by Tom Fote

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association January 2002 Newsletter)

Menhaden Bill Update
ASMFC Begins a New Management Regime For Atlantic Coast Menhaden
Striped Bass Update
Bluefish And Tuna - What Do They Have In Common ?
Update On The Farr Bill And MFCN
Implementing The Precautionary Approach (Dean Swanson)



The best Christmas gift for JCAA is the Menhaden Bill.  Unfortunately, acting-governor DiFrancesco has not signed it into law yet.   The days remaining are few and it would be a shame to have to start all over again with the next legislature. This is in acting-governor DiFrancesco's hands.  Today (Christmas Eve) I have no notice that the bill will be signed.  We have only until January 7th.  When you receive this newspaper, check if the bill has not been signed. CALL, FAX, EMAIL.  Let the acting-governor know that you want him to keep his promise and sign this vital legislation.  The contact information is included below. 


Acting Governor Donald DiFrancesco
P.O. Box 001
State House, Trenton, NJ 08625-0001
PH     609-292-6000 
FAX  609-292-3454



When I first became the governor's appointee to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, I had several goals.  Along with my colleagues at ASMFC, I have helped make most of those goals a reality.   The governor's and legislative appointees have been the driving force in successfully attaining these goals.  The goal that took the longest to accomplish was the changes we wanted in the Menhaden Board.  When I attended my first Menhaden Board meeting I realized the membership of this board was five states with the largest harvest of menhaden and five representatives of the commercial industry.   The technical committee had a similar makeup.   It was like watching the fox guard the hen house and I realized we needed to work to change the membership of this board.  JCAA has been in the forefront of this battle, providing information and sharing ideas.  Finally, after ten years, the board is now a representative board.  The board's membership is now the same as any other board looking at a specific species.  The technical committee has undergone a similar change.  There is also a new advisory committee to reflect the needs of all the states along the east coast, not just the states with a significant menhaden harvest.  These changes finally recognize the importance of menhaden in the entire ecosystem along the east coast.   On January 8th and 9th, the Atlantic Menhaden Technical Committee and the Atlantic Menhaden Advisory Panel will meet in Raleigh, North Carolina.  For further information call the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission at 202-289-6400.  I will be in attendance.


The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will be meeting February 18 - 21.  If all goes according to plan, the Striped Bass Advisory Committee and the Striped Bass Board will meet.  I anticipate they will vote on Amendment 6 and send it to public hearing.  More information will be forthcoming as soon as we receive it.   You can call the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission at 202-289-6400 for an update.  Some areas along the coast complain about the lack of bigger fish or a decrease in the number of fish.  We see the same changes in New Jersey along the coast but not in the producing areas.  Our historical catch was mainly coastal.  This was done from the beach and inshore boats.  In the past four - five years, this has changed.  Currently over 65% of the fish that are harvested come from our producing areas, Sandy Hook Bay and Delaware Bay.  I interpret this to mean that the abundance of bigger fish and more fish in New Jersey's producing areas is due to the larger size limit in place in those areas.  This is, I believe, a common sense way to interpret the data.   In New Jersey's producing areas, the size limit was 28 inches until 1999.  At the same time, the Chesapeake Bay producing area has been fishing on 18-inch fish and allowing a significant commercial netting of fish that size.  Their quota in recent years has been larger than the base years.  In addition, recent information about the illegal commercial fishery suggests the collected data significantly under reports the commercial fishery landings.  It is my belief that this is why Delaware Bay and Sandy Hook Bay are in much better shape, with much bigger fish, than Chesapeake Bay.  


If New Jersey can maintain a single size limit in our producing areas and the coast, there is no reason other states cannot do the same.  I am afraid that people will argue over the minutia and lose sight of the big picture.  It is crucial that we stay focused.  In some states recreational anglers are so frustrated with their inability to deal with the commercial illegal fishery, bycatch and size limits, that they are talking about further penalizing their recreational colleagues.  This makes no sense at all.  All the other states have to do is follow our lead and make striped bass a gamefish.  I have not heard discussion from a single national group of its plans to work to cut back the commercial fishery.  If you belong to one of the national organizations, use your clout as a member and speak up for striped bass gamefish.


What do bluefish and bluefin tuna have in common?  We could make a list.  But the most startling comparison has nothing to do with the fact that they are fish.  The most important similarity is in how they have been managed.  The management process for both are a model for how commercial interests can corrupt management plans.  In November's newspaper I included information about the bluefish FMP (The Bluefish FMP: A Truly Grim Fairy Tale).  Check out this article on our web page.  In summary, however, the article states that JCAA will not support the transfer of recreational quota to the commercial fishery.  The same thing is happening to bluefin tuna. 

In recent years unused recreational quota for bluefin tuna has been transferred to the commercial fishery.  The rules and restrictions placed on the recreational harvest do not allow us to harvest our quota.   Every time we ask for more relaxed regulations, we are told we would exceed our quota.  Yet there is no evidence that would happen.  Just the opposite continues to be true, we don't catch our quota and the leftover is transferred to the commercial quota.  The commercial fishermen don't seem to have any difficulty catching every additional pound they are allowed.  If recreational anglers choose not to use every pound of fish in the bluefin tuna quota to preserve fish, they are certainly not rewarded for their efforts when their quota is transferred to the commercial side.  I am still waiting to hear from any national organizations, with the exception of ASA, to work with JCAA in stopping the transfer of the bluefish quota.  We are now reaching out to all national organizations to stop the transfer of the unused recreational bluefin tuna quota to the commercial sector.  Remember, as a recreational community, we have been penalized by being given only a small part of the overall quota in bluefin tuna and, even then, some of that quota ends up in the commercial sector.  If you are a member of a national organization, do whatever you can to get them on board on this issue. 

Update on the Farr Bill and MFCN

At the December 19th meeting, the JCAA membership had a long discussion on the Farr Bill.  In a vote at the end of the discussion, the membership present decided that there were some parts of the bill that would receive our support and some parts that would not.  The biggest concern was how vague some of the language was in the bill.  Members were concerned that future interpretations could lead to actions never intended in the original legislation.  The bill allows for judicial interpretations that could have a far-reaching impact on the recreational community.  I have included an article on the precautionary approach that responds to some of our concerns but leaves us with more.  Historically we have not learned to trust the judicial approach when laws are vague and leave room for many different interpretations. 

There were some areas of the bill that were clear and easy to support.  As an example, there was clear support for the observer program.   Some members took notes during the discussion and will write up their reports for the February newspaper.  You should have that information before we meet in January to continue the discussion.

You can get more information and a copy of the Farr Bill from the Marine Fish Conservation Network on their web page or by phone. 

Marine Fish Conservation Network
660 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, Suite 302B
Washington D.C. 20003
Tel: 202-543-5509
Fax:  202-543-5774


By Dean Swanson

Fishing is an ancient occupation the world over and provides a major source of high quality protein, income and recreational opportunity for millions of people.  It also impacts some of the world's most precious natural wonders, the marine environment in coastal and offshore areas.  In turn, fishing is impacted by activities on or near the ocean, sometimes with devastating effects.

The wise use of marine resources requires conscientious management.  As global concern for the environment increases with regard to fisheries, it is not surprising that so, too, have calls arisen for management that more deliberately plans for the consequences of fishing (IUCN 1990 and Walters and Hilborn 1978).  The precautionary approach has been employed for some time in realms such as the regulation of polluting industries and in the protocols observed in the testing and approval of new drugs.  It has now not only entered the lexicon of fisheries management, but promises to become mandatory in certain contexts (United Nations 1995).

The precautionary approach addresses uncertainty, the manner with which it is dealt, and intergenerational equity. Uncertainty presented by available data and by determinations of the future consequences and costs of present decisions is not to be used as a reason for postponing or failing to take conservation and management measures, and such measures are to be more cautious when information is uncertain, unreliable or inadequate. Intergenerational equity has to do with responsibilities toward future generations and their equal entitlement to enjoy the benefits of renewable resources that are also consumed presently.

The precautionary approach is the exercise of prudent foresight in fisheries management to avoid unacceptable or undesirable outcomes, taking into account that fisheries systems are:


         slowly reversible;

         poorly controllable;

         not well understood; and

         subject to change in the environment and with respect to human values (FAO 1995).

The precautionary approach flows from a number of principles, the most important of which include:


         all fishing activities have environmental impacts;

         the needs of future generations should be considered in decisions about present resource use;

         prior identification of unacceptable or undesirable outcomes;

         prior identification of measures that will be taken to avoid or correct undesirable outcomes;

         avoid interventions that are not potentially reversible;

         resolve to take needed corrective measures promptly;

         when the impact of resource use is uncertain, priority should be given to conserving productive capacity;

         harvesting and processing capacity should be commensurate with sustainable levels of the resource;

         all fishing activities should be authorized and subject to review; and

         a fishery management plan implementing the above principles should be instituted for each fishery.


The precautionary approach is an alternative to the usual mode of fishery development, which illustrates neither caution nor foresight.        The usual progression goes something like this:


         a new fishery or gear is “discovered;”

         fishing is unregulated and limited only by market development;

         fishing capacity grows rapidly and exceeds the sustainable yield level;

         the resource becomes depleted and catches fall below catch capacity;

         capital investment is threatened;

         fisheries management is implemented, but relevant data are insufficient to support assessments;

         quotas are set at the highest levels thought to allow rebuilding with minimum effects on capital investment and short-term economic gain;

         fishermen compete to get the largest possible share of the catch; and

         fishermen seek new or underutilized resources or new gear types.


To whom are the tenets of the precautionary approach directed?


         nation-states and regional international fisheries conservation and management organizations, according to the Fish Stocks Agreement (United Nations 1995);

         from the perspective of US foreign policy, because the United States has ratified the Fish Stocks Agreement and established a policy of beginning to implement it, in: the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT); the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC); the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO); the Central Bering Sea Convention Parties; and the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR);

         all domestic and international fisheries managers, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization's Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (FAO 1995); and

         society in general, since the precautionary approach links fisheries management with overall environmental management.


Because uncertainty affects all elements of the fisheries management system, some degree of precaution is required at all levels: fisheries management planning; management; research; technology development and transfer; legal and institutional frameworks; fish capture and processing; and fisheries enhancement and aquaculture.

Without deliberate application of the precautionary approach at the planning stage of fisheries management, the desired outcomes are unlikely to be achieved.  Planning should include:

         explicit consideration of precautionary actions that will be taken to avoid specific undesirable outcomes;

         mechanisms to monitor and control fishing capacity;

         means by which uncertainty and ignorance are to be taken into account;

         provisions for periodic re-evaluation;

         broad involvement and consultation;

         specification of management objectives, e.g., catches to be as large as possible so long as the probability of stock depletion is below an acceptably low level and catches can be kept reasonably steady;

         specification of target and limit reference points (see also FAO 1993)

- target reference points, which define desired outcomes, e.g., a target fishing mortality or a specified level of average abundance relative to the unfished state, and

- limit reference points, which define boundaries to constrain harvesting within safe biological limits so as to achieve maximum sustainable yields, e.g., a minimum stock biomass, a specified range of ages present,  a specified geographical range, or possible constraints addressing ecosystem effects, bycatch, etc.;

         specification of decision rules providing for what management measures are to be taken when specified deviations from operational targets occur; and

         require re-evaluation of the feasibility and reliability of corrective management measures.


Once most of the work is done, which is to say the planning for fisheries management and acceptance of it by all major stakeholders, implementation, monitoring and enforcement can go forward.  In this phase:


         continued public participation is essential;

         institute all planned decision rules;

         collect all information necessary to ensure that the plan is executed and achieving the desired results; and

         provide the ability for quick redeployment of enforcement and monitoring resources in order to quickly detect needs for corrective responses.


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