FISHERIES MANAGEMENT & LEGISLATIVE REPORT
by Tom Fote
(from Jersey Coast Anglers
Association April 1998 Newsletter)
State Assembly Votes S457/A675 To Put American Eel Public Resource At Risk. Senate is next Step!
Adler motion shocks eel Conservationists By Al Ristori Star Ledger March 4,1998
Politics and eels: Not perfect together By J.B. Kasper The Times Sunday March 8,1998
Menhaden Conservation Bill S722 Introduced
Web Page to Monitor Legislative Voting Records
Preliminary Schedule for ASMFC Week April 6-8
Attention Barnegat Bay Fishermen - The Barnegat Bay Estuary Program Needs Your Help By Eleanor A. Bochenek, Ph.D.Legislative Centerfold
A lot of work has been put into the NJ State Legislative Centerfold in the newspaper. Noticed that you can use the list to look up your town and find out who are your legislators. There is no excuse not to know your legislators now. Sorry about the small print but that is the only way we can get it on four pages. Please hold on to it and do not lose it. You will need to be contacting your legislators on the important issues below. When you call or write, inform your legislators that you are a JCAA member or your club is a JCAA member. Let them know that you are one of the thousands of individuals that make up this association and that JCAA representatives speak for you. Tell them when a JCAA representative is testifying or sending a letter, it is on your behalf. Too many legislators do not realize the scope of JCAA membership and must be made aware of it in no uncertain terms.
When you contact a legislator you should be concise and to the point.
1. If you live in legislators district, tell them so.
2. Tell them what you want them to do in clear terms.
3. Tell them what organizations represent you.
4. Indicate that you will remember their vote when it comes to the next election.
Examples of three letters you should be sending.
I live in your district. I am concerned about the glass eel fishery and want you to vote no on bills S457/A675. I have read a lot of information about this subject and know that these bills do not protect the public resource. I belong to the Jersey Coast Anglers Association and they represent my views on this issue. I will be watching in the JCAA newspaper to see how you vote on this issue and will remember it for the next election.
Senator Donald T. DiFrancesco
1816 Front St.
Scotch Plains, NJ 07076
Dear Senate President, Donald DiFrancesco:
Thank you for not moving the glass eel bill last session. We need your help again to protect the public resource and keep the glass eel fishery closed. Please show your concern about New Jersey public resources by voting no and leading the fight against bills S457/A675. I belong to the Jersey Coast Anglers Association and they represent my views on this issue. I will be watching in the JCAA newspaper to see how you vote on this issue and will remember it for the next election.
A New Jersey Voter,
The Elver and Glass Eel Parade Continues :
Dear Governor Christine Todd Whitman:
Thank you for you continued support for New Jerseys natural resources. We are asking you to come to the aid of another public resource and protect the eel population of New Jersey and all the other species that depend on eels. If bills S457/A675 reach your desk, please veto them. We have always been able to blame the Federal government or the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission for the failure to protect important marine resources. This time the responsibility is clearly on New Jersey. I am a registered voter and a member of Jersey Coast Anglers Association. I hope you will veto this legislation.
If you want to prevent the reopening of the glass eel fishery and the imminent stock damage it will cause, you must stop what you are doing and immediately send letters to your state Senator and the Governor to demand that they vote against bills S457/A675. S457 could be posted for a vote in the Senate before the end of the month.
In the last two weeks, JCAA representatives have contacted every legislative office and sent them an information package concerning the glass eel/elver fishery. This package contained testimony of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service before the Atlantic States Marine Fishery Commission, letters from JCAA, NJ Federation of Sportsmens Clubs, Recreational Fishing Alliance, NJ Audubon and the NJ Shellfisheries Association, all expressing their opposition to S457/A675 which would reopen a fishery for glass eels in New Jersey waters.
It was fortunate that these packages were distributed in time to be reviewed before the vote taken on March 16, 1998. Unfortunately, after heavy floor lobbying by Assemblyman Gibson, the bills sponsor, enough assembly votes were swayed to assure passage. Again, I find it interesting that a few of the assemblymen that we contacted prior to the vote that assured us they would oppose the bill on conservation grounds voted in favor of passage.
We realize that during a full legislative schedule representatives can not review all the information that comes across their desks, but that was not the case with this bill. They were operating under a light workload and schedule of bills and there was no excuse for not reviewing the convincing data and testimony that was provided. It clearly showed the negative impact glass eel fisheries have had on eel stocks in Asia, Europe and other areas where it has been allowed.
The majority of the members of the Assembly failed to listen to the chorus of conservationists, over 1 million recreational fishermen and a growing number of concerned traditional commercial fishermen who opposed the passage of this bill. Who they did listen to were a small number of resource opportunists interested in exploiting this resource and the out-of-state buyers who were pushing for passage. Out-of-state buyers want to continue to use New Jersey to launder illegally caught glass eels from surrounding states. This is the very reason why these states have been asking NJ to keep the fishery closed
It is important to review what has happened and is happening in the state Senate. The Senate Environmental Committee passed the bill on March 2, 1998 by a 3 to 2 vote. Two of the Senators who voted to pass this bill out of committee without a recommendation have stated that upon further review they will not vote in favor of passage if it comes to the floor. The next step is the Senate Appropriations Committee, which must hear the bill. This could happen as early as March 26. This committee can vote to kill the bill or pass it on to the full Senate for a vote. It seems unlikely this committee will kill it, so JCAA and all interested groups and individuals must work to get our message to all state senators in preparation for a floor vote. A full list of all state legislators is included in this issue of the JCAA Newspaper. It is imperative that you make the effort to contact your state senator with this message.
Senate President Donald DiFrancesco (R-22) should hear a loud public outcry from his constituents. The assembly leadership has shown it is NOT listening to the recreational fishing industry and community and the conservationists of this state, just the special interests who see dollar signs where we see impending stock depletion. Senator DiFrancesco showed his concern for our marine environment and conservation by choosing not to post this bill in the last session. We are asking him to continue to show his leadership in protecting NJ resources by leading the charge against S457/A675 in the Senate. The facts speak for themselves. There is no question that the fishery is unwarranted, unwanted by the public and a high-risk endeavor.
Wed like to recognize the efforts being made to stop these bills and to protect this states fisheries resources spearheaded by a few key individuals in the legislature. Senator Lou Bassano, our Legislative Commissioner to the ASMFC, has been leading the fight against these bills. His knowledge of the issues places him in a key position to understand the importance of protecting this fishery resource. Senators Andrew Ciesla (R-10) and Joseph Vitale (D-19) strongly questioned the wisdom of reopening this fishery before the Senate Environmental Committee and voted no in committee. We are asking them to work diligently in the floor fight against this bill. We would also like to thank Assemblyman Caraballo who insured that the Assembly version of the bill would be debated on the floor and pointed out that this bill was not a conservation bill, but was one that was actually turning an illegal fishery into a legal fishery. He stressed that no state legislation permitting an elver fishery should be passed until the ASMFC has developed its American Eel Management Plan with the full understanding of the available science.
It is important to thank these legislators for their conservation efforts and to continue to work closely with them on future conservation legislation that will come before the legislature later this year.
A list of the Assembly vote by member follows. If your representative voted in favor of the bill to open the fishery, call and tell him that you will be keeping an eye on his voting record on conservation issues. If he voted against the bill, call and thank him for voting in favor of this important conservation issue. When you call, tell them you are a JCAA member and that when they are contacted by a JCAA representative, that you are one of the thousands of individuals that make up this association. Too many legislators do not realize the scope of JCAA membership and must be made aware of it in no uncertain terms.
208 LEGISLATIVE SESSION
Assembly Vote On A675 On March 16
48-Yeas (Y) 26-Nays (N) 5-ABS (A) 1 Not Voting (NV)
Adler motion shocks eel Conservationists By Al Ristori Star Ledger March 4,1998
Conservationists went into Monday's New Jersey Senate Environmental Committee meeting confident that bill S-457, allowing the harvest of millions of baby eels without regard to biological consequences, would be shot down. But they were shocked when Sen. John Adler's (D-Cherry Hill) motion to send the bill to the Senate was passed, 3-2. Senators Andrew Ciesla (R-Brick) and Joseph Vitale (D-Woodbridge) voted against Adler's motion, but were offset by committee chairman Harry McNamara (R-Wyckoff) and Diane Allen (R-Burlington).The environmental and sportfishing groups opposed to harvesting elvers and glass eels without limit thought Adler was committed to conservation. Adler missed much of the meeting and then returned to introduce the motion.
Sen. Lou Bassano (R-Union) testified against the bill and said he will continue to actively oppose it. Former Fish, Game and Wildlife director George Howard, speaking for the New Jersey Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission commissioner Capt. John Connell also testified against S-457. Frank Richetti, president of the Jersey Coast Anglers Association wasn't given the opportunity to speak. He noted that almost half of about 50 people in the hearing room were glass eel netters.
After all the environmental disasters created by overfishing, it seems incredible that some legislators still are willing to roll the dice with a species about which they have virtually no information. Due to the eel's relatively long life span, it will be years before we know what the impact of the last two years of unrestricted elver harvest will be. What we do know is that the Oriental market is paying $350 a pound to American harvesters. This practice has devastated eel stocks over the rest of the World. When will we learn? There may be some level of elver harvest that won't impact too negatively on the resource, and the ASMFC is preparing a management plan for next year. Only three other state allow even limited harvests, the passage of S457 will impact our resources and facilitate marketing of elvers taken illegally in all of our neighboring states.
The action by the Senate Environmental Committee means that conservationists will have to continue this fight through both houses of the Legislature and right to the governor's desk if necessary. Eels may not be as glamorous or important as striped bass, but the principle that we can no longer stand by and permit unlimited exploitation of a species without having any idea of the biological consequences is worth going to the wall for!Politics and eels: Not perfect together By J.B. Kasper The Times Sunday March 8,1998
Last Monday, I had the displeasure to sit for several hours in the Senate meeting room while the Senate Environmental Committee listened to comments on the pros and cons of the elver-eel bill that is working its way through the New Jersey Legislature.
As I have mentioned in previous articles on this lunacy, the proposed elver-eel bill is in no way conservation measure. It opens a fishery that has been closed to prevent it's over harvesting by a handful of gold seekers. The Environmental Committee once again proved that dollars and cents and not common sense rules the Senate committees of the New Jersey Legislature. I have seen it before and all too often, with other environmental, outdoors or fisheries issues. Despite the overwhelming opposition that was voiced by not only sportsmen's groups, but concerned property owners, environmentalists, and other segments of the tax paying public, the only thing the committee listened to was the commercial fishing representatives and their quest for gold.
IT WAS all too obvious that Senator McNamara, the committee chairman, was sitting on the committee placating those who opposed the bill and was just waiting to bang the gavel and pass the bill to the Senate floor for a general vote. It was also obvious that the fate of this bill was sealed before the hearing was ever started.
One of the principle buyers of elver eels made the trip from Maine to testify and cited studies that there was no danger of over fishing the elver eels. Of course, those who favor netting of the eels did the studies.
I researched elver eels on the Internet and most of the information I got showed a depletion of these fish everywhere they were pursued. Big fish eat small fish, small fish eat smaller fish, and smaller fish eat still smaller fish. This is the way things work in a river system. All through the hearing, no one questioned what effect the harvesting of these small eels would have on the predators who feed on them. The striped-bass population in the river is at an all-time high, and eels are a major part of their food supply.
Striped-bass studies on fish in the Chesapeake showed that there was only a 2-percent fat content in the bass. If we had a harsh winter, this would have led to a big fish kill in the spring. A lack of forage was cited as the cause of the problem in the Chesapeake. If we allow the harvesting of the eels in the lower river, the same problem could happen here.
EVEN DISREGARDING the striper population, just about every other fish feeds on the elvers. Not only fish but also birds such as kingfishers and other aquatic feeders rely on them for food. Simply put, destroy the lower part of the food chain and it will sooner or later have an effect on the higher species. I, for one, am not willing to risk the recovering striped-bass population of the river so a handful of gold seekers can make big bucks.
Sportsmen's organizations in New Jersey, and the country for that matter, have been taking it on the chin from all different sectors. Anti-hunting groups, anti-fishing groups, P.E.T.A., and the rest of the lunatic anti-fringe is one thing, but when elected representatives and senators disregard common sense, refuse to let people testify and disregard overwhelming opposition to a proposed law, they should be held accountable at election time by the public. For sportsmen's groups who have been dealing with this kind of nonsense on a variety of issues, the elver-eel bill is the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. For once, sportsmen's groups, conservationist, property owners, and even traditional commercial fishermen are on the same side opposing this ill-conceived legislation.
I spoke with Tom Fote of the Jersey Coast Anglers Association and he told me his group is in the process of setting up a web page on the internet .The sole purpose is to inform the public on how their representatives and senators voted on legislation that affect the sportsmen. Once this web page is online, you'll be able to bring up it up on your home computer and decide what lever you are going to pull when you enter the voting both on election day, based on how they voted on the issues that you as a sportsman care about
.As to the elver-eel bill: Senator John H. Alder (Democrat from the Sixth District), who originally opposed the bill, made the motion to release the bill from committee and go to the full senate for a vote. 'Sen. Diane Allen (Republican from the Seventh District) seconded the motion. Sen. Henry P. McNamara (Republican from the 40th District) was the third person to vote for the bill. Sen. Andrew R. Ciesla (Republican from the 10th District) and Sen. Joseph F. Vitale (Democrat from the 19th District) studied the evidence presented by those in opposition to the bill, agreed that the bill is not in the best interest of the environment or the public, and voted not to release the bill for a general vote.
Last but not least, should the Elver-eel bill be passed by the full senate, and from what I saw on Monday there is no reason to believe that there won't be enough wheeling and dealing among the politicians to get it passed, it will be up to the Governor to put a stop to this madness. The Governor made the right decision on the horseshoe crabs and I hope she has the common sense and willpower to veto this obscene piece of legislation. All the groups fighting to stop bills S457 and A675 are asking all those who oppose the elver-eel bill to call the Governor at 609-292-6000 or fax her at 609-292-3454.The Strange and Precarious Rise of the Eel New York Times Article, March 8, 1998
After over a year of exhausting every avenue in the regulatory process to gain relief from the massive harvest of menhaden in New Jersey waters, it became evident that the commercial harvesters were completely unwilling to offer any conservation measures. The Menhaden Project in conjunction with JCAA and RFA had spearheaded these efforts to no avail. Senator Andrew Ciesla (R-10) recently introduced a bill that reflected the original negotiating position of these concerned groups. He has been following this process with great interest because of his concern for the obvious increases in harvest and his worries about potential resource depletion and the impact it is having on other marine life.
The bill, S722, is simply worded and, in my opinion, non-controversial. It prohibits the harvest of menhaden in state waters for the purpose of reduction (making fish oil and meal). It prohibits the taking of menhaden for any reason from all bays and estuaries, including Delaware Bay, and only permits the taking of menhaden for sale as bait outside two miles from shore.
JCAA Vice President Pat Donnelley and myself had a meeting with Assemblymen James W. Holzapfel (R-10) and David W. Wolfe. After that meeting they introduced companion legislation in the assembly and both voted no on the glass eel (A675) bill. A bill number for the assembly bill is pending as of this writing. We are lucky to have three legislators in the 10th district that vote for and support conservation. At the request of JCAA, Senator Lou Bassano signed on as an original cosponsor of the Senate Bill S722.
What every JCAA member and concerned conservationist must do now is contact their state senators and members of the assembly and ask them to sign on as cosponsors to this important legislation. While I jokingly said this bill was non-controversial, it will actually be one of the most hard-fought pieces of conservation legislation that has come to the legislature in a number of years. It is also one of the most important. It will be up to you to help convince the legislature to pass it.
A number of other states along the eastern seaboard have banned the taking of menhaden in their waters by the reduction industry boats and, unfortunately, once again New Jersey is among the last states to act. JCAA began this battle over 14 years ago when Ron Sickle put together the original bunker committee and worked so hard to have reduction fishing stopped in state waters. The time is long since past to see this bill through and to stop the great harm the massive harvest of menhaden has been causing not only to the bunker stocks, but also to the predators that depend on them as a primary forage fish. These include striped bass, bluefish, weakfish, coastal sharks, bluefin tuna and others that feed on peanut bunker.Web Page to Monitor Legislative Voting Records
JCAA is now posting the voting records of Members of the Assembly and Senate on our web page and in the monthly newspaper. This is being provided so you can track the voting record of your representatives on key fisheries and conservation issues of mutual concern to all JCAA members. This will provide you with a quick reference and tally of which representatives are getting the message concerning the importance of fisheries, environmental and conservation issues so you can be a more informed voter.
We will also publish a special issue of the JCAA Newspaper prior to each state election that will detail legislators voting records and grade their performance on key issues.
In the past, many of us voted along party lines, but party loyalties are disintegrating rapidly. Today, like many of you, I vote for the representative interested in supporting the issues that concern us. Any New Jersey voters need look no further than Congressmen Saxton and Pallone. Although from opposing parties, their undying support for the environment and fisheries conservation have placed them in the forefront of many key issues. It doesnt matter to me that one is a Democrat and the other a Republican. They are on the right side of the important issues and they get my support and undying thanks.
I realize that some of you are not computer literate or dont find this technology user friendly. However, I guarantee that if you go to your kids or grandchildren and ask them to access the information for you, they will have you on line in no time. The JCAA webpage can be accessed at www.jcaa.org.
All JCAA members owe a huge debt of gratitude to our webmaster, Dave Franceschina, who spends countless hours making our Internet presence professional and extremely comprehensive. His efforts are paying off big dividends in our ability to communicate not only to JCAA members, but with conservationists and fishermen all over the country. Thanks Dave!
Preliminary Schedule for ASMFC Week April 6-8
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will be meeting April 6-8 at the Adams Mark Hotel, City Ave. and Monument Road, Philadelphia PA. The phone number for reservations is 215-581-5000. This is only a preliminary schedule, and you should anticipate that there might be changes. Call the ASMFC at 202-289-6400 for the final schedule and any questions
Monday April 6
8:00am 10:00 am LGA Meeting
8:00am 10:00 am American Lobster Tech. Comm.
10:00am -3:00pm Striped Bass Management Bd.
3:00pm-5: 00pm Stock Assessment Workshop (Shad & Atlantic Sturgeon)
Tuesday April 7
8:00am-Noon American Lobster Bd.
8:00am-Noon Shad & River Herring Tech. Comm.
10:00am-Noon Sport Fish Restoration Comm.
1:00pm-3: 00pm Atlantic Sturgeon Tech. Comm.
1:00pm-5: 00pm Blue Fish Joint Meeting of ASMFC Bluefish Board & Mid Atlantic Coastal Migratory Bd.
2:00pm-5: 00pm Horseshoe Crab Stock Assessment Comm.
Wednesday April 8
Attention Barnegat Bay Fishermen - The Barnegat Bay Estuary Program Needs Your Help By Eleanor A. Bochenek, Ph.D.
8:00am-10: 00am Weakfish Management Bd.
8:00am-10: 00am Atlantic Sturgeon Advisory Panel
9:30am-12: 30pm Shad & River Herring Management Bd.
10:00am-Noon Horseshoe Crab Tech. Comm.
1:30pm-3: 00pm Atlantic Sturgeon Management Bd.
1:30pm-4: 30pm Tautog Tech. Comm.
3:00pm-5: 30pm Horseshoe Crab Management Bd.
New Jersey Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service Rutgers Cooperative ExtensionThe Science and Technology Advisory Committee of the Barnegat Bay Estuary Program needs your help in identifying recreational fishing areas in Barnegat Bay, both historical and present day. Please have your clubs identify the areas they currently fish and historical fishing grounds in Barnegat Bay and what species of fish they catch in those areas. The Committee is also interested in crabbing and clamming areas, both historical and present day. This information is critical for developing a GIS map of habitats in Barnegat Bay and for use in developing a comprehensive report on Barnegat Bay. Please bring this information to the April and/or May Jersey Coast Anglers Association Meeting. For those who cannot attend these meetings, you can fax the information to Dr. Bochenek at 732-505-8942. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at 732-349-1152. We greatly appreciate your assistance with this important project.