by Patrick F. Donnelly

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association - May 1997 Newspaper)

On March 18, 1997, the ASMFC Tautog Board met in Norfolk, Va. to discuss the impending deadline of the Tautog FMP. The original plan had dictated an implementation date of April 1997, and the Board was left to decide whether an amendment to the original plan was appropriate. The decision was made to amend the plan, allowing for an extra year to gather better data, and to better assess the fishery.

This constitutes a reversal from the Oct. 1996 meeting, where the consensus was that the plan was fine, the data was good, and New Jersey was wrong. Apparently, Jack Duningan, the ASMFC Executive Director, was able to convince the concerned parties that while a delay is not preferred, it is warranted in light of the new data being worked on. This compromise was worked out through regional meetings, chaired by the Director, after the Oct. 1996 meeting.

The vote on this amendment was not unanimous. The representative from NMFS felt that any delay was inappropriate. It should surprise nobody that NMFS felt more comfortable voting for a plan based on questionable data than they would waiting for the best available data. The other dissenting voice came from Rhode Island, a state that kept its head in the sand until its fishery collapsed.

This addendum will go to public hearing in New Jersey on May 1, 1997, at the Galloway Township Library, immediately following the New Jersey Marine Fishery Council Meeting. This could prove to be an interesting juxtaposition, as representatives of the Commission will get to see how the Council operates. Instead of the typical "old boys network", they should see a Tautog Committee that represents a broad based coalition of interests. Commercial, recreational, party/charter, and scientific representatives are able to sit around a table and do what is best for the fishery, not just for the present, but for the future. Until it is proven that some "Super-Tog" can swim up the East River, up Long Island Sound, past Race Point, and into Pt. Judith Pond, New Jersey should not be made to swallow a Rhode Island plan that hasn't worked there.

At the Norfolk meeting there was some guarded optimism on a related front. Mr. Dunigan mentioned that one of the driving forces in this compromise was the input of the Advisory Panel. From people involved, it was understood that the meeting in Trenton in Dec. 1996 was instrumental in driving the point. Again I would like to thank all of those people involved, as it becomes obvious that a pro-active State Council, along with non-partisan recreational and commercial representatives can make things happen.

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