Subject: Letter from the Board of Directors of JCAA to The Fisherman Magazine

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association May 2008 Newsletter)

JCAA Board of Directors was very disappointed with the attack on JCAA in the Executive Editor’s Log by Jim Hutchinson in the April 3, 2008 New Jersey Fisherman Magazine.

At the November 2007 New Jersey Outdoor Writers Meeting, Jim Hutchinson and Tom Fote had a discussion about the strained relationship between JCAA and The Fisherman Magazine for the past few years. We agreed that JCAA and The Fisherman should set up a meeting to discuss the issues. Most of us assumed that this meeting would be a response to the discussion with The Fisherman Magazine and that the agenda would be to resolve some of our disagreements. At our joint meeting The Fisherman only wanted to discuss the JCAA membership in the Marine Fish Conservation Network. At the conclusion of this meeting we were surprised to be given a prewritten letter from The Fisherman demanding JCAA Board withdrawal from the Marine Fish Conservation Network or The Fisherman would no longer financially support JCAA through its sponsorship and with articles. JCAA has never caved into financial threats. There are a number of items the representatives of The Fisherman fail to understand. First, The Fisherman has never been a member of JCAA. JCAA is an association of fishing clubs and other organizations concerned with the marine resource. Second, the assumption that the JCAA Board makes policy decisions for JCAA is false. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Board only handles the business operations of JCAA. At the general meetings, the representatives of the member clubs and organizations make policy and vote on actions that JCAA should take. The Board simply implements policies determined by the majority of our membership. Since our membership in the Marine Fish Conservation Network is determined by the member clubs, the JCAA Board was never in a position to give in to the demand by The Fisherman Magazine that we withdraw from the Marine Fish Conservation Network. Given the controversy that has surrounded our continued participation with the Network during the summer flounder debate, these issues were discussed at JCAA General Membership Meetings many times prior to the meeting with The Fisherman. Our member clubs have been steadfast in their recognition that our membership in the Network allows us to continue to be part of the debate with other members of the Marine Fish Conservation Network. You need only read the article called “JCAA’S Participation in the Marine Fish Conservation Network” appearing in the 2008 January and February issues of the JCAA Newspaper to get a fuller understanding of our participation in the Network. This article can be found on our web site at http://www.jcaa.org.

We believe that members of the press should be reporting on varied points of view so their readers can make informed decisions. The Fisherman Magazine has every right to take an editorial position on any subject. But to malign those who disagree with them and express their opinions using information they know to be incorrect is misleading journalism. American Sportfishing Association (The trade association of the tackle manufactures) asked JCAA to replace them on the Advisory Board of the MFCN. JCAA accepted the challenge. At the 2008 Saltwater Expo in March the President of ASA told The Fisherman staff and the members of SSFFF that he “was responsible for encouraging JCAA to join the Advisory Board of MFCN.” The President of ASA was clear that our responsibility was to provide a strong recreational fishing voice in the Network and keep the Network out of the Marine Protected Area debate. As long as JCAA or ASA have participated on the MFCN Advisory Boards, the MFCN have taken no position on MPAs. The Fisherman Magazine article claims the MFCN has been promoting MPAs and that is just blatantly not true.

When we met with The Fisherman representatives in January, we explained that JCAA never joined Conserve Our Ocean Legacy and have repeatedly asked for our name to be removed from any of their publications and web page. Over 18 months ago RFA brought the COOL webpage to our attention and we immediately contacted them to insist on our withdrawal. It was not clear from the way they listed Jersey Coast Anglers if they were even referring to JCAA but we demanded the name removal anyway. That has taken place. To claim that COOL speaks for JCAA is just not true and The Fisherman was made aware of that in January but did not mention that in their editorial article.

JCAA has always sought to form partnerships with the goal of dealing with major issues and accomplishing positive results. Currently, JCAA is a member of the Partnership for Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Science Inc. (PFMAFS). Garden State Seafood Association (GSSA), RFA, United Boatmen of NY and NJ and SSFFF are all members of this partnership that has the goal of arriving at better science to accurately assess fish stocks for management purposes. JCAA has frequent disagreements with Garden State Seafood Association. For example, we are currently working on legislation to ban all pots from the artificial reefs and GSSA strongly opposes this. We also strongly disagree with attempts by Garden State Seafood to open NJ waters for commercial harvest of striped bass. We fought with them about the removal of the Menhaden reduction boats. However, we have also worked together on ocean dumping, stopping the proposal to build Liquid Natural Gas distribution centers in the ocean off NJ and getting better science on summer flounder. JCAA and the Garden State Seafood both contributed $15,000 to get better science for summer flounder. Would The Fisherman Magazine like JCAA to ignore the possibility of working together on important issues? Early in JCAA’s history, Capt Len Belcaro (Big Game Fishing Journal) put together a diverse coalition to stop the dumping of chemicals, sewage sludge, wood burning and close down the chemical dumps in the ocean. Len realized we could not do this alone and extended our partnerships beyond New Jersey and to any organization that recognized the importance of these issues. This partnership included recreational, commercial and other environmental groups. It was called Cease Ocean Dumping (COD). Because of those early partnerships with groups that we sometimes had disagreements with, we no longer have this type of dumping in the ocean. Consequently, we were able to achieve a great victory for the environment and our fishing community.

Perhaps a little history will help people understand perhaps why The Fisherman wrote the editorial article in question. There has been a strained relationship between JCAA and The Fisherman since 2002 when the publishers and editors of The Fisherman demanded that they be given the exclusive media sponsorship for the JCAA annual Fluke Tournament. Since we had one other long-term media sponsor at that time, we did not feel it was appropriate to drop them. We explained that while we gave exclusivity to various types of product sponsors, we had always treated media differently. All the media is essential to not only promote the fluke tournament but share information from state and national meetings about issues of importance to all anglers. Despite two years of discussion about this issue, in 2004 The Fisherman issued an ultimatum. Their proposal was to create an opportunity for magazines to bid for exclusive media rights to the JCAA Fluke Tournament. After careful consideration and discussion with our membership, the JCAA offered both magazines an opportunity to bid for exclusivity with the understanding that the financial incentive would be large enough to cover JCAA’s additional advertising costs in other publications. Neither magazine wanted to pursue exclusivity given the high cost. In truth, JCAA was grateful that we would not lose the relationship with either publication. However, The Fisherman withdrew sponsorship for the JCAA Fluke Tournament giving the other magazine temporary exclusivity. When we later added another publication as a sponsor, we offered The Fisherman an opportunity to reinstate their support. Neither of the other two publications, New Jersey Angler and Nor’east Saltwater, had any problem sharing the spotlight. The Fisherman declined the offer. The Fisherman did continue their $500 JCAA sponsorship until they withdrew it after the January 2008 meeting. After The Fisherman withdrew their sponsorship of the JCAA Fluke Tournament, JCAA paid for an advertisement for the Fluke Tournament for the next year in The Fisherman. We declined to continue that practice when The Fisherman refused to list all of the Fluke Tournament sponsors. We have never had that problem with any other publication.

In the past 27 years, JCAA has maintained a close relationship with all of the previous editors of The Fisherman Magazine. They understood we were protecting their jobs, the recreational fishing industry as well are the rights of recreational anglers. And those relationships remain positive to this day. Historically, we disagreed about striped bass gamefish and we never criticized The Fisherman Magazine for not actively supporting the NJ legislation in the early 90s that JCAA was instrumental in passing. We had the same lack of support by The Fisherman Magazine for striped bass as a game fish in New York when we tried to get a bill passed in the early 90s. Again, the JCAA never openly criticized The Fisherman for their position since such negative press serves to divide the recreational fishing community when we all need to stick together given the obstacles we face from those groups who want to shut down our fishery.

The most blatant falsehood included in The Fisherman article is that they are only being critical of the JCAA Board but not the clubs, organizations and fishermen who are members of JCAA. The JCAA Board only runs the business of JCAA. Our membership, through their representatives, makes the policy. An attack on JCAA is an attack on every member club and every member of every member club since this is their organization for 27 years and they vote on all its policies.




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