"Catch" All the Latest on N.J. Saltwater Fishing, Conditions, Information, and Coming Events of the Salt Water Anglers of Bergen County, New JerseySWABC LogoSWABC Logo 

  Welcome to the Official Web site of the

Salt Water Anglers of Bergen County, New Jersey

 Update on New Fluke Regulations - By John Toth

  We have all heard about the straw that broke the camel's back. Well that is the story with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) telling us that we need to have a 19-inch fluke for our 2017 fishing season. If implemented, it will put a lot of party boats/charter boats and related industries out of business! Looking at this looming prospect, our legislators and the Commissioner of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, Bob Martin, have come out swinging against this draconian proposal at a rally on January 27th at the Fisherman's Supply parking lot in Point Pleasant.  Approximately 300 concerned anglers turned out to hear Commissioner Martin say that the new fluke options for 2017's season are unacceptable and our state will fight them with whatever means are necessary, including legal action!  Commissioner Martin was accompanied by Congressman Pallone and other legislators and fishing organizations speaking against the new regulations. Since the data to justify these new regulations is so faulty, the Commissioner and legislators demanded that a new benchmark assessment of fluke stocks must be made before they could accept and approve what ASMFC wants for New Jersey's 2017 fluke season. Until then, they want the 2016 fluke regulations to remain in place (5 fish, 18 inches, 125 days) - status quo. Commissioner Martin also indicated that he would address the ASMFC at its Board meeting in Alexandria, VA. on February 2nd to speak on behalf of NJ to reject the proposed fluke regulations for our state.

 Commissioner Martin attended this meeting and told the ASMFC that New Jersey would NOT accept their proposed fluke regulations for 2017 because the data used by them is very flawed. Until it is corrected by a new benchmark assessment of fluke, NJ will stay with the status quo for its 2017 season. The ASMFC's Board rejected NJ's proposal and voted for Option 5 that allows for 3 fluke at 19 inches, 3 fish, and a 125 day season.  So, at this point, New Jersey has opted to go out of compliance with ASMFC's regulations!  We will start our 2017 season on May 21st to September 25th with an 18 inch minimum size and 5 fish limit. To my knowledge, this has never been done before with fluke, but we are just sick and tired of having the minimum size bumped up to the point that people are losing their livelihoods because of lousy data that justifies it!  Enough is Enough! Remember in the movie (Network) when Peter Finch puts his head out the window and screams "I am mad as hell and I am not taking it anymore"!
 

  So, we are in uncharted waters now! What's going to happen next? I was very surprised to receive a letter recently that may have just the answer to that question.  This two-page letter dated February 28th with the letterhead "Congress of the United States Washington D.C." was sent to Wilbur Ross, the new Commerce Secretary in the Trump administration who was confirmed by the Senate on February 27th.The letter requests this Commerce Secretary to delay reductions or changes in summer flounder quotas until a new stock assessment can be completed and a new approach crafted. The Commerce Secretary oversees NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) that came up with the 19 -inch fluke regulation.  This letter points out the damaging effects that a 19 - inch fluke would have on our fishing and tourism industry.  The Trump administration is pro-business and it is our hope that Wilbur Ross will stop this destructive regulation from going into effect. This letter has the signatures of Rep. Chris Smith, Senator Cory Booker (JCAA-NJOA-RFA had a meeting with his Chief of Staff on January 12th to bring him and Booker on board to the 19 -inch issue), Rep. Tom MacArthur, Rep. Donald Norcross, Rep. Frank LoBiondo, Senator Robert Menendez, Rep. Frank Pallone, Rep. Bill Pascrell, Rep. Josh Gottheimer, Rep. Leonard Lance and Rep. Donald M. Payne.  Another letter dated February 28th by NJ DEP Commissioner Bob Martin representing the Christie administrating to Wilbur Ross asked him to suspend these new regulations since the data justifying them are so flawed.

 

  This is the first time I can ever remember New Jersey's legislators have come out swinging for us! Hopefully, it won't be the last time!  These are heavy hitters and we will see what our new Commerce Secretary has in mind about this 19 - inch fluke issue.
 

Fishing Management Issues - Sand Mining-by John Toth

 

     Background - Super Storm Sandy damaged/destroyed so much of our beaches and now coastal communities want sand to bring their beaches back to what they were pre-Sandy. Beach replenishment has been an ongoing process when storms periodically hit our beaches, but the beaches now need a lot of it because of Sandy. The Manasquan Inlet to Barnegat Inlet Coastal Storm Reduction Project calls for beach fill construction along the oceanfront between Point Pleasant Beach, and the northern boundary of Island Beach State Park. This project calls for using sand from offshore sources for 50 years! Project cost - $513.9 million!


    Where to Get the Sand Needed for this huge project? - The Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) has its present focus on the Manasquan Ridge which was formed perhaps hundreds/thousands of years ago (the last Ice Age?). This ridge is the home of numerous sand eels and other species that attract all types of fish that is targeted by both recreational and commercial fishing. In 2014, commercial fishermen netted $4.8 million worth of summer flounder on the wholesale market according to NOAA. The Manasquan Ridge is huge, about 1,700 acres or 1,500 football fields, and it has underwater sand hills that rise about 20 feet off the bottom. There are also a few shipwrecks and rock ledges on it. The Corps maintains that there are not many economically viable land sources of sand for the large quantities needed for these replenishment projects. This ridge's sand is also the right texture for the Corp's use. It has 38.6 million cubic yards of suitable beach fill material. The Corps would like to take sand from this ridge (and others) since it is a big pile of sand and makes their job easier to pick up this sand and the cost to do it less than looking for it elsewhere. Not all of the ocean floor has sand on it.


    Conflict - Fishermen have been weary with the Corps over this ridge and others nearby, which they depend upon to hold fish. They are still bitter over the Corps use of nearly half of the Harvey Cedar Lump for the Long Beach Island to Little Egg Harbor Inlet beach replenishment project. The coastal communities want this sand to restore their beaches, especially for the tourism industry. The Corps does not unilaterally act on its own to remove this sand, but acts on the direction provided by our NJ Department of Environmental Protection in concert with federal agencies like the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) since this ridge is in federal waters. The NJ DEP has given its approval for this project that may begin as early as next year. At this point, BOEM has not and it is waiting for the NJ DEP to submit a formal application to do so.


    What's Next? - In an effort to come up with some type of resolution to this conflict, a meeting was held in Trenton on July 28th with the Director of the NJ DEP, Bob Martin, and his staff. Representing commercial anglers was Jim Lovgren and Scot Mackey from the Garden State Seafood Association. Ken Warchal represented the Jersey Coast Anglers Association (JCAA). I represented the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance (NJOA) since I am its president and our club is also a member of NJOA. The above issues were discussed and the following is a quick snapshot of the major points that were raised:


     While it was not the intention of the NJ DEP to disrupt productive fishing areas, the fishing community should have been invited to review the DEP’s plans for sand removal before it began.
     Options other than taking sand from the Manasquan Ridge and others like it included - taking sand from areas where it is has been concentrating due to the normal washing away from the beaches (in the Wildwood area or other locations like it) or even from areas close to beaches that have unusual buildup from sand that washes away from the nearby shores - taking it from one of the ridges that is not that productive for fishing (lesser of two evils) - and taking sand that has been dredged from inlets and then usually dumped not far away them.
     The Corps will not stop doing beach replenishment due to the existing contracts that it has with the DEP. However, the NJ DEP staff will do a comprehensive review of alternate locations that sand can be taken from to lessen their impacts on our prime fishing areas. When this review is completed, the NJ DEP will invite us to another meeting to review their findings.
This meeting was constructive in that solutions were being offered to mitigate the problems created by beach replenishment. I will keep you updated as this sand mining issue unfolds.


Public Access Update - by John Toth


    Background - Senator Smith is working on a bill (S-919) that will incorporate language to provide better and definitive rules for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to manage public access to our beaches, parks, waterways and other facilities. Senator Smith wanted input from various stakeholders on what they wanted to include in this bill. Four separate meetings were held in Trenton with various stakeholders during Spring 2016 to develop language that he could use for his bill. These stakeholders included environmental, business and industry, municipalities, fishing organizations, NJ Chamber of Commerce, etc. Given the diverse background of these stakeholders, Senator Smith charged this task force to develop a list of what they agreed upon and what they disagreed upon and then give it to him for his review. I attended these meetings representing the JCAA and the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance (NJOA). These meetings at times became contentious with some stakeholders demanding almost unlimited access and others wanting limited to almost no access to our state's facilities.
    Conflict - In addition to the differences of opinions with the stakeholders at these meetings, the DEP sees Senator Smith's draft version of his bill as very problematic having a number of legal issues. For example, according to DEP's legal representative, Ray Cantor, this bill as currently written would allow anglers to traverse private properties to gain access to beaches and that would generate a lot of lawsuits.
    Public Comment - Senator Smith held a meeting in the Municipal Building in Toms River on August 18th to receive public comment on his proposed bill. (His bill has not been brought in the Senate or Assembly for a vote and it is still in draft form). At this public comment meeting, a number of people expressed comments such as: NJ Builders - bill does not respect constitutional rights of property owners, NJ Chamber of Commerce - wants more clarity in the bill and specificity on homeland security issues, Marine Trades Associations/marinas - does not want public access for security reasons. Ray Cantor testified at length on the legal problems that the DEP sees are inherent in this bill. Senator Smith, irritated at the length of his testimony, instructed him stop his testimony and to place all of DEP's problems/legal issues with his bill in writing and forward it to him.
    Next Step - Senator Smith, after receiving this public input and others like it, may make changes to his bill and then schedule it for a public hearing in Trenton at a future date in his position as Chairman of the Senate and Environmental Committee. Date unknown at the time of this writing.
    My Take of All of This - New Jersey is the most densely populated state in our country and there are so many competing interests in providing access to our beaches and other facilities. Take any New Jersey beach and there is limited space for parking purposes with so many people who want to park there, especially in the summer on any given date. In addition to this and other issues, many municipalities are not welcoming hosts to anglers who want to surf fish. At one of the four hearings I attended, I heard one municipal person, (name and town I do not wish to identify) say something to the effect " When the Sandy Hook Recreational Park closes because of capacity, all those beach goers come down to my town looking to be on OUR beach and that makes life miserable for us". In the way she said it, I visualized that these beach goers are like raiding Huns, Vikings, Visigoths or other tribes riding on horses with the purpose of pillaging and rape!
On one side, you have business/industry municipalities/marinas wanting limited to no access, and the other side environmental/fishing organizations wanting improved access or totally unimpeded access. While the Public Trust Document says that our citizens have a right to public access to our beaches and other facilities, the reality is that this is a very complicated issue and achieving compromise within the various groups trying to reach resolution on it seems very problematic to me. I think that it is going to take some time to iron out all of these differences and that there will be more meetings/hearings to arrive at a bill that reflects the access we are entitled to according to the Public Trust Document.
I have tried to give you just a quick snapshot of what is going on with public access and doing more would more than fill up this entire newsletter. As this public access issue moves forward, I will keep you updated on its progress.


 

Fishing Management Issues - By John Toth
Report on Making Sandy Hook Bay a Natural Marine Sanctuary

 

   On behalf of the Jersey Coast Anglers Association(JCAA) and the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance (NJOA), and our club, I attended a presentation given by Mr. Rik van Hemmen who is proposing to implement a Sandy Hook Bay Natural Marine Sanctuary. It would stretch roughly from Sandy Hook to the Earle Naval pier and to parts of the Navesink and the Schrewsbury rivers. This presentation was given at the Red Bank library at 7:00 p.m. on March 16th and it was attended by approximately 200-250 angry recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, oyster harvesters, clammers, and waterfowlers. Only about 60 could fit in the conference room and the rest waited outside the library. This turnout was due to the threat that this sanctuary would have on one of our most productive fishing grounds for both recreational and commercial anglers.

  Mr. Hemmen started his presentation by showing us a bunch of pictures of this area with boats and birds, but nothing concrete about WHY it should be a sanctuary. He did not stress any positive results we would expect to receive by having this sanctuary. He seems to love the area in question, but is oblivious to the repercussions that would result by having a sanctuary. In fact, Mr. Dan Ferrigno, a former and retired staff member of our NJ DEP with 30 years of experience, remarked that the sanctuaries we now have around our country (about 5 of them) all end up with tough restrictions on fishing, boating, jet skis and diminish the enjoyment people should receive by having them. Others in the audience voiced over and over again that this sanctuary status would lead to more fishing restrictions and that we do not need more regulations! Hemmen responded that he is not trying to impose these regulations, but he seemed oblivious to this major concern voiced by the audience.

  One person told him that he lives by the affected area and that the waters are cleaner than they have ever been and have more fish and that he did not see a need for this sanctuary, but Hemmen just blew off this remark. Building on this no need for a sanctuary, I remarked that "you obviously love the sanctuary concept to keep things the way they are for you, but YOU HAVE NOT MADE A CASE WHY WE SHOULD HAVE IT! He responded that "we will have more fish"! One person yelled out "do you have the data to prove it" and he said that he did not! His answer to me like the one he made earlier about a trash problem seems to be made up as he goes along with his presentation since he has no real answers to the important questions raised about his sanctuary proposal.

  My take on this sanctuary issue is that Hemmen does not understand the negative implications that a sanctuary has, but worse is that he is not accepting the comments that were mostly made by anglers in the room. The danger I see is that in spite of what was conveyed to him about restrictions, he will still go forward with this sanctuary and, of course, like- minded organizations may back him and this can gain traction to move it further.

  For this sanctuary to go to higher levels in our federal government it has to be first approved by our state government and that is our best hope to stop it. I will carefully track the sanctuary issue and keep you updated. We all need to stay on top of this important issue and all be united against it!



Support for Public Access to NJ Beaches and Waterways

We are lose our rights to access waterways?

Summer over but not beach access rules.

          Rule change hi light:

·         It takes effect Nov. 5,

·         individual towns to develop their own plans

·         change to access points every half mile. Under the old rules, it was every quarter mile

·         Towns can close existing access points

·         Access can be even an area where there is inadequate parking or lack of access to public restrooms

LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New Jerseyans have to put up with taxes, tolls, toxic waste and, occasionally, Snooki. So an occasional trip to the beach is all that keeps some folks here sane.

Now officials in the nation’s most densely populated state are rewriting public beach access rules that could make it easier for well-to-do towns to keep out-of-towners off their beaches — and a sandstorm is brewing.

The state says it had to act and give more local control over access after a court decision struck down more stringent rules that spelled out uniform standards for each shore town. The state feels it can accomplish more by working with shore towns and giving them flexibility rather than dictating a “one-size-fits-all” access policy to them.

But many beachgoers fear the new rules, if adopted, would reward the very people who have made it so hard for outsiders to reach the beach for decades.

Joe Woerner, an official with the Jersey Shore Surfrider Foundation, said he was handcuffed as a teenager 20 years ago as he came out of the ocean with his surfboard. He was taken to a police holding cell in Sea Girt. Crossing a hundred yards or so of sand without a beach badge.

“I was a 15-year-old boy arrested for using the ocean,” he said. “These are the kind of people who will be making our rules.”

 

http://www.hudsonriverwaterfront.org/oldsite/about.htm

Open-to-the-public-Could-Hudson-County-residents-lose-waterfront-access

nj.com/access+to+water+ways/

 

video - killing fish 24/7

current news/opinions/waterways

http://www.stripersonline.com/t/830178/latest-news-on-pots-off-the-reefs

http://www.onthewater.com/nj-pots-off-reef-bill/

 

Pots Off The Reef Update – By John Toth

   We have been trying to get the pots (traps) off the artificial reefs for almost seven (7) years by writing letters, contacting legislators, signing petitions and even demonstrating in front of Senator Van Drew and Assemblyman Albano’s office in Cape May on three weekends since they are responsible for holding up progress in getting the traps removed from the reefs. Our legislators are tired of this issue not being resolved and NJ’s DEP Commissioner Robert Martin, after meeting with representatives of the NJ Outdoor Alliance (NJOA), has offered a compromise solution to this issue. In a letter to Anthony Mauro, Chairman of the NJOA he proposed a number of agreements that include but are not limited to:

 

·Traps and fixed gear will be permitted at the two inshore reefs (Axel Carlson- (ACR) & Sandy Hook- SHR). The fixed gear areas will only permitted to not exceed 15% of the total existing size of the two reefs.

·A New Reef will be constructed, in the vicinity of the Manasquan and Shark River inlets, equal to or greater in area than the permitted zones of the two reefs – ACR & SHR).

·The new agreement may restore the reef program to satisfy the US Fish & Wildlife Service for the continuance of the reef program that was suspended due to the commercial dominance over these two reefs.

·There are a series of penalties if the commercial trappers do not follow established guidelines concerning the reefs leading to the suspension of their license to fish on these reefs.

·The NJ DEP will petition the MAMFC for Special Management Zone (SMZ) for the thirteen artificial reefs in federal waters that effectively ban commercial anglers from using them. There are two artificial reefs in NJ’s waters (ACR & SHR) and thirteen (13) in federal waters.

·There are downsides to this proposal that include commercial anglers not agreeing to the restrictions on them using only specific areas of the reefs, the enforcement affecting them and they likely will object to our receiving a new reef because it will interfere with their dragging operations.

 

  There are many more points covered in this agreement and it would take more than one page to list all of the issues covered in it. I just wanted to highlight a few of the major points covered in this agreement. The issue is should we agree with this proposal or stick with our position that all of the pots should be removed from the reefs? While I would like to have all of the pots removed, I wrote down all of the positive and negative points of this agreement (which is a good way to make a decision on any complex issue) and I presented these points to our members that this agreement should be pursued since the positive points outweigh the negative ones. A vote was taken by club members belonging to the NJOA and the majority of the clubs voted to pursue the compromise agreement offered by Commissioner Martin.  This was not a unanimous vote with the JCAA voting against it and the NJ Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs voting for it. There is pressure on the NJ DEP to come up with some type of compromise solution since the NJ DEP has to balance both the interests of the recreational and commercial anglers. This issue will not be determined overnight.  It has to be reviewed by the Federal DEP Commissioner (John Organ) to determine if the compromise proposal from Commissioner Martin meets federal guidelines concerning commercial usage of the reefs.  The entire issue will require back and forth discussion with the parties involved. The terms of this agreement may change and even more discussions will be needed to come up with agreement that can be pursued. I will keep you all informed of its outcome. We all have expended a lot of time and energy on this issue and, hopefully, we will see an outcome we can be satisfied with.

 

SALTWATER FISHING FREE FOREVER

saltwater-fishing-free-forever

 

New York Saltwater Fishing License Experience – By John Toth

 

   When I was president of our club during the mid1980’s, there was serious talk about instituting a saltwater fishing license and I was even interviewed by a reporter at that time from the Bergen Record about my thoughts of this issue. I told her that I was against it, but she erroneously reported in that paper that I was for it.  Consequently, I took a lot of heat over this erroneous reporting from many sources, including our members.

 

   Fast-forward to today and that debate about the saltwater fishing license is still alive.  However, a saltwater fishing license was instituted in New York a few years ago by anglers who were first enthusiastic about it and thought that the license would reap huge benefits for anglers.  Instead of using the funds from the license to construct more piers, ramps etc., for anglers, it did not take too long for New York’s politicians to look at this golden egg of revenue.   They got their greedy hands on it and used this revenue to apply to their general funds, most likely to plug some revenue shortfall or gimmick.  Consequently, NY anglers would get NO benefit from this license and they could look forward to paying more license fees or perhaps even a special license to catch blues like freshwater stamps to fish for different species.

New York anglers angered by this turn of events got legislation recently passed to eliminate NY’s saltwater fishing license during March of this year

 

  There are many strong positive and negative arguments about instituting a saltwater fishing license. The Administrator of New Jersey’s fisheries, Mr. Tom McCloy, was at one of our club meetings and used graphs to show us how much our state’s fisheries is underfunded compared to other states that are vying for the same fish quotas. More funding (through a license) for his Marine Fisheries Division would help our state to better maintain its fisheries. One of, and perhaps the most important points that has to be resolved, is that the funds raised by a saltwater fishing license cannot be used for a state’s general fund or for any other purpose other than to benefit recreational anglers!  This may sound easy to do, but it is not!  I have sat through a number of meetings concerning fishing legislative issues and I have repeatedly heard that no fund is safe from gimmickry by our legislators (from both parties).  Until this issue can be resolved, we do not want to repeat New York’s experience and debacle with a saltwater fishing license.

 


Support for Public Access to NJ Beaches and Waterways

Will we lose our rights to access waterways?

Reported in 2011 BY BILL SHEEHAN The Record

Captain Bill Sheehan is Riverkeeper and executive director of Riverkeeper Inc.

 

  To put it plainly, the New Waterfront Public Access Rules (“New Rules”) that were published by the Christie Administration April 4, 2011 will vastly reduce the ability of the citizens of New Jersey to avail themselves of the State’s beaches, shorefronts and riverwalks.

  Under the proposed New Rules, determination of the beachfront permitted for use by the general public will be determined, not by federal standards adopted by the state in 1973 but ultimately by the local shore municipalities. The NJ Department of Environmental Protection, the agency empowered to protect the access rights of the general public, will lose its ability to oppose those local decisions. Over the years there have been numerous attempts by various shore communities to bar the general public from their beaches. These New Rules will allow them to diminish public access as much as possible with little or no hope of being able to effectively challenge or overturn court decisions that favor local municipalities. The Christie Administration is saying to them, "Go to it."

  Even more importantly, the New Rules strip away the term “public trust” from every section of the present rules that refers to public usage. The reason for such a drastic move is that almost every court case brought in an attempt to override public access has been defeated because judges have consistently upheld the Public Trust Doctrine (“Doctrine”). This principle is based on a centuries-old Roman law, which requires the government to provide the public with use of the waterfront. It has appeared in NJ legal decisions from 1821 (Arnold vs. Mundy) to 2005 (Raleigh Ave. Beach Association vs. Atlantis Beach Club). The Doctrine has been a powerful tool in preserving the concept of public usage. Now, however, that these critical words “public trust” are removed from the New Rules, it will make it easier for courts to rule against the public interest and in favor of local municipalities. Altogether, the Christie Administration wants to reduce the power of the Doctrine as well as diminish the right of citizens to the access long guaranteed to their waterfront.

  Lastly, there is a popular saying about a baby and bath water, which means destroying everything for one less important cause. That is what the New Rules do. They are too sweeping in scope and unnecessarily destructive. There are other ways to change existing and long-standing rules. Rather than governing with a hammer why not try building something together. These New Rules do not do that and need to be withdrawn.

Hudson River Waterfront Conservancy of NJ, Inc.

 

http://www.hudsonriverwaterfront.org/oldsite/about.htm

 

Open-to-the-public-Could-Hudson-County-residents-lose-waterfront-access

 

nj.com/access+to+water+ways/

 

Report On NJ Angling, Hunting & Conservation Caucus

By John Toth

Our legislators have established a New Jersey Angling, Hunting and Conservation Caucus to hear firsthand the input of anglers and hunters about the issues that are important to them.  This caucus enables our legislators to help them understand these issues and ask questions about them so that they can possibly draft legislation or take action to improve fishing and hunting in New Jersey.  On June 6th, a caucus was held in NJ’s State House Annex.  The first order of business was to introduce legislators to the meeting’s attendees and they included:  Senate Democratic Chair, Donald D. Norcross, and Senators James W. Holzapfel and Christopher Bateman..  On the Assembly side, Alison Little McHose, Assembly Republican Chair, John J. Burzichelli, Assembly Democratic Chair and Caroline Casagrande.

 

The Issue: Member clubs of the New Jersey’s Outdoor Alliance (NJOA) and other fishing associations have identified the lack of funding for the Bureau of Marine Fisheries and its shrinking number of staff as a major problem making this Bureau increasingly unable to effectively manage our state’s fisheries despite its important multi-billion dollar industry for our state.  Without additional funding, New Jersey will also lose its competitive edge to other states that are well funded and staffed and they are always seeking to take more of our state’s fishing quotas from us.  This issue was requested to be on the agenda of the caucus by NJOA’s Legislative Liaison, Tom Connors, and this issue was the main focus for this caucus.

 

The first speaker was Brent Miller representing the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucus and he touched upon the economic importance of fishing and hunting in New Jersey to our state’s economy.  According to statistics compiled in 2011, 794,000 anglers and hunters (resident and non-resident) fished or hunted in New Jersey and spent more than $1.26 billion while doing it.  This spending supports 16,905 jobs and generates over $151 million in local and state taxes, including $176 million in federal taxes.

The second speaker was David Chanda, Director, NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife who told legislators of the increasing challenges he faces in trying to do more with less staff in managing our state’s fisheries.  His staff has to respond to the fishing management plans required by our federal management officials and he does not have enough staff to adequately respond to them.  For example, in the case of blackfish (tautog) his staff could not do the necessary research to support the position that our state’s stock of blackfish was healthy enough and did not need any reduction to its quota.  Consequently, our state had to have its blackfish season reduced even though this action was most likely unnecessary.  This same example applies to river herring, sharks and winter flounder.  The Bureau of Marine Fisheries has to respond to almost 20 federal management plans that require staff and time to do the stock assessments and technical research necessary to adequately respond to them.  Staff members who retire are not replaced.  We could possibly have better fishing in our state with possibly increased quotas for winter flounder or blackfish, but our Bureau of Marine Fisheries does not have the funding or staff to help us reach this goal.

 

The Bureau of Marine Fisheries receives $900,000 from state appropriations and with license fees and other sources of revenues it has a current budget of $4.1 million.  In contrast to New Jersey, other states like New Hampshire or Massachusetts have budgets in the $20 million range and even have twice the number of staff in comparison to our Bureau staff.

 

The third speaker was Chris Zeman, member of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery management Council, who made the very eloquent but pointed remark “lack of data means less fish”.  Chris indicated that our state needs better technical data to defend its stock assessment of its fisheries and our Bureau of Marine Fisheries does not have the resources to do it.  He told our legislators that each state is going after our quota for each fishery and it is a tough fight to defend our fishing quotas allocated by the federal management.  Chris represents our state in this constant battle with other states that have better funding and staff to define the status of their fisheries and to make a case to federal management officials that they should have some of our fishing quotas.  Data is necessary to defend what quotas we have and our state is having an increasing problem in handling this issue.  Chris said that our river herring season might have been unnecessarily closed recently because we did not have the necessary data to indicate to federal management that it should stay open. Chris asked for an additional $ 1.2 million of state funding for the Bureau with more funding over the years to follow.

 

Jersey Coast Anglers Association’s Legislative Chairman, Tom Fote, made the important point to legislators that in the 1980’s, the Bureau of Marine Fisheries had a budget of $3 million dollars. It should at least be funded to a level of up to $5 or $6 million to start with and increased each year thereafter.  We all know that our state has budget problems, but this is an important economic industry for our state and its importance should not be diminished due to the lack of funding by only several millions of dollars when it generates so much revenue for our state.  He also pointed out that our Marine Fisheries is not attending important technical committees that help to determine fishing stocks and other related matters due to lack of staff.  We need to be involved in these technical committees to keep abreast of the latest fishing issues or we will not be able to shape or respond to them due to our lack of participation.

 

The last speaker was Ed Markowski, President of NJOA’s Outdoor Alliance Projects, who made brief remarks about upcoming hunting legislation.  Ed commented that New Jersey’s hunting associations are very mad about the proposal to replace firearms identification cards with a driver’s license endorsement and it should not even be considered. 

 

Assemblywoman McHose pointed out to the legislators present that the Division of Fish & Wildlife is the only branch of NJ’s government that has to pay rent to the state for its facilities and for the benefits of its staff.

 

The legislators thanked all of us who attended this hearing and to the NJOA for organizing it.  They also indicated that they will use the information generated from this caucus in determining the next budget for the Bureau of Marine Fisheries.