The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) meets in person this month for the first time since the start of the pandemic. The August 9-12 meeting is what MAFMC is calling “hybrid” with options for in-person and virtual attendance, meaning council members and the public can choose whether to participate in person at the Notary Hotel in Philadelphia, or via Webex webinar at MAFMC.org.
Having sat through numerous fisheries WebEx and Zoom meetings over the past year, the fact that decision-makers are meeting in person again should be of great benefit to the public. The highly impersonal aspect of online meetings has not been good for “stakeholders” during virtual discussion and debate; stakeholder being the term for those of us ultimately impacted by bureaucratic decisions. To put it another way, you know those keyboard heroes on social media who spew vicious and repugnant opinions without any fear of personal reprisal? In my opinion, that’s basically how “stakeholders” have often been treated through much of the virtual public process.
One of eight regional fishery management councils created when Congress passed the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976, MAFMC is ultimately responsible for managing Atlantic fisheries within the federal 200-mile limit off New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. The council is made up of 21 voting members and four non-voting members, and unlike at the state marine fisheries council or Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, appointed MAFMC members are paid roughly $450 for the work.
While many anglers don’t like mixing politics with fishing, understand that decisions related to size, season and bag limits for fisheries like fluke and sea bass are ultimately made by council members who are first nominated by their respective governors, and then appointed by the U.S. Department of Commerce to serve three-year terms. On August 11, new and reappointed members will be sworn in at the MAFMC, and a new election of council chair and vice-chair will take place.
The good news in New Jersey is that Capt. Adam Nowalsky is being reappointed to his third council term. In a group press release from leading angling groups including Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) and the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), Nowalsky was praised for his “exceptional understanding and expertise of the science and legal framework” while working to assess and manage New Jersey’s most important fisheries. “He has proven himself to be committed to striking an important balance between sound conservation and the needs of the fishing community,” the release stated.
RFA executive director Jim Donofrio (see News Briefs) said he was generally pleased to see greater recreational fishing representation at the regional councils. “Those selected include dedicated people who have the on-the-water experience and a deep understanding of our sport which is greatly needed in the council process,” Donofrio said.
ASA president Glenn Hughes said he’s looking forward to working with newly appointed council members to advance coastal conservation and recreational fishing opportunities. “The regional fishery management councils are where the rubber meets the road for federal marine fisheries management, so it’s critically important that the recreational fishing community be well represented,” Hughes added.
I’ve known Capt. Adam for close to 20 years, and I don’t know that there’s ever been a more knowledgeable representative at the Mid-Atlantic council. His professional grasp of the regulatory process and understanding of science and data, coupled with a faithfulness to the angling public, is pretty much incomparable at the council level.
Has he had a few critics along the way? Sure, but mostly from folks in other states! To paraphrase a couple of famous quotes, those without enemies and critics probably aren’t doing very much, and they probably never stood up for anything. The only bad news is that this is Adam’s third and final term. Who’s ready to take the next stand?