Request for a New Recreational Fishing Roundtable Meeting

by John Toth
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association February 2019 Newsletter)

On April 3, 2017, John Bullard, the former Regional Administrator of the Greater Atlantic Regional Office, held a Roundtable Meeting to hear firsthand the problems facing recreational anglers. I recorded the major issues that emerged from this meeting, and I sent an April 6th letter (below) to John Bullard as a follow up to this meeting requesting the next steps for resolution of them. While an Action Plan was offered by Mr. Bullard’s staff on June 8, 2017 in an attempt to address the issues of the April 3rd Roundtable meeting, no movement on this Action Plan has taken place to date.

Mr. Pentony has replaced John Bullard and he was the guest speaker at the Jersey Coast Anglers Sportsperson of the Year Dinner held on November 11th at the Crystal Point Yacht Club. On hearing his presentation concerning the problems we face as recreational anglers at this dinner, I thought that a new Roundtable Meeting should be held with this change in leadership so that possibly new and fresh ideas can emerge to help resolve the issues in my letter to John Bullard. My request (mailed on JCAA letterhead) for this Roundtable Meeting follows:

December 1, 2018 Regional Administrator Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office 55 Great Republic Drive Gloucester, MA 01930
Dear Mr. Pentony,

I want to thank you for coming to the Jersey Coast Anglers Association Sportsperson of the Year Dinner. It was interesting and even refreshing to hear you talk about your early fishing experiences in New Jersey’s waters. While listening to you, I felt that you have a direct connection with us recreational anglers and that you are in tune with and have an understanding of the issues facing the recreational community.

On April 3, 2017, John Bullard held a Recreational Fishing Regional Roundtable meeting at the Manasquan Reservoir Visitor Center. I attended this meeting along with others to express our concerns on a number of issues that are important to the recreational fishing industry. I wrote a summary of this meeting (attached) and sent it to Mr. Bullard asking for his comments and, more importantly, how we can partner together to resolve them. I did receive a Meeting Summary on June 8, 2017 with a proposed Action Plan, but there has been no movement on this Action Plan to date.

I, and the JCAA Board Members, request that you hold another Regional Round Table meeting in 2019 to hear our concerns regarding the issues of the recreational community. While the issues raised in the 2017 Round Table Meeting have not changed, let us have a fresh start in looking at them and developing a plan to address and resolve them. I understand that NOAA has three Roundtable meetings planned for the New England Region, but none yet for our Mid-Atlantic region.

John Toth JCAA, 1st Vice President Cc: Mark Taylor, President Tom Fote, Legislative Chairman
April 6, 2017 U.S. Department of Commerce, NOAA Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries office National Marine Fisheries Service 55 Great Republic Dr. Gloucester, MA 01930
Mr. Bullard,

I want to thank you and your staff for meeting with representatives from fishing organizations and related industries on April 3rd at the Manasquan Reservoir Visitor's Center as part of NOAA's Round Table Discussion to listen to the concerns of anglers. A number of major issues were raised at this meeting and I would like to have your comments on just a few of them.

We have been experiencing cutbacks on our fishing quotas for just about every fishery with the resulting loss of related fishing industries such as tackle shops, charter/party boats and even the loss of anglers buying new boats since they have diminished fishing opportunities. The 19-inch fluke New Jersey's anglers are currently contesting comes to mind. When we protest these continual cutbacks, the reply we always receive is that these quota reductions are based "On the Best Science Available." At this meeting, it was pointed out to you your own statistics show that black sea bass stocks have increased 230%, yet we have not received a commensurate increase in the quota. An increased quota would allow us to target sea bass for a longer season thereby reducing pressure on other species such as fluke. It seems to us that this is a "Tails you lose and heads you lose" no matter how the coin is tossed! If your own statistics tell you that the quota for sea bass can be easily raised, then why has this not been done? I understand that the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is going to consider raising this quota in the near future. As one person indicated at this meeting, NOAA has a "Loud Voice" when it comes to fishing managers making these types of decisions. We all would appreciate your using NOAA's voice to significantly increase the black sea bass quota for our fishing industry.

The data used to justify cutbacks in our fisheries is seriously flawed and this was pointed out to you. As an example, the data showed that New Jersey's anglers caught a lot of fish after Hurricane Sandy, even though a large number of our boats were destroyed and many marinas closed. Other examples like this abound such as days with high winds that keep boats in the marinas, yet high catches of fish are recorded. This bad data goes into the models used for quota development and bad data in the models produces bad data out. This is a continuing and major problem that needs serious attention by your staff.

Also pointed out at this meeting, it is the continuing loss of marinas, decline in boat registrations, etc., that shows our fishing industry is in a downward spiral over the years. NOAA has to take a serious look at this decline in fishing - related businesses and examine its role in contributing to this decline by its management that continually pursues decisions that damage the recreational and commercial fishing industries. What can NOAA do to reverse this downward trend? As also mentioned at this meeting, we are looking to be a Partner with you and we are looking for a Roadmap from you to follow so that we can both work together on resolving these outstanding issues.

John Toth President, Jersey Coast Anglers Association (JCAA) President, New Jersey Outdoor Alliance (NJOA) President, Salt Water Anglers of Bergen County (SWABC) CC: Mr. Wilbur Ross, US Commerce Secretary
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