Upcoming Hearings

by Paul Haertel
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association February 2021 Newsletter)

Here is the public hearing notice for the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Commercial/Recreational Allocation Amendment. Many of us have been working many years to adjust the allocation between the commercial and recreational sectors. This amendment has been in the process for about 10 years and is finally ready for the public hearing process. There was some movement at the last joint meeting of the MAFMC and ASMFC to postpone this addendum until the Recreational Form Addendum is finished.

Letís look at the reason why. The commercial representatives on the MAFMC and ASMFC do not want to transfer a single pound of any of the recreational species. They reap the benefits of the new MREPS numbers by getting a 49% increase in summer flounder because of the many years we underestimated the recreational catch. That means the MAFMC and ASMFC set the quotas using underestimated recreational numbers for these species. Thirty years ago, when this process began, some of the members of the recreational sectors brought forward documents from the old Bureau of Sport Fisheries that showed the catch on summer flounder was 70/30 (recreational/commercial), not 60/40 commercial. In some instances, NMFS and the MAFMC and AFMFC also used the years that the commercial fishery decimated the stocks, leading to allocations that favored their sector. The commercial sector was rewarded for causing the problem while the recreational sector paid the price.

As Tom Fote has pointed out many times, when the scup quota was set up, NMFS, the MAFMC and ASMFC took away 9% of the recreational quota and just gave it to the commercial sector. Their excuse was the recreational sector didnít need it. Thirty years ago they did not foresee the need for any regulations on scup. At the last meeting, ASMFC and MAFMC voted to allow MAFMC to have a vote on how the quotas are adjusted. The MAFMC has been very pro commercial and many of their members are commercial fishermen or have commercial interests. That means any adjustment to the quotas must be approved by both bodies using the exact same language.

The squeaky wheel gets the most attention. The commercial sector has been putting a lot of pressure on the state directors who sit on both the MAFMC and ASMFC. We have been absent. We need to make sure they hear our voices. We cannot rely on the few members of the MAFMC and ASMFC who understand the recreational community and its value to carry all the weight. If you do not get involved there will be no reallocation.

At the last online general meeting for JCAA, I was put in charge of a committee to prepare documents for the upcoming public hearings. Right now, there are only three of us on the committee and we would like more participation from our member clubs. If you are willing to serve, let me know. You can reach out to me through our Facebook page or call or email me.

Paul Haertel 973-943-8201 anglerpmH@aol.com

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