Fisheries Management
& Legislative Report

by Tom Fote
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association June 2020 Newsletter)

NJ gets 9TH Highest Amount of the 30 Participants but it is Not Enough

We have to thank our Congressional delegation for fighting for New Jersey’s fair share of the $300 million in CARE funds. I know people are not happy with the way the funds were distributed and neither am I. But we are dealing with the House and Senate and politics will be involved. This fund was for states impacted by Corona Virus and not all states were impacted equally. I was told the allocations were made strictly on the size of the fishery, both commercially and recreationally, not the impact of the virus on that particular state or entity. This was not a case where all states were equally affected. Washington State and Alaska share a fleet and captains. The seasons of their big fisheries (pollack, king crabs, and other crab species) were essentially over and shipped before the worldwide shut-down. The salmon boats are out to sea for an extended period of time, not returning daily or even weekly to be exposed to the virus. Yet they received $50 million apiece, one-third of the total. Florida has a huge recreational fishery which impacted on the amount of money they received. The Governor of Florida never shut down the fishery so the impact on that was not as dramatic as here in New Jersey or other states that closed all the party and charter boats. Yes, the lack of tourists may have had an impact but not in the same way we experienced here. The same is true of the states along the Gulf, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. There were also different impacts on the private boat and shore-based anglers. For the most part beaches and marinas were closed here. That was not true in many other states.

I am not complaining about the measures taken by our Governor. New Jersey and New York remain number one and number two in cases and deaths. I live in Toms River. We are currently at 1200 cases and over 100 deaths in Toms River alone. That is more than Hawaii and some other states statewide.

The $11,337,797 we received is more than 5 times what we received after Sandy. Now comes the difficult part, how do we divide the money fairly? If I remember correctly, after Sandy we split the money equally between the recreational and commercial communities and developed a different formula for each community. When we look at the commercial finfish fishery and the shellfish fishery, the economics of each are smaller than the combined recreational fishing and boating industries. However, I believe trying to do anything other than a 50/50 split between the recreational and commercial communities would be counterproductive and leave us arguing for months when there is serious work to be done. Many in both the recreational and commercial industries are in dire economic straits and can’t wait while we arbitrate a different split. We don’t have the final rules so it is difficult to be specific. However, I will share some general guidelines. Unlike Sandy, you will need to prove a 35% loss of business. The good news there is some flexibility in the time period for the 35% loss. I think this could be an accounting nightmare, take months and cost a great deal of money for accountants and lawyers. My suggestion for the recreational community is gather the information for all participants who can show a 35% loss and divide the money equally. I also understand that NMFS guidelines do not contain guidelines for tackle stores and other marine recreational fishing industries. We are part of the recreational community and I believe New Jersey will have the flexibility to include all sectors of the recreational community. Charter boat captains are an independent lot. Unlike the party boat captains who have the United Boatmen, most of the charter boat captains do not have that kind of group. I am suggesting if you are in the Highlands you work together to contact your legislators and speak with one voice. The same should happen in other areas of New Jersey. Each area may have unique issues to deal with and will need to share those issues with your legislators. I have been dealing with trying to organize groups for 35 years. If you need my help, just give me a call. I will just be a resource as you form your own groups. As soon as I receive more information from NOAA, New Jersey and ASMFC, I will distribute that as widely as I can. When I was on a call with the NJMFC for their May 14th meeting, they asked New Jersey to form advisory groups for both the recreational and commercial communities to deal with this money. Some of you missed out on Sandy money because you didn’t do the required paperwork and get more involved. Don’t let that happen this time.

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