three-year running average of the young of the year.  Since we’ve gone to the Spawning Stock Biomass as the management tool, the young of the year index has taken a back seat.  Even though this statistic doesn’t get headlines, it still represents an important number and should be considered.  What I learned from this index is that striped bass are reproducing at a very good rate in the Chesapeake Bay.  If there are problems, they occur after reproduction and must be due to other factors. 


Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Annual Meeting Schedule - 62nd Annual Meeting

December 15 - 18, 2003
Roosevelt Hotel
45 East 45th Street
New York, NY
(888) 833-3969
Preliminary Schedule

(Note: The schedule is subject to change up until the time meetings are held.)

Sunday, December 14, 2003
3:00 PM - 6:00 PM Registration

Monday, December 15, 2003
7:30 AM - 4:00 PM Registration
8:00 AM - 10:00 AM Atlantic Herring Section
8:00 AM - Noon Habitat Committee
9:00 AM - 1:00 PM Spouse Tour
10:00 AM - Noon Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass Management Board
Noon - 1:00 PM Legislative Committee
1:00 PM - 3:00 PM Update on Federal Fisheries Issues -- Dr. William Hogarth
3:00 PM - 5:00 PM "Fisheries Habitat in Urban Environments"
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM Welcome Reception

Tuesday, December 16, 2003
7:30 AM - 1:00 PM Registration
7:30 AM - 9:30 AM Action Plan Workshop
8:30 AM - 12:30 PM Law Enforcement Committee
9:30 AM - 1:30 PM Management & Science Committee
9:30 AM - Noon Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board
1:00 PM - 2:30 PM Horseshoe Crab Management Board
2:30 PM - 5:30 PM Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program Coordinating Council
6:30 PM Annual Dinner

Wednesday, December 17, 2003
7:30 AM - 12:30 PM American Lobster Management Board
8:30 AM - 12:30 PM Law Enforcement Committee
8:30 AM - 12:30 PM Management & Science Committee
12:45 PM - 2:00 PM Captain David H. Hart Award Luncheon
2:00 PM - 4:00 PM Atlantic Menhaden Management Board
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM Spiny Dogfish & Coastal Shark Management Board

Thursday, December 18, 2003
8:00 AM - 10:00 AM Winter Flounder Management Board
8:00 AM - 10:00 AM South Atlantic State-Federal Fisheries Management Board
10:00 AM - 10:30 AM Checkout Break
10:30 AM - Noon Executive Committee
Noon - 5:30 PM ISFMP Policy Board
5:30 PM - 6:00 PM Business Session

Cleaning up the JCAA email list

It is important that we keep our email list current.  Many of your email addresses are being kicked back by our server.  I sent emails to people stating that they should reply or they would be removed from the list.  I don’t have phone numbers for many of you and can’t call you to check.  If your email address has changed, please notify me.  If you are not receiving regular emails from me, there is a problem.  Please be in touch.  Call me at 732-270-9102 or check with your server.  Some of the new anti-spam programs may be interfering.  Email is the most efficient and cost effective way for us to keep in touch.  We keep our dues down because we don’t fax and mail beyond the monthly newspaper.  Please keep your email address current.  If you care about the resource and what is happening in recreational fishing and environmental issues, you need to be on our email list.  Contact me at tfote@jcaa.org .  This is a private list and your address will not be shared with anyone-not even our sponsors. 

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