by Tom Fote

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association October 1998 Newsletter)

While we printed no newspaper this summer, JCAA members were still hard at work. There were meetings for the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the MidAtlantic Council. There were also public hearings on herring, shad, bluefish and many other species. JCAA had representatives at all these hearings. It is clear that there are serious issues to be dealt with in the immediate future. The four issues that are most critical involve menhaden, summer flounder, striped bass and bluefish. It is important that your club representative is in attendance at the next JCAA meeting for the discussion on the future of the summer flounder fishery. We were cheated out of a quota in the original management plan. As usual the commercial fishermen were rewarded with the largest quota based on the overfishing that caused the problem in the first place. The National Marine Fisheries Service never seems to base its quotas on years when the recreational catch was larger than the commercial catch. We have seen this same problem on quotas for tautog, sharks, tuna and many other species. Due to their data gathering strategies, which always seem to penalize the recreational sector, they issue will be even more important at the December meeting when the quotas are reviewed.

We Need Help!

If you enjoy reading this newspaper, just think about what is costs us in time and dollars. If we had this professionally printed, it would cost us $1.30 apiece. That doesn’t include the $.55 - $.75 cents in postage. If you are an associate member, you $18.00 does not even cover the cost of the newspaper you receive. If your representatives bring back copies for your club, you use up your dues quickly. So, if you want to support the work of JCAA, if you want us to continue working in Trenton and throughout the country on issues of vital importance, you need to come up with more money. It is as simple as that. We lost two fundraising opportunities due to cancellations of shows and tournaments, a 15% decrease in fundraising. We rarely have extra money and any decrease in fundraising has a major impact. We are, for example, in desperate need of a new copy machine but simply cannot afford one. So, to make the point once again, we need for you to be more generous, as an individual and as a club member. We cannot continue if we cannot raise more money. We have been fighting this battle for eighteen years, and with the exception of occasional clerical help, has only volunteers to do all the work.

Those of us who volunteer regularly are really stretched thin. We need more people who are willing to serve on boards and committees for individual species. JCAA receives many requests that we cannot meet because we don’t have enough people. Think about a particular task you can do, let us know and we will find a way to put you to work that fits your schedule. This may not require attending monthly JCAA meetings or board meetings.

A Trip to Remember -By Tom Fote

The fishing trip I took on June 26,1998 with Congressmen Don Young and James Saxton will probably stay in all our memories for a long time. Alan and Teresa Greenhalgh were kind enough to take us out in their 1977 40 foot Viking. I was happy we were in such a sturdy boat and Alan was such an excellent Captain. Alan and Teresa alternated between being Captain and Mate. This trip will make for interesting conversation around the Resources Committee for a long time.

Congressman Don Young is from Alaska and is Chairman of the Committee on Resources and Congressman James Saxton is Chairman of the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Conservation, Wildlife & Oceans. The trip will be remembered not because of the fish we caught but because of the weather. We got out late and the wind kicked up. The trip was to be for bluefin tuna since it was one of the few times this season that the National Marine Fisheries has allowed us to fish for bluefin. We had to travel about 15 miles offshore.

We had been trawling for about a half-hour and Congressman Young had caught one bluefish when a weather alert came over the radio. We started to run back to the inlet but before we could make it we ran into a strong line of thunderstorms. These storms contained hurricane strength winds and there was an unbelievable number of lighting hits around the boat. It was rough and scary with a lot of lighting hitting the water close to the boat. It was good we had a Captain like Alan at the wheel. The wind blew out the front plastic windshield in the flying bridge. No one was hurt but in the flying bridge Alan and Teresa had the rain and wind blowing in their faces while steering their Viking through the storm. When the rain let up, I saw a breaking school of bluefish and asked if they wanted to catch some. They decided they’d had enough and we came in..

I had a nice opportunity talk to Lu Young, Don's wife. She described her encounter with landing a 72-inch halibut and is going halibut fishing again in two weeks. She also commented that this was her first visit to New Jersey and she was greatly surprised with its beauty. She had heard all the Jersey jokes and was surprised to see all the open space and beautiful natural resources. I pointed out the beautiful beaches of Island Beach State Park and invited her to visit it and do some surf fishing with me. She said she would like to.

Congressman Young told us that Congressman Saxton had promised him an exciting fishing trip in New Jersey. He said Jim had kept his promise but not in the way he expected it. We told him to come back and next time the excitement will be fish not weather. He said he really did enjoy the trip and was impressed with the boat handling ability of the Captain.

Update on A2165 Bill

June 23, 1998

Assemblyman Anthony Impreveduto, D-32 withdraws as the Prime Cosponsor of A2165 and no longer supports the bill

Today Assemblyman Anthony Impreveduto withdrew as the prime cosponsor of A2165. Assemblyman Impreveduto has also stated that he no longer supports this bill. I met with Assemblyman Impreveduto and was impressed by his willingness to discuss this matter. He received many phone calls, letters and faxes from groups and individuals associated with Jersey Coast Anglers Association and the NJ State Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs. He was clearly impressed by the amount of interest generated by this legislation. In my conversation with Assemblyman Impreveduto, it became clear that his intention was not to create controversy about Striped Bass. Once he was fully informed about the ramifications of this legislation, he was eager to take steps to withdraw his support. The PCB contamination and the current health advisories on Striped Bass were of particular importance to him.

He expressed his thanks to the many clubs and individuals who contacted him to voice their opinion and provide information. He was particularly impressed with the calls and letters from members of the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association and Saltwater Anglers of Bergen County. In addition, he hopes to work with JCAA and clubs in his district on future legislation.

Today’s success is the result of a group effort by Jersey Coast Anglers Association, the NJ State Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, the Recreational Fishing Alliance and the many individuals and clubs who contacted Assemblyman Impreveduto. It is simply another indication of the political power we have when we act together, delivering a clear message to our legislators. It is easy to organize around Striped Bass since so many of us feel so strongly about gamefish status. But it is essential that we continue to show the same type of concerted effort on other issues.


After attending the bluefish meeting and pulling together a meeting of the JCAA Bluefish Committee, JCAA and the NJ Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs sent the following comments to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the MidAtlantic Council. You should write the Council and the Commission and share your concerns about this important issue.

After reviewing the Amendment 1 document, the Jersey Coast Anglers Association and New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs enter the following comments on behalf of our associations representing 150,000 members.

1) We find the methods used to assess bluefish stocks to be highly speculative and based on extremely limited sea sampling data. The current stock assessment bears little resemblance to the fishery we see today, even considering the most recent work done by the S & S and Monitoring committees which determined the stocks are in better shape than previous assessments indicated.

Bluefish are an extremely wide-ranging species both in their north-south migrations and their ability to move well offshore in search of forage. The use of bottom trawl surveys as an assessment tool is a highly questionable way to estimate stock size. First, bottom trawls are an extremely inefficient method of catching bluefish. Second, the swept area of the typical bottom trawl survey covers only a fraction of the known migratory range of the species in western Atlantic waters. The bottom trawl survey does not provide enough hard information to be used as even a rough indicator of bluefish stock health.

Depending to such a high degree upon recreational catch statistics developed from MRFSS data is speculative, at best. There is the potential for wide-ranging statistical error when relying on such data and the implications of using it as the single most important indicator of stock size is not very reassuring. As an example, when bluefish are concentrated in areas of high angler participation, catches, and hence stock abundance, appear high. When forage or other factors makes availability low in just two key states (New Jersey and New York) that are responsible for a major portion of the coastwide recreational catch, the assessment appears low and hence stock abundance appears to have declined. The methodology becomes even less dependable when you consider the recreational community has, in most recent years, been releasing the majority of its catch. This brings into question the use of recreational "landings" and recreational "catch" in the assessment. It almost appears the two are interchangeable in places when, in actuality, the figures are different by orders of magnitude. This needs to be closely reviewed.

Therefore, we strongly recommend revising the stock assessment methodology for bluefish to provide a more accurate and representative sampling biomass to better judge the merits and benefits of different management tools. Without a more accurate stock assessment, much of the FMP’s assumptions are simply hard to support.

2) Concerning the rebuilding objectives of this plan, JCAA questions the ability of any plan to result in a biomass of 107,500 metric tons except under the most ideal environmental conditions and with the highest availability of forage species. This biomass goal becomes even harder to fathom when you take into consideration the fact that commercial landings of squid and butterfish have increased tenfold in the last decade and the menhaden population is in decline and commercially harvested at grossly unsustainable levels. The harvest of herring has become the latest commercial "gold rush" and smaller forage species such as sand eels have not been in abundance in recent years. Without an enormous forage base to support such a massive increase in biomass of a voracious predator like bluefish, a plan objective of 107,500 metric tons of biomass is doomed to failure without a wider "ecosystem based" assessment of the possibilities.

3) While the recreational/commercial split of 83/17 is not totally unreasonable, it is most definitely not representative of the true historic nature of this fishery. The actual historic "shares" were in the range of 90/10. And, in reality, an 83/17 split will result in a commercial share of almost 6 million pounds of the 35 million pound TAL. Since recreational landings are presently running about 14 million pounds, the actual result is about a 70/30 split. For this reason, we do not support the proposed transfer of 4.5 million pounds of recreational quota to the commercial quota in year one of the plan.

A transfer would provide no conservation benefit and is nothing more than a strategy to give the commercial sector one more year to maintain its harvest level without having to conserve. Such a transfer would set a highly questionable precedent.

4) We request an immediate moratorium on the entry of new participants into the commercial bluefish fishery. With the pending quota reductions on two other overfished species, specifically monkfish and dogfish which are traditional target species for coastal gill-netters, it is likely that a dramatic increase in commercial effort will be directed on bluefish. The proposed plan does not provide for a moratorium on entry. Such an effort shift will only hurt recovery and those commercial fishermen who have been traditional participants in the fishery have the landing records to prove it.

5) We do not support the imposition of a 12" size limit. The current stock assessment and the most recent landing trends in the recreational fishery clearly show no reason to institute a size limit at this time. A 12" size limit might not impact ocean fishermen and those anglers who patronize party and charter boats, but it does represent an unfair exclusion of estuary and shore-based fishermen from the fishery. Anglers limited to fishing bay waters and children who participate in the seasonal snapper fishery do not deserve to be arbitrarily shut out of another fishery, especially at a time when recreational fishermen are landing only about one-half of the proposed quota.

6) We do not support the transfer of commercial quota between states. It can cause undue pressure in localized fisheries which penalize both recreational fishermen in those areas by decreasing local availability, and commercial fishermen in other areas who have been traditional participants in the fishery.

Thomas P. Fote
Legislative Chairman
22 Cruiser Court
Toms River NJ, 08753
732-270-9102 Fax 732-506-6409

How To Write A Letter To An Editor Or A Public Official   By Lou Rodia

  1. Writing a letter to anyone is a chore for some people, but writing to an editor of a newspaper or to a public official is difficult for most.

  2. But, there are times when it is important to let the editor of your local newspaper or any one of our public officials how you feel about something. Unfortunately, most who say they should write a letter never do because they are too busy or get involved elsewhere. Writing a letter goes undone.

  3. Here are some things which will assist you to write a letter:

  4. When you feel the need to write a letter, do it immediately. Waiting until later usually means you won't get it done.

  5. Keep your letter on topic and short. Choose your topic, say what you want to say, set the letter aside, read it an hour later, and if it needs changing, rewrite it before putting it into the post office.

  6. When writing the letter, use your own words. Sending copies of a letter lots of other people are going to send has value but a letter in your own words is much more effective.

  7. Avoid using profanity, name calling, and above all, be sure of your facts.

  8. Sign your name and include your mailing address and phone number. Newspapers often confirm the authenticity of the writer by calling the person whose name is signed. Papers rarely run unsigned letters.

  9. Some newspapers will run letters and will not publish the name of the writer on request. But, the original letter must be signed and a request to have your name withheld must follow your signature.

  10. Sending a letter addressed "To The Editor" may or may not ever get to the editor. Newspapers often have screeners who read the mail and your letter may be discarded if it does not fit into the screener's agenda.

  11. To best insure that the letter gets to someone in authority, address it as follows:

    Name of Managing Editor or Publisher
    c/o (name of newspaper)
    Street Address
    City or Town, State, Zip Code.

    This information is found in the masthead found on the editorial page of your newspaper. If there is no street address, call the newspaper and ask for one.

  12. To best insure that the letter will go to the managing editor or publisher, take the time to register it. This will require a signature by the person who receives it and your return receipt from the post office will tell you that it was received by the paper and will show the name of the person who signed for it.

  13. You can also send copies of your letter to the outdoor writer on the paper staff and to the editorial page editor in addition to the registered letter you sent to the managing editor or publisher.

  14. To write to a public official, look up the information in your phone book. Most public officials have local offices and if the address is not available elsewhere, call the local office to get a proper address.

  15. When you feel the need to write a letter, remember that the more letters a paper or public official receives, the more apt they will be to take notice. To amplify your efforts, show your letter to several of your friends and ask them to write letters too. Ask them, to just not copy yours, but write their own instead.

  16. The more letters a paper or public official receives on a topic, the more apt they are to pay attention.

The importance of letter writing cannot be stressed too much. Unfortunately, newspapers and political figures do not get enough letters. And equally sad is that while many think about writing a letter, most never do.

Take the matter to your club meetings, and ask for support by getting the club to pass a resolution supporting the cause. Have the club write a letter to back up that effort. To help club members to write individual letters, take copies of your letter and the correct address to the club so members have something in hand as a guideline to write their own letters.

Letters are important. They are our one best and perhaps last hope to use your influence to affect changes.

Remaining silent means that you accept things as they are. Silence is the same as a vote of acceptance.

You may be a lone voice crying in the wilderness, but if you recruit the assistance of friends, family, clubs and organizations, the many voices may be heard, and you may get something done.

Update on Menhaden Protection Bill S722 and A1827

Sometimes things happen for the best. There were many in the bait industry who predicted that passage of S722/A1827 would result in shortages and increases in price for bait. JCAA has always said that not passing this bill would result in shortages and price increases because of the competition for the limited resource by the bait boats and the reduction boats. It should come as no surprise that we were right. During the past year the bait boats have seen their catches drop and they did last year due to decreased stocks in Delaware Bay and along the coast. The quality of bunker seen in the tackle stores has declined. If we are going to guarantee bait for the future, if the bait industry is going to thrive, then this bill must be passed. The letters reprinted below were written in response to an editorial printed in the Asbury Park Press. As of this writing, the Asbury Park Press has not printed any of our letters in response to the original letter to the editor by the lobbyist for the reduction and bait boats. Your club should write the Asbury Park Press and ask why they have not give us equal time in this debate.

We are hoping this bill moves. Senator Ciesla has told us that Senator McNamara has promised hearings on this legislation this fall. It is important that you stay informed about the progress of this legislation so that you can respond immediately when asked for letters, faxes and phone calls. There is an excellent article by Lou Rodia that should be shared with all club members about contacting legislators.

The Atlantic States Fisheries Commission has asked for a peer review on the Atlantic Menhaden. The review will address menhaden as a forage species for many other coastal species, as well as evaluate the FMP'’ trigger mechanism and the Commission'’ current process for management of Atlantic menhaden. Over the next several months, external review panels will be formed, terms of reference will be developed and relevant documentation will be gathered.

The Truth About Menhaden By Len Fantasia

Comments made by Judy Widerstrom, spokesperson for the New Jersey Baitfish Menhaden Alliance, have appeared in local newspapers and in commercial fisheries magazines, criticizing the efforts by the Jersey Coast Anglers Association (JCAA), the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), and sportswriter John Geiser of the Asbury Park Press, for supporting our efforts to bring about equitable management of New Jersey’s Menhaden resource. Allegations are made by Ms. Widerstrom that there is no basis in fact for anyone to be concerned about the health of the Menhaden stocks. She claims we’ll be putting New Jersey’s baitfishing industry out of business, taking jobs from hard working individuals, and that there will be no bunker available for both recreation and commercial bait needs. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The objectives of the Menhaden Project are designed to minimize pressure on New Jersey’s Menhaden stocks from out of state reduction interests, provide an in-shore nursery area for the development of both Menhaden and the recreational species which use them as forage within the shallow bay and estuary systems in New Jersey, and along the near coast. Based on the data available from New Jersey Fish & Game records, the removal of reduction out-of-state boats from New Jersey waters will provide for more than sufficient Menhaden stocks to meet New Jersey’s bait needs, while we protect the shallow nursery areas. Ms. Widerstrom, who is supported both by the out-of-state reduction interests and New Jersey’s bait industry, has not been able to do what is really in the best interests of New Jersey’s baitfishing community by attempting to serve the interest of the reduction industry as well.

THE ATLANTIC MENHADEN MANAGEMENT BOARD, which Ms. Widerstrom references as being the knowledgeable body we should rely on concerning the state of Menhaden stocks, takes more than half of its members from the Menhaden reduction industry. Menhaden are not being managed for the maximum benefit of all, but are simply being managed to support reduction industry needs. Consideration is not being given to the impact that Menhaden have on the overall ecosystem and the recreational industry. In fact, the 1996 National Marine Fisheries Services report on Menhaden clearly states that they have no information on the impact of increased baitfishing in our in-shore waters, and that all of their data is being generated from the off-shore reduction fishery. The Marine Fisheries Report on Menhaden states that they expect the in-shore bait industry to continue to expand. The CEO of Marine Genetics, which recently purchased Ampro, their only competitor, states he is staging their company to meet the growing demand for fishmeal. The projected growth of both these industries gives us all reason to be concerned.

The data contained in the 1996 ASMFC Menhaden Review, in my opinion, clearly demonstrates a population in decline. They acknowledge that, unless the trend in recruitment is reversed, stocks will continue to decline. Yet they take no action. I think the data tells its own story. Young of Year, 1993 to 1996 was the lowest four-year period since 1970, and new recruits into the fishery in 1995 was the lowest ever recorded, with 1996 being the lowest in 29 years. Age one recruits for 1996 was the lowest ever recorded – that’s a 40-year history. In 1996, the Age 1 recruits were at 1.1 billion, which is well below the 2.0 trigger established by the Menhaden Board as an indicator for concern. The three-year average for Age 1 recruits is below the trigger and has been on a downward trend since 1985. Age 2 recruits, 1996 was the lowest level since 1972 and has been on a downward trend since 1983. It appears that the concerns we had in 1996 are being confirmed by recent data, which is starting to come out in the 1997 report. Age 0 Menhaden has declined 84% since 1990. The 1997 total numbers of fish landed has declined 68% since 1991, despite increased fishing efforts and the use of spotter planes. The landings of age 3 or mature breeding fish is estimated at approximately 30%, which is the highest it has ever been in 35 years and exceeds their warning trigger of 25%. If you catch too many breeders, there are too few young. One of the most important triggers, recruits to age 1, is estimated at 1.4 billion, which again falls below the trigger value of 2 billion. Population estimates for Age 1 Menhaden are at the lowest they have been in 26 years. The exploitation rate has increased from 29% in 1993 to 37% in 1997, although the total catch has gone down. In our opinion, these findings clearly indicate that we have every reason to be concerned, and the efforts we initiated last year were certainly well founded.

Let’s take a look at the growth of the in shore baitfishing industry in New Jersey. In 1989, when I first became involved with Menhaden through a committee developed by the Jersey Coast Angler’s Association, the annual New Jersey bait harvest was 1 million fish, with only one to two bait fishing boats actively fishing in New Jersey. It was in 1989 when, through the efforts of the JCAA, we were able to influence the state to move the out-of-state reduction fishing boats off the New Jersey shores out to the current 1.2 nautical miles requirement and provided for the continuation of the bait industry in our local in-shore waters. No, Ms. Widerstrom, we did not put any of the small New Jersey bait fishing industry out of business. However, the growth of the in-shore bait industry has been phenomenal. According to facts provided by the State of New Jersey, the one million pounds in 1989 was at 33.7 million pounds in 1996, and reached a high of 35 million pounds in 1995. Despite the increased pressure of the bait industry, even now, their harvest is starting to decline. In 1990, there were six permits for bait fishing; in 1997, there were 36. No one, back in 1989, ever expected to see such phenomenal growth of the bait industry in our in shore waters.

We think there is a solution. Landings by the reduction industry in New Jersey in 1995 represented 77% or 118 million pounds of the total catch, and in 1996, 66%. If we are able to eliminate some of this reduction pressure, there is adequate stock to support the bait fishing industry. However, the heavy pressure now experienced in the shallow bays and estuaries and shoreline of New Jersey must be diminished and a safe zone for the development of juvenile Menhaden and predator species established. The bait industry of New Jersey and the recreational fishing industry in New Jersey can work together. However, as long as New Jersey’s bait industry is going to be manipulated by out-of-state reduction interests, and refuse to negotiate in good faith, we have no choice but to seek new legislation.

Reports continue to come in from Florida, Maryland, the Chesapeake, Potomac River, and in the local Sandy Hook Raritan Bay area of the absence of Menhaden and the large predator species that feed on them. It will only be a matter of time before we in New Jersey experience the same problems now going on in Chesapeake Bay. Bass are malnourished and falling prey to many diseases due to the absence of sufficient forage, caused by naturally occurring phenomena and heavy commercial pressure upon that in-shore nursery area. Attempts at negotiating with the New Jersey bait alliance in the past only resulted in a request that we support their efforts for limiting entry into the bait fishery. We certainly will support that, but only as part of an overall plan to adequately manage the Menhaden resource on behalf of the environment and ecosystem, as well as the bait and recreational fishing interests in New Jersey. The biological data certainly indicates a need to take action, and we sincerely hope that the New Jersey bait fishing alliance will, at some time, come to the table to negotiate on behalf of the interests of New Jersey. As long as outside interests continue to dictate control of Menhaden as a resource to support their "protein needs", the bait fishing industry and the recreational industry in New Jersey will be the victims.

There is one other item on which I would like to set the record straight. Ms. Widerstrom has represented that I am a salesman who lives on Raritan Bay and does not like to see commercial fishing. I am not a salesman, but I am a graduate biologist from Rutgers University, so I think I am qualified to interpret the data in the Menhaden studies and see through obvious misrepresentations of fact being made by a board governed by commercial interests. I have fished the waters of Sandy Hook and Raritan Bay for over 30 years and clearly see the negative impact the overfishing of Menhaden is having on our waters.

Va. watermen smell trouble / Two recent

menhaden mishaps rekindle opposition to industry

Sunday, June 28, 1998

To: Editor Asbury Park Press


In response to the letter to the editor concerning John Geiser’s column "Menhaden Seiners Stir Trouble" sent by Ms. Judy Widerstrom of the New Jersey Bait Alliance, recreational fishermen and conservationists have heard her song all to many times before.

Ms. Widerstrom is a lobbyist paid by commercial fishing interests involved in harvesting menhaden, both in-state bait businesses and out-of-state corporations that take hundreds of thousands of metric tons annually for fish mean and oil. It is her job to spin the facts to her client’s best interests. One can put little stock in her ability to present an unbiased view simply because she is paid to do just the opposite.

The harvest from New Jersey waters is out of control. An exponential increase in permits for commercial bait boats has resulted in a near 20 fold increase in harvest from less than 2,000,000 pounds annually to over 37,000,000 pounds in 1996. This massive increase falls on top of the far greater volume of fish that is traditionally caught each year by "reduction boats" working within the state’s three mile coastal jurisdiction. Now, what could be harmful in such an explosive increase in harvest? According to Ms. Widerstrom and other lobbyists, nothing.

We’ve heard the lament about "hard working fishing families" from commercial lobbyists before, always telling us they are doing "no hard" – until another fish stock is depleted. Not too many years ago, there was a vibrant whiting fishery off New Jersey. It was crushed by commercial excess and shameful bycatch waste courtesy of trawlers pulling small mesh nets. There was a cod fishery, too. Not anymore! Blackfish have fallen prey to the massive build up of fish pots and bottom destroying "roller rig" nets. The real shame is once a fishery is damaged and becomes commercially unproductive, those "hard working fishing families" Ms. Widerstrom represents are hurt, too. In the meantime, conservationists cringe and us "greedy, wealthy, elitist recreational fishermen who want all the fish for ourselves," are hurt way before the commercial fishermen feel the pinch.

Recreational fishing groups in this state are not anti-commercial fishing and we recognize that responsible commercial harvest is not a bad thing. We don’t want "all the fish for ourselves," but will fight to prevent still more fisheries from being depleted. We’re tired of the name calling and falsehoods being spewed by an ever increasing number of paid commercial fishing industry lobbyists who continue to try pulling the wool over the public’s eyes until another fishery bites the dust. Then it’s the tax payers who are asked to foot the bill to even further subsidize commercial fishing businesses, even to the point of buying their boats to bail them out. Enough is enough!

Gary Caputi

For the Jersey Coast Anglers Association

Va. watermen smell trouble / Two recent menhaden mishaps rekindle opposition to industry
- Sunday, June 28, 1998

BY LAWRENCE LATANÉ  Times-Dispatch Staff Writer

REEDVILLE—After an embarrassing stint as North Carolina’s smelliest tourist attraction, the fishing vessel Shearwater made it home to Virginia Thursday evening with a load of rotting fish, which promptly was turned into chicken feed at the Omega Protein factory on Cockrell’s Creek.

"The town smelled a little rancid, but we didn’t get any air-pollution complaints," said Steve Jones, Omega’s general manager in Reedville. "The community knew we were in a bind."

Though the air in Reedville since has cleared, memories of the odor and the spectacle of a large ship wallowing in the surf remain vivid on the Carolina coast and promise to rekindle efforts to restrict the menhaden fishing industry.

For a week, the Shearwater sat aground on the beach at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge about 10 miles south of Nags Head, N.C., with its catch of 600 tons of menhaden baking in the sun.

Tourists wheeled off N.C. Route 12 for a brief look at the foundered ship before dodging back through the dunes to the relief of their air-conditioned cars, oblivious to the resentment ashore.

"Not everybody in that part of the world likes us very much," said Barney White, corporate vice president for Omega Protein in Houston.

Outer Banks officials interrogated White most of last week after the ship foundered while preparing to net a school of menhaden near the surf.

With the help of a tugboat, another menhaden vessel and a favorable tide, the Shearwater was extracted Wednesday night and was towed back to Reedville.

Although the Coast Guard still is trying to determine why the Shearwater grounded, the incident is igniting passions coastwide about the menhaden industry’s impact on marine resources and shore-side tourism.

To add to Omega’s woes, White said thousands of menhaden that floated onto the North Carolina tourist beaches between Corolla and Southern Shores earlier last week came from another Omega vessel, which lost about 75,000 fish when its net snagged.

People were appalled at the sight of the dead fish, said Southern Shores Councilman Paul Sutherland.

Once operating from numerous points between Maine and Florida, the menhaden "reduction" industry now is limited to just Reedville and Beaufort, N.C., on the East Coast. The two plants processed 263,000 metric tons of menhaden in 1997, making Reedville, which received most of the catch, one of the leading fishing ports in the United States.

The role of the industry and its $12 million payroll keeps it in high regard in Virginia’s rural Northern Neck. The menhaden factory turns out animal feed and oil from the small inedible fish and is a chief employer and economic mainstay.

But elsewhere along the quickly developing seacoast, Omega’s big menhaden boats, which roam from New Jersey to North Carolina, often are regarded as interlopers.

"We believe we have a severe conflict with the menhaden industry," said Sutherland, the councilman from Southern Shores, which is north of Nags Head on the Outer Banks.

Southern Shores is petitioning the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission to bar menhaden ships from coming within 1˝ miles of the town’s shore during the summer months. Other jurisdictions, including Nags Head, received in 1995 similar restrictions on scattered parts of the beach, north of Oregon Inlet.

"This kind of situation is not only a public relations disaster for Omega Protein, it’s a tourist disaster for us," Sutherland said. He said the North Carolina coast faced a potential ecological disaster if the ship, which was carrying 4,000 gallons of fuel, had broken up and lost its huge cargo of fish and fuel on shore.

But White said the unwelcome incident proves the opposite.

"The point is, this is about the worst that can happen, but no fish were spilled and no fuel was spilled, and at the end of the day no damage was done. If I had to make the point that this is a safe-operating industry, this probably does it."

Some critics say White misses the point.

Over the years, some have complained that the industry is overfishing menhaden, which form a vital link in the food chain and nourish predator fish, such as bluefish and striped bass, sought by anglers.

"We think there are more important uses for menhaden instead of being ground up for chicken feed," said Tom Fote, a member of the New Jersey-based Jersey Coast Anglers Association.

Fote’s group led the drive to persuade the state in 1991 to push the menhaden industry 1.2 nautical miles from the New Jersey shore. Now, it’s working on legislation that would require the menhaden fleet to stay 3 miles from shore, out of state waters entirely.

Maryland has had such a ban in place since the 1950s; South Carolina closed its coast to commercial netting in 1988. The menhaden fleet observes a voluntary agreement to stay a half-mile off Virginia’s shores, Jones said.

Some sport fishermen say the menhaden netters deplete the menhaden supply, forcing game fish to go elsewhere for a meal.

"They are catching the bait our fish eat," said Frank Thomas, of Buxton, N.C., who regularly fishes in the surf at Cape Hatteras, where there are no restrictions.

"The other day there were seven of those menhaden boats out there," he said. "It was five days before any fish came back."

But industry officials say there’s nothing to show that the menhaden ships are stripping the seas.

This year, 13 ships are operating out of Reedville. That is seven fewer than last year, when Omega’s major competitor, Ampro Fisheries, still was in business. The menhaden factory at Beaufort employs three vessels.

"This is an activity that’s highly visible," said Niels Moore, a government relations representative with the Washington-based National Fisheries Institute, a fish and seafood trade association.

"You’re talking large vessels that operate close to shore so they are under scrutiny by many people. Folks who do not like the fact that there are people making a living on the water will capitalize on any opportunity to have the industry shine in a negative way."

In response to pressure against the menhaden industry, a compact of coastal states that recommends management plans for migratory fish species agreed two weeks ago to submit its menhaden population assessments for the first time to a peer review by scientists.

The review will address the menhaden’s role in the marine food chain and will evaluate the commission’s current management of menhaden.

Critics, such as Fote, view the review as a victory for their side. They have said for years that the menhaden industry has wielded too much control over the management of the species. They say catch records show problems with the menhaden population that the industry is denying.

Last year’s coastal menhaden harvest reflected the third consecutive drop in harvest numbers and contained the fewest immature menhaden in 27 years.

But Moore and others involved in the menhaden industry say the menhaden population is incredibly resilient, and studies prove it.

Commercial fishermen caught between 14 percent and 29 percent of the menhaden population between 1989 and 1995, Moore said, leaving the rest as brood stock for the species and forage for predator fish.

Moore cited a 1977 study performed in Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay, which he said concluded that sufficient menhaden exist to feed striped bass, bluefish and other predators even when populations are too low to support commercial netting.

He predicted the upcoming peer review will substantiate the industry’s position that the species is not overfished. But he said he’s confident the old arguments will persist.

"There are frankly some people out there who will not rest until there is no commercial fishery."


Rob Winkel, Bureau of Law Enforcement

To clarify any confusion over daily possession bag limits I have prepared this brief summery. To begin I have enclosed a copy of the appropriate regulations (NJA.C. 7:25-18.1 (b) & (c). I think the rules are pretty clear. Basically, an individual fisherman is limited to taking only the number of fish authorized for a particular species in any one species. If one fisherman gives fish to another person on the beach or another fisherman in a boat, or uses fish for bait, such as the practice with snapper blues, it does not allow him to catch additional fish in excess of the daily bag limit.

The language in the regulation contains both "take" and "possess" because, if it only contained "take," the enforcement officer would be required to observe the individual actually catch each fish in order to document a violation. The purpose of the rule was to reduce harvest by limiting the number of fish each fisherman catches. Possession is the language necessary to make the limits enforceable at the dock or ramp after actual fishing has ceased. Pooling of fish is not permitted by the regulations< however< it probably is practiced by more boat fishermen who keep their fish in a single common container> conservation Officers do not routinely ask fishermen within a group that have put their fish in a common container to identify the particular fish they caught unless there is some type of violation, such as sublegal or short fish. However, if the Officer observes the actual fishing activity, then we would enforce the individual daily bag limit, even if the group did not exceed the multiple of fisherman times the daily bag limit.

Regulations 7:25-18.1

In addition to the total minimum of goosefish size, all goosefish tails possessed must be at least 11 inches in length from the anterior portion of the fourth cephalic dorsal spine to the end of thte caudal fin. The total weight of all goosefish livers landed shall not be more than 30 percent of the total weight of all goosefish tails landed or 12 percent of the total weight of all goosefish landed.

A person may not possess a dressed Atlantic sturgeon for sale less than 36 inches in length, subject to the additional provisions in NJA.C. 7:25-18.15. Dressed length is the length of an Atlantic sturgeon after the entire head, collar, tail and viscera have been removed.

A person shall not take from the marine waters in the State or have in his or her possession any species listed below less than the minimum length, measured in inches, except as may be provided elsewhere in this subchapter, and subject to the specific provisions of any such section. Any commercially licensed vessel or person shall be presumed to possess the following species for sale purposes. Fish length shall be measured from the tip of the snout to the tip of the tail (total length), except as noted below.

American eel Anquilla rostraata 6
Atlantic cod Gadus morhua 21
Atlantic sturgeon Ancipenser oxyrhynchus 60
Black sea bass Centropristis striata 10
Bluefish Pomatomus saltatrix No limit
Cobia Rachycentron canadum 37
Haddock Melanogrammus aeglefinus 21
King mackerel Scomberomorus cavalla 23
Pollock Pollachius virens 19
Porgy(scup) Stenotomus chrysops 7
Red drum Sciaenops ocellatus 18
Spanish mackerel Scomberomorus maculatus 14
Summer flounder (fluke) Paralichthys dentatus 15
Tautog(blackfish) Tautoga onitis 14
Weakfish Cynoscion regalis Cynoscion nebulosus 4
Winter flounder Pleuronectes americanus 10

Total length for black sea bass shall be measured along the midline from the tip of the snout to the end of the central portion of the tail, not to include tail filaments.

A person angling with a hand line or with rod and line or using a bait net or spearfishing shall not take in any one day or possess more than the possession limit specified below for each species listed during the open season except as may be provided elsewhere in this subchapter, and subject to the provisions of any such section. A person angling or bait netting or spearfishing shall not possess any species listed below during the closed seasons for that species.

Black sea bass Jan. 1 – July 31 No limit
Aug. 16 – Dec. 31 No limit
Bluefish Jan. 1 – Dec. 31 10
King mackerel Jan. 1 – Dec. 31 3
Scup Jan. 1 – Dec. 31 No limit
Spanish mackerel Jan. 1 – Dec. 31 10
Summer Flounder Jan. 1 – Dec. 31 8
Tautog Jan. 1 – May 31 10
Oct. 10 – Dec. 31 10
June 1- Oct. 9 1
Weakfish Jan.1 – Dec. 31 14
Winter flounder Mar. 31 – May 31 No limit
Sept. 15 – Dec. 31 No limit

The Elver and Glass Eel Bill

JCAA will continue to monitor the progress of A675, the bill that would reopen the glass eel fishery. Since the last newspaper, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission held a meeting of the Glass Eel Board. At this meeting, the states along the East coast passed a resolution that stated that any state currently having a closed eel fishery should continue to keep the fishery closed. The vote was unanimous with one abstention. This was due to many concerns expressed by board members and additional information presented at the meeting. The eel fishery in the Great Lakes has collapsed for all size eels. There are grave concerns about the Canadian harvest. Denmark has wiped out their eel population and is now spending millions of dollars to reintroduce. Dr. Eleanor Bochenek attended a meeting of the American Fisheries Society and will report back to us at this month’s JCAA meeting. She is also writing a report for the October newspaper. Remember, you must be prepared to contact your legislator immediately if this bill take on new life.

.Barnegat Bay Estuarine Program

The Barnegat Bay Estuarine Program will hold an all day program on Saturday, October 17 to discuss parts of the management plan. If you care about Barnegat Bay, it is important that you attend this meeting. You can get the details by attending the JCAA meeting or by calling Heidi Dascoli, BBEP public outreach coordinator, at 732-506-5313. This information will also be on the JCAA website as soon as it is available.

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Annual Meeting

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will hold their annual meeting from October 18 – 22 in Jekyll Island, Georgia. There will be meetings of the Sport Fish Restoration Committee, Atlantic Coast Cooperative Statistical Program, Joint ASMFC/GSMFC Artificial Reef Committees, Management Boards for Shad & River Herring, Horseshoe Crab, Tautog, American Eel, Striped Bass and other topics. If you want more information call the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission at 202-289-6400.

Mako Shark Methyl Mercury Controversy

Washington, D.C. - Babbitt Sportfishing News has learned in information obtained from a source at FDA’s Department of Health and Human Services that domestically caught mako sharks may contain residues of the neurotoxic compound methyl mercury exceeding FDA’s safety level of 1 part per million (ppm). In data supplied by FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, domestic mako shark samples analyzed over the period 1989 through 1995 showed that of 38 mako flesh samples analyzed, 24 contained violative levels of methyl mercury. That high violation rate calculates to 63% of the total samples analyzed by FDA for domestically caught mako shark containing methyl mercury levels in excess of FDA’s 1-ppm safety factor for human consumption.

FDA imposed an automatic detention alert (see "Imported Mako Shark and Methyl Mercury") for imported mako sharks in 1997, a regulatory action which detains shipments of mako sharks from foreign shippers listed in the alert. The exporters listed in FDA’s alert included businesses in Mexico, the Bahamas, Central and South America. According to recent information obtained directly from FDA, three samples of imported mako shark were analyzed for methyl mercury in 1997. All three were found violative with methyl mercury residues ranging from 1 to 2 ppm.

Despite the fact that a 1-ppm methyl mercury level can trigger an automatic detention alert by FDA for foreign exporters, a source at FDA has told Babbitt Sportfishing News that the agency "does not currently have a domestic monitoring program for methyl mercury in mako shark, swordfish and tuna." This in spite of the fact that FDA’s own analyses for domestic mako sharks in 1992 and 1993 uncovered methyl mercury levels that ran as high as 2.7 and 3.6 ppm. The 3.6 ppm level is almost four times FDA’s action level for protecting the public’s health. Moreover, according to FDA-supplied data, domestic-caught mako sharks have averaged methyl mercury levels of 1 ppm or more for every FDA testing year since 1989.

Interestingly, despite the fact that 63% of the domestic mako shark samples tested since 1989 have been violative, with one 1993 sample showing almost four times the FDA’s action level, no samples (according to data supplied by FDA) of domestically caught mako shark were analyzed in 1996 or 1997.

Methyl mercury is a known neurotoxin. The compound can affect vision, speech, hearing and motor skills in humans and permanently damage the nervous system. In extreme cases, such as the Minimata Bay, Japan, mercury-contaminated fish poisoning from 1953 to 1960 in which 111 persons were seriously injured or died, very high mercury levels can cause severe disability and death.

This article is provided courtesy of Babbitt Sportfishing News, Copyright 1998. All rights reserved. Babbitt Sportfishing Corp. and the Somethin’ Fishy Fishing Site are not responsible for any errors or omissions in the provided material.

Imported Mako Shark and Methyl Mercury

Washington, D.C. - In 1997 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) posted "Attachment A" to an existing detention alert for imported swordfish, tuna and sharks that may contain unhealthy levels of the neurotoxin methyl mercury. The attachment specifically listed imported mako shark shipments for detention by those packers/shippers listed in the attachment. The shippers listed by company name and address include businesses in the Bahamas, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatamala, Mexico, Uruguay and Venezuela.

An FDA automatic detention alert is just that; the automatic detention of a seafood or seafood product. The product is barred entry to the U.S. seafood market unless the shipment is proven safe by appropriate testing. According to one source interviewed at FDA, a shipper named in an automatic detention alert is not removed from the list until demonstrating by independent laboratory chemical analysis that the seafood or seafood product contains less than the FDA action level for methyl mercury. The safe level must be shown for the shipper’s five most recent seafood shipments to be delisted. The FDA safety level for methyl mercury is 1 part per million (ppm).

According to information in the FDA alert, the automatic detention was applied based on a change in agency policy regarding methyl mercury in seafood. "Based on new data on the consumption of shark and the toxicity of methyl mercury, CFSAN [the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition] toxicologists have re-evaluated their previous position and now can support regulatory action against shark containing methyl mercury residues in excess of 1 ppm. Recent samples of shark from Ecuador, Mexico and Venezuela have been found to contain residues of methyl mrcury exceeding 1 ppm." The full FDA alert can be accessed on the internet at

This article is provided courtesy of Babbitt Sportfishing News, Copyright 1998. All rights reserved.Babbitt Sportfishing Corp. and the Somethin’ Fishy Fishing Site are not responsible for any errors or omissions in the provided material.You can get more information about Capt. Brion Babbitt and Makoman Charters on his web page.

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