by Patrick F. Donnelly

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association - December 1996 Newspaper)

On October 21, 1996, the Tautog Management Board of the ASMFC met in Hyannis, Mass. to discuss implementation of the Tautog FMP. Each state had been required to submit a proposal detailing how their commercial fishery would meet the required fishery reduction. All of the states involved, Massachusetts to Virginia, were able to submit a plan prior to the October 1 deadline. There were no formal actions taken concerning compliance, as the Board was only responsible for reviewing the recommendations of the Technical Committee.

Each of the states north of New Jersey had made significant proposals on how they would reduce their commercial landings by the prescribed 55%. The only state not to meet the 55% reduction in landings was New Jersey. New Jersey had decided to follow the lead of the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council. This plan called for a limited entry program, along with a commercial quota-based on the years 1982-1991, prior to the explosion in the live fish market. These provisions were enthusiastically supported by both the recreational and commercial advisors to the Council, and the full Council gave its unanimous support.

There has been discussion of the possibility of a compromise between the ASMFC and the State. However, the Council's position on this plan is not just a ploy to garner more quota. Rather, this is an instance where both the recreational and commercial communities have decided that enough is enough. Fishermen of New Jersey worked with the Council and the Division of Marine Fisheries to create a fair plan that would protect the species while maintaining historical participation. New Jersey should not be force fed a politically driven FMP because New England says it should. Instead, the fishermen of New Jersey should continue to work within the parameters if the Marine Fisheries Council to regulate a fishery that occurs within it's state waters.

There does not appear to be any grounds for mediation in this dispute. The actual vote on compliance will not come until April 1997. The next six months should prove to be interesting as the irresistible force meets the immovable object.

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