Fisheries Management & Legislative Report

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


Striped Bass Update

There was a major shift at the Striped Bass Board Meeting. We realized that by using a slot fish without conservation equivalency would put undue hardship on some of the states. New Hampshire would have an 88% reduction, New Jersey would have an over 40% reduction and Massachusetts would also have an over 40% reduction. The Striped Bass Board did pass the slot limit but allowed the states to take an 18% reduction on the 2017 catch figures. This will give us a broader set of options. As I pointed out before, that slot limit was the worst management tool for protecting the 2011 and 2015 year classes. It would do just the opposite of what we did when we rebuilt the stock by not directing any fishing on the 82 year class until 95% of the females had spawned at least once. I am hoping New Jersey implements an option that will spread the catch over many year classes.

I attended the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council to explain the actions we took at ASMFC. I hoped that information would help them come up with options that would help everyone. Most of the comments were favorable. There was one catch and release guide from Atlantic City who fishes the back bays. He shared how many striped bass he and his clients caught and released in the summer when the water is hot, the air temperature in even hotter and the hook and release mortality can be as high as 40%. His statements supported the way he fishes without acknowledging the value of other anglers and the way they participated in the fishery. He totally ignored the hook and release mortality and was critical of the circle hooks that would reduce that mortality. I normally would not point out an individual but the level of arrogance was hard to ignore. He attacked every member of the Council, stating no one knew anything about fisheries management or about fish. He brought out a picture of a striped bass, challenging the Council as he said they had not seen a fish in a long time. I was on the NJMFC in 1988, volunteering my time. There are some members who were serving then who continue to serve, volunteering many hours for all those years. I have the greatest respect for those who spend their time on councils, trying to do what is best for the resource and all the communities that depend on it. Each of us is required to do the research and learn from those who have a history with the issues. It is necessary for each of us to put ourselves in the shoes of our fellow anglers and view each issue as broadly as possible.

Letter to Sectary of Commerce
November 22, 2019 The Honorable Wilbur Ross Secretary of Commerce United States Department of Commerce Herbert C. Hoover Building 1401 Constitution Avenue, Northwest Washington, DC 20230

When the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted to issue a non-compliance order to Virginia, there was some comparison to the New Jersey issue. When the ASMFC voted New Jersey out of compliance, you did support that action. These issues are completely opposite. New Jersey was not asking for more fish or a softening of the regulations. We were just asking to implement a reduction with a size fish that would have less impact on our recreational fishing industry. After your ruling, New Jersey worked with the National Marine Fisheries Service to implement regulations that were actually more restrictive than those implemented by other states. We took a larger reduction than necessary under the plan but it met the needs of New Jersey’s recreational industry.

By contrast, in Virginia, one company, under new foreign ownership, has decided to flaunt a cap that was required in the Chesapeake Bay area. I am not going to rehash the eight pages of information sent to you by Robert Beal, executive director of ASMFC. The Governor of Virginia supports the implementation of the cap. This company, through its lobbying efforts, has been able to hold up the bill to bring Virginia into compliance in the Legislature. The company has shown great arrogance by writing a letter informing ASMFC that it would ignore the cap and fish in a way that was most convenient to them. The cap implemented in the Chesapeake Bay in no way prevented this company from landing its total quota which is almost 83% of the fishery. But it required them to harvest the quota in other areas, not just the Chesapeake Bay.

I am asking you to issue a non-compliance to the Commonwealth of Virginia to force Cooke INC to comply with the Chesapeake Bay cap. Cooke does not seem to care about the hundreds of thousands of recreational anglers and the industries that depend on them or the commercial fisheries that depend on stocks that depend on menhaden for forage. They are just not acting as good neighbors. In the next few years, ASMFC will be implementing eco-system management for our fisheries. Menhaden will be the most important species as we move forward. We cannot have one foreign owned company completely ignore ASMFC’s decisions. Even the representatives on the commission from Virginia voted for the non-compliance.

I first became the Governor’s Appointee to ASMFC in 1991. I have been attending Commission meetings since 1986. I helped pass the Atlantic Coast Conservation Act to give ASMFC the power to manage fisheries. I would not have volunteered 35 years of my life if I did not believe in the mission of ASMFC. I think ASMFC is the best fisheries management group in place at this time and I am looking for your support for their decisions.

Sincerely, Thomas P. Fote NJ Governor’s Appointee to ASMFC 22 Cruiser Court Toms River, NJ 08753 732-270-9102
History of NOAA

Roy Miller is presently the ASMFC Governor’s Appointee from Delaware but was formerly the Delaware Fish & Wildlife representative to the ASMFC. He is also a past recipient of the David Hart Award. Roy was reading my article from last month’s JCAA Newspaper where I discussed the forming of NOAA and sent me an email that he had found a site that went into the whole background and thankfully shared it with me so I could correct some of what I said in last month’s article. I always want to correct when I make an error, so I went to the site below and read the article. I learned a lot that I did not know, so I want to share this article with you. I always believe that it helps to know the history of how we got to where we are today. This is a long article, so this issue contains only part 1. Part 2 will be in next month’s JCAA Newspaper. If you can’t wait, go to the website at this link.

A Century of Conservation (Part 1)
By John A. Guinan and Ralph E. Curtis, 1971

The National Marine Fisheries Service has existed only since October 3, 1970, but the federal fishery agency celebrated its "de facto" centennial on February 9, 1971, and will continue the observance throughout the calendar year.

On February 9, 1871, President Grant signed a bill recognizing a national interest in fisheries conservation by creating the independent Office of Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries, also sometimes known as the Fish Commission. The bill authorized the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate, to appoint a Commissioner from among the civil officers or employees of the Government. The Commissioner would receive no additional salary, but the sum of $5,000 was appropriated for a study of "the decrease of the food fishes of the seacoasts and lakes of the United States, and to suggest remedial measures." Because fish were an important source of food, the fisheries were the first renewable resource to receive public attention in our nation.

Spencer Fullerton Baird, Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, wrote to Congress in January 1871, calling attention to the problem of depletion of food fishes of the seacoasts and lakes of the United States and offering suggestions for remedial measures.

A Joint Resolution proposing a study of the problem had a difficult time in the House. according to debate reported in the Congressional Globe, predecessor of the Congressional Record. Committee Chairman Henry Laurens Dawes, Republican of Massachusetts, described the terms of the Resolution, but Rep. Farnsworth, Republican of Illinois, sought to kill it with ridicule. The Congressional Globe for January 18, 1871, reports: "The Resolution was read and the opposition reserved all points of order whereupon Chairman Dawes read the letter from Mr. Baird and added his own testimony to the need for scientific investigation. " The record, as reported in the Congressional Globe, indicated that other scientists involved also would serve without additional salary, and would be recruited from among personnel of the Smithsonian.

Following the presentation by Chairman Dawes, there was the following dialogue:

Mr. Farnsworth: Add to your resolution a direction to inquire in reference to grasshoppers and potato-bugs.

Mr. Dawes: My friend from Illinois may think this is a subject of no importance whatever; but I assure him that along the coasts of New Jersey and New York, and all up our coast to the British possessions, this is a matter of vital importance.

Mr. Farnsworth: So is the inquiry in reference to the potato bug.

After further discussion, Mr. Farnsworth stated that he objected to the matter. And so the Resolution was deferred. Five days later, on January 23. Chairman Dawes again asked for unanimous consent to introduce the same resolution for immediate action. This time it was opposed by Congressman Benjamin of Missouri, who is listed in the Biographical Directory of the American Congress as a "Radical Republican."

After considerable discussion in which Mr. Farnsworth again joined, a vote was taken and it was decided in the affirmative --yea's 137, nay's 47, not voting 54. This was the beginning of what we now know as the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Shortly after the affirmative vote, the President appointed Professor Baird as the first Commissioner. Headquarters were promptly established at Woods Hole, Mass., where he soon began studies of striped bass, blue fish, and other species. In the century that followed, the little village on Cape Cod became a world-famous oceanographic and marine research center.

Commissioner Baird supervised construction of the first federal fishery research laboratory at Woods Hole in 1885. The old building was replaced with a modern structure in 1960, and it is now one of the most modern biological research laboratories operated by NMFS.

Although the new Commissioner's primary interest was in biological research, his horizons in fisheries were surprisingly broad for the period. In 1872, with support from the American Fish Culturists Association, he established a marine hatchery at Woods Hole for artificial propagation of fish. When the cod fishermen of New England were unable to obtain herring for bait, he introduced Norwegian cod gilnets and taught the use of net preservatives. With Baird's encouragement, one of his associates was the first to identify the adverse effects of bacterial action on salt cod and to develop control procedures for bacterial discoloration. In 1879, Baird arranged for his staff to work with the Census Office on the first comprehensive statistical survey of the U.S. fishing industry.

After Commissioner Baird's death in 1887, his multidiscipline approach to fisheries was largely discarded. For many years thereafter, fish culture was foremost in the federal fishery program, although time demonstrated that this was an oversimplified solution to the complex problem of maintaining high fishery yields. The original act establishing the office of Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries, was amended on January 20, 1888, to authorize a salary of $5,000 per year for the Commissioner. The amendment required that he not hold any other office or employment.

The Fish Commission and the Office of the Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries continued as an independent establishment of the federal government from its inception until July 1, 1903, when it was placed in the newly created Department of Commerce and Labor. The same legislation transferred from the Department of the Treasury to the Department of Commerce and Labor, jurisdiction, supervision, and control over the fur seal, salmon, and other fisheries of the Territory of Alaska. The federal fishery agency was also renamed the Bureau of Fisheries.

The Act of March 4, 1913, split the Department of Commerce and Labor into two separate departments, and the Bureau of Fisheries remained in the Department of Commerce until July 1, 1939. Then the 1939 Reorganization Plan No. II transferred the Bureau of Fisheries to the Department of the Interior. The same Reorganization Plan transferred the Bureau of Biological Survey from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of the Interior.

Another reorganization followed shortly. On June 30, 1940, Reorganization Plan No. III consolidated the Bureau of Fisheries and the Bureau of Biological Survey into a new agency to be known as the Fish and Wildlife Service in the Department of the Interior.

An organizational status quo was maintained for about 16 years. In 1956, the name was changed to United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The new organization consisted of two separate agencies, each with the status of a federal bureau the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries and the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife.

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