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SEEKING ESSENTIAL STATUS FOR NJ ANGLERS

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy issued an executive order on March 21 closing down non-essential retail operations in the state to help stem the spread of Coronavirus, prompting a request from the Recreational Fishing Alliance for a fishing exemption.
By Jim Hutchinson  |  March 24, 2020
SEEKING ESSENTIAL STATUS FOR NJ ANGLERS
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (left) and State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick J. Callahan participate in a video conference on March 19 with President Donald J. Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and various White House officials regarding COVID-19.

On Saturday, March 21, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy issued Executive Order No. 107 directing all residents to stay at home until further notice, while providing certain exceptions like obtaining essential goods or services, seeking medical attentions, visiting family or close friends, reporting to work, or engaging in outdoor activities. Governor Murphy’s executive order aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-10 also ordered the closing of all non-essential retail businesses as of Saturday night.

The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) responded on Monday by way of an official waiver request to Col. Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of New Jersey State Police (NJSP), seeking essential status designation for New Jersey’s recreational fishing industry during the crisis. Signed by RFA executive director Jim Donofrio, the letter to Col. Callahan seeks the Superintendent’s consideration of “those in the recreational fishing industry, bait and tackle shops and licensed for-hire operators catering to legal, sustainable harvest of seafood for personal consumption” as essential retail operations, so long as those businesses take precautions for the health and safety of both workers and customers.

There was no immediate response from the State of New Jersey or the NJSP as of Tuesday morning, but The Fisherman Magazine will stay on top of the RFA effort on behalf of the recreational fishing industry in New Jersey, and efforts to help anglers continue fishing safely and sustainably through the COVID-19 crisis.

The RFA letter to Col. Callahan is as follows.

In the final interpretative breakdown of Governor Murphy’s Executive Order No. 107 Issued on Saturday, March 21, 2020, it states where “Manufacturing, industrial, logistics, ports, heavy construction, shipping, food production, food delivery, and other commercial operations may continue operating, but as explained above, they should limit staff on site to the minimal number to ensure that essential operations can continue.”

As the governor has deemed commercial fishing an essential business by way of “food production, food delivery and other commercial operations,” it is formerly requested that the recreational fishing industry by way of retail bait and tackle shops and licensed for-hire operators also be allowed to operate during the COVID-19 crisis. Essential fishing equipment like bait, tackle, waders, foul weather gear and the like are often purchased by existing “essential” business and municipalities in New Jersey by way of local bait and tackle shops, which operate as all-purpose outfitters in most shore communities. For those making a living at most Jersey Shore towns, the local tackle shop is an essential operation.

The U.S. Department of Commerce through its National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) adheres to a federal policy pertaining to non-commercial activities of fishermen who fish for sport or pleasure, as set out in the Magnuson Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act’s definition of recreational fishing, whether retaining for personal consumption or releasing their catches, as well as the businesses and industries (e.g., the for-hire fleets, bait and tackle businesses, tournaments) which support them. Under this federal definition of recreational fishing, it is critical during the COVID-19 crisis in New Jersey to consider how recreational fishing businesses in New Jersey are essential to serving those who fish for subsistence, or those supplementing family diet with fresh, sustainably harvested New Jersey seafood.

A caveat in the Governor’s edict reads “If you believe that your retail business or operations are unique and should be included as "essential," you may submit it to the State Director of Emergency Management, who is the Superintendent of State Police. Recognizing how the Director as having the discretion to make additions, amendments, clarifications, exceptions, and exclusions to these lists, we humbly respect that an allowance be made for those retail businesses serving New Jersey’s fishing industry and recreational fishermen. Many of these bait and tackle shops in particular can operate with few staff in places, taking orders by phone and leaving necessary bait or tackle product curbside for pickup. Thus, similar to what is already contained in Executive Order No. 107 in reference to “Manufacturing, industrial, logistics, ports, heavy construction, shipping, food production, food delivery, and other commercial operations,” we formally request something along the following be considered for these unique New Jersey businesses.

Allow for “those in the recreational fishing industry, bait and tackle shops and licensed for-hire operators catering to legal, sustainable harvest of seafood for personal consumption may continue operating, but as explained above, they should limit staff on site to the minimal number to ensure that essential operations can continue.”

Thus far, there has been no response from the State of New Jersey regarding the above request in italics.