The final meeting of the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council (NJMFC) for 2022 was held on November 3 at the Stafford Township Municipal Building in Manahawkin. There were roughly 75 seats in the hearing room, just one of which was filled by a member of the public; that would be me. Thanks in part to the pandemic, NJMFC now runs a hybrid meeting – the physical part where the public can attend in person, and an online stream for folks to participate at home. In addition to my physical attendance, there were another 11 people attending virtually. “At least two who are actual public,” said Jeffrey Brust, the chief at the Bureau of Marine Fisheries.
For all intents and purposes, there really wasn’t much to see here. The next meeting in January may scratch the surface on new regulations for 2023, but it’s typically the March meeting that’s “all hands on deck” for hashing out fluke season, size and bag. I’ll remind you about that when the time comes, in print as well as in my weekly video forecast at TheFisherman.com.
I did learn that the March meeting will probably take place in Toms River to better address concerns between anglers from north to south. If you take a map of the Garden State, fold it in half from High Point to the tip of Cape May, you’ll find Toms River is essentially the half-way point along the coast making it a pretty fair middle of the road location for meetings. Of course, if you were to just fold a coastal map from Sandy Hook to Cape May, the closest Parkway exit would be #63, which is probably why many NJMFC meetings take place in Manahawkin.
NJMFC is still missing two appointees, one member of the angling public and another “at large” delegate. It’s been like that for 2 years now. “I have been informed that we have five applicants for the two seats,” Brust said on November 3, adding “Two or three of the names I know, two or three of them I’m unfamiliar with.” After a quick online search, Brust determined that they probably would all qualify for the open recreational seat. “I’m not sure we have anyone for the at large seat,” Brust said.
According to NJMFC administrative guidelines the nine Governor-appointed members include four members representing interests of sports fishermen, two active commercial fin-fishermen, one active fish processor, and two members representing the general public. The three “sportsfishing” reps on council now include Pat Donnelly of Ocean County, along with captains Bob Rush and Dick Herb, both of Cape May County. Dr. Eleanor Bochenek of Cape May County, the recently retired Director of the Fisheries Cooperative Center of the Haskin Shellfish Laboratory at Rutgers University, sits in one of the two “general public” seats.
“At least we have applications, for at least one of the seats,” Brust said of those missing appointments, adding “but when the decision is made is well out of my hands.”
Also announced officially on November 3 was that state Senator Vin Gopal was (finally) appointed to serve as legislative representative for New Jersey at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). Sen. Gopal, whose 11th legislative district runs the coast from Long Branch to Ocean Grove, tabbed Capt. Adam Nowalsky to serve as his proxy to the ASMFC, just in time for the commission’s annual meeting held in Long Branch. This of course is good news for fans of Gov. Phil Murphy who’ve grown tired of my frequent criticism of our head of state for his failure to properly address these public appointments in a timely, efficient manner. But that’s just one down and another two to go; as Brust inferred, it’s in the governor’s “hands” now.
With that, I wish you all a very merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, and a blessed New Year!