Fisheries Management & Legislative Report

by Tom Fote
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association February 2019 Newsletter)


Government Shutdown and its Effect on Fisheries Management

It is hard enough to manage fisheries by itself without having to deal with a government shutdown. The ASMFC meeting will go on as scheduled in mid-February because we are not under the same rules and regulations that govern the MidAtlantic Fisheries Management Council. The second week in February there is a MAFMC meeting scheduled that will be impacted by the shutdown even if it is over by then. Read the email below sent out on January 15 by Chris Moore, Executive Director. By law MAFMC must post notices in the Federal Registry well in advance of the meeting but we have passed the January 18th deadline while those responsible were furloughed. The shutdown will also have an impact on information available at the ASMFC meeting since some of their employees are furloughed as well. The decisions on summer flounder, scup and black sea bass that we hoped were settled by spring might take even longer. Before you travel to any of the February meetings, check to see if agendas have been changed or if any meeting has been cancelled. As I am writing this, I am almost positive there will be no joint ASMFC/MAFMC meeting at the February meeting since I been told to not book rooms or buy plane tickets. There will be discussions on striped bass and other species at the ASMFC meeting and I will be sharing that information in the next newspaper. Of course, you can go on line and listen to all these ASMFC Board meetings taking place from February 5th-7th.

Windmill Question Response

I received an email from a commercial fishery advocate and harvester who is upset and surprised at the NWF press release quoting my support for windmills which is shared by JCAA. The JCAA position on renewable energy was developed in the 1990’s. We recognized then that the ocean temperatures were getting warmer and the way we produced energy contributed to the problem. But an even bigger concern at the time was the pollution being generated by fossil fuel power plants, the cars we were driving and other processes that put contaminants into the atmosphere. JCAA has never taken a position against nuclear power but we opposed the nuclear power plants and fossil fuel plants in New Jersey because they did not have cooling towers. The lack of cooling towers was producing higher temperatures around their discharge and killing fish. We continue to look at sources of renewable energy that will not impact fish populations and create long-term problems. Please read my response to the email below.

“I wanted to think about your email for a few days before I answered. I have known you for many years and respect you, so this is my long answer.

“As you know, I am a 100% disabled vet who was exposed to Agent Orange. I know the effects that chemical contamination has on the human body. For the last 40 years of my life I have dealt with not only fish issues but environmental issues as well. One of the reasons I started volunteering with JCAA was because we handle environmental issues first and fish issues second. Without clean water we cannot have clean fish.

“JCAA has looked over the years at the problems with fossil fuel production and the contaminants that their production releases into the air. Every one of NJ's streams and lakes are contaminated with mercury from air deposition that comes from the coal, gas and oil fired plants to our west and a higher levels of acidity in our water bodies. That means we have an advisory on every fish that you can catch in NJ's lakes and streams. JCAA and I have long been a supporter of renewal energy. I remember testifying on solar panels many years ago and looking at all renewable energy options. Thirty years ago, I began researching the impact of wind generation, solar panel generation and energy conservation. One of those options is wind mills. After careful consideration JCAA and its member clubs voted to support renewable energy in the form of wind mills, both on land and in the ocean.

“Let’s look at the reasons why we need to move ahead with wind power and other forms of renewable energy.

“Climate change is one of the main reasons. As fishermen we have seen what has happened in the past 25 years with the warming of the ocean and the warming of the air. Just look at the drop in production of surf clams and lobsters in the Mid-Atlantic region. Some politicians are still burying their heads in the sand, but fishermen cannot afford to ignore the impact. Besides raising the temperature of the water and water levels, climate change has also produced more frequent and more dangerous storms. Sandy was an example but just the extreme amount of rain this year can be tied to climate change. Just look at the effects all that fresh water has on the salinity of the bays, estuaries and rivers. The rise of the water levels in the bays and rivers are causing flooding in areas that never flooded before and it is only getting worse every year.

“Contaminants in the air which eventually end up in the water have been increasing since the industrial revolution. It is now affecting the acidity of the ocean. Clams, oysters, and lobsters need a certain PH factor to produce healthy shells. The change in acidity also has an impact on coral and other sea creatures. We are affecting not only what we can harvest but the entire food chain. The contaminants in the atmosphere also contribute to the high rate of asthma and other respiratory diseases and certain cancers. There is certainly an element of environmental justice since many of the generators of air contaminants are in poor, urban areas.

“As fishermen we know we must protect the planet from the consequence of our actions. Renewable energy is a ‘no brainer' for anyone who cares about the environment. That is why federal and state governments are all looking for ways to move to renewable energy to get us off fossil fuel. That is the reason NY, NJ and the rest of the east coast are moving ahead with windmills. Right now, wind and solar are the only viable options to the fossil fuel plants. Do these systems have drawbacks? Yes. But in looking at the alternatives, wind and solar are clearly preferable. As commercial and recreational fishermen, we need to be vigilant in the placement of these windmills to have the least impact on the fish and on the people who harvest them. We also need to insist that the latest, cleanest technology is used, and that continued research is done to lessen any negative impact. Twenty-five years ago, we would have needed multiple windmills to produce what one windmill can today. We need to continue to look at ways to mitigate any impact on the lives and incomes of fishermen by investigating addition artificial reefs and compensation for lost fisheries.

“Renewable energy is the future. This is going to happen. We can participate in the process to guarantee the best outcome or we can stand on the sidelines and just yell. JCAA opts to be participants and have a seat at the table.

“On a personal note, twelve years ago my wife and I put solar panels on our roof. Then after Sandy we added 4 more to make us almost self-sufficient. We are looking at the storage units, so we can share the excess of our solar with others and run off them at night. We both drive a Prius and are hoping our next cars will be electric. We have also changed our light bulbs from incandescent to florescence and now LED. All the appliances have been changed to High Energy Efficient ones. I know this is a long response, but I wanted to be respectful of your opinion and share my views. I hope I have given you a better understanding why JCAA and I are in support of the windmills. As you know, Danny Cohen just passed away. He formed the fishermen's wind project so he would be part of the process and we talked about that move over the years.”

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