Hunters, Trappers and Anglers Threatened by Bill A 1365

by John Toth
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association July 2021 Newsletter)

I regret to inform you that Bill (A) 1365 was passed out of the Assembly Agricultural Committee with a 3 to 1 vote on June 14th. The synopsis of this bill is: Prohibits, harassing, or taking certain wildlife at competitive events, establishes penalties. Essentially, this is the first nail in the coffin to ban hunting and trapping in our state. While this bill does NOT contain language that would ban competitive events for recreational anglers, rest assured that this ban would follow for us anglers in due time. In its draft form, recreational anglers were included in this bill (both salt and fresh) but were removed since anglers would be expected to fight its passage. This is a good strategy by politicians to divide and conquer opposition to this bill by separating us anglers from the trappers and hunters.

Like a surprise attack, this bill came out of nowhere. We first heard about it on June 9th and it was scheduled to be voted on by the Agricultural Committee on June 14th leaving us very little time to respond and organize opposition to it. Our governor, who has a record of abolishing the hunting of bears, would most likely sign this bill if it came across his desk.

Animal rights activists are well organized and continually place a lot of pressure on New Jersey’s legislators to curb or eliminate the rights of hunters, trappers and, eventually, anglers in our state. Any hunting and trapping contests would be unlawful and penalties would apply. If eventually applied to recreational anglers, the tournaments we now have for fluke, sharks and other species could not be held since they would be deemed unlawful.

While this vote is a setback for us, it is far from a total defeat. We have to talk to our elected officials and supply them with the facts they need to understand our position. The other side relies on half-truths and emotion to press their agenda. If you have ever been to a meeting with animal right activists, you would understand why I am saying this.

I testified a number of years ago at a Senate Environmental Committee considering the passage of HOFNOD, (Hooked on Fishing Not on Drugs) that promotes getting youths involved in fishing, especially from inner city neighborhoods. I told this committee how fishing has such a positive impact on youths since it introduces them to nature and the joy fishing brings to them. An animal rights activist at this committee testified that HOFNOD would introduce youths to the killing of fish! This committee voted to move HOFNOD for passage. This activist was so mad that HOFNOD passed and even made nasty comments to me for testifying for it. The point I am making here is that these animal rights activists are extremists and would support any legislation like A1365 that would curb or deny hunting and fishing opportunities that we enjoy today.

During 2007, Assemblyman Panter and Senator Karcher introduced legislation that would expand NJ’s Fish & Game Council to include animal rights activists. If this inclusion of activists happened, fishing and hunting in New Jersey as we know it would die a slow death. Alarmed by this development, hunters and anglers joined together from various organizations to send these legislators to early retirement. Today, the names have changed to Assemblyman Houghtaling and Senator Gopal and it might be the time to have them deserve the same fate.

This battle has just begun to save our hunting, trapping and fishing rights in New Jersey. I will keep you updated on how to make your voices heard to preserve what we enjoy so much that others eagerly want to take this away from us.

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