NJ Regulatory Update: Blackfish, Porgy, Fluke and Sea Bass

by Paul Haertel
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association April 2018 Newsletter)

At the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council (NJMFC) meeting on 3/15/18, regulations for blackfish and porgies were set. For blackfish, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) required our state to reduce our harvest by 2%. Our council accomplished this by shortening our one day season by two weeks and reducing our bag limit from six fish to five fish for our late fall/early winter season. The adopted regulations set the minimum size at 15”, with a four-fish bag limit from 1/1 – 2/28 and from 4/1-4/30. There will be a one fish bag limit from 8/1-11/15 and then a five-fish bag limit from 11/16-12/31. Some people questioned why we did not just eliminate the one day season but the reason is the NJFMC wanted to keep it open for divers and shore based fishermen at a time when the water is warm and the fish are still inshore.

There was better news on porgies as the ASMFC allowed us to increase our harvest by 59%. This will result in New Jersey having a year-round season. Previously our season was closed from March 1st to June 30th. The bag and size limits will remain the same, 50 fish at 9”. The council voted in favor of this new regulation but it will not become effective until DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe signs off on it.

The regulations for fluke and sea bass will not be set until a special council meeting on 4/5 that will be held at 5PM at the Bay Avenue Community Center located at 775 E. Bay Av. in Manahawkin. The delay is due to decisions made at the recent Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) meeting regarding Addendum XXX for sea bass. Several positive changes in the way sea bass are managed were made at that meeting. One is that New Jersey will be its own region. Another is that a smoothing over approach can be used to adjust MRIP numbers that appear to be way out of line. For example, the MRIP numbers for Wave 3 (May-June) in 2017 showed that New Jersey harvested an extraordinarily high number of sea bass. We will now be able to smooth over that number based on what was harvested during that period in prior years. This is a good thing as it should allow us to significantly liberalize our regulations this year.

Our Bureau of Marine Fisheries worked diligently on this issue but must first have their methodology approved by the ASMFC management board when it meets via conference call on Tuesday, March 20th at 11 AM. The board will consider approving the proposals of all three regions at that time. The three management regions are: (1) Massachusetts through New York, (2) New Jersey, and (3) Delaware through North Carolina. The public is welcome to listen to the discussion by phone (866.214.0726, followed by pass code: 993961) and view the webinar at this link.

The meeting agenda can be found at this link; meeting materials will be available March 15 in the archives. Time permitting; there will be a limited opportunity for the public to provide comments. The Board Chair will outline the procedures for accepting public comment at the beginning of the conference call. The public and other non-participating attendees are requested to mute their phones in order to minimize distractions to the Board’s deliberations. For more information, please contact Caitlin Starks, FMP Coordinator, at cstarks@asmfc.org or 703.842.0740.

Regarding fluke, our council is seeking to close or eliminate the gap from when fluke season closes until when sea bass season opens so they have elected to wait until the special meeting in April to set the regulations for both species. The options for fluke are expected to all have an 18” size limit and a bag limit of 3 fish. The seasons could either be from 5/15-9/16, 5/22-9/20 or 5/25-9/22. It is possible that these options could be tweaked a little or other new ones developed but that is unlikely. (The special regulations of 3 fish at 17” for Delaware Bay and 2 fish at 16” for Island Beach are expected to remain the same.)

JCAA will keep you posted as to specific options as they become available via our newsletter and on our Facebook page. Please “like” our page when you visit it.

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