Editor’s Log: Yin & Yang - The Fisherman

Editor’s Log: Yin & Yang

At their October meeting, the member states of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) elected Joseph Cimino of New Jersey to a two-year term as the commission Chair.  “I’m honored to be chosen by my fellow Commissioners to lead our efforts for the next two years,” Cimino said, adding “One of my priorities will be to work with my colleagues in the states and federal agencies to seek resources to fund fundamental fisheries data collection and science activities to support our management programs.”

Cimino directs the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (NJDEP) Marine Resources Administration, which includes the bureaus of marine fisheries and marine habitat and shellfisheries. He also represents NJDEP at various inter- and intra-state meetings, including the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council and the Delaware Bay and Atlantic Shellfisheries Councils, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, and the ASMFC (alongside the governor’s appointee and a legislator/legislative proxy).  Prior to taking a fulltime position in New Jersey in 2019, Cimino worked for the Commonwealth of Virginia from 2015-2018.

According to ASMFC’s press release, Cimino started his marine fisheries career as a seasonal technician for New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Hudson River Fisheries Unit; he then spent two years with North Carolina’s Division of Marine Fisheries. During a 14-year stint with the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, Cimino held various roles, including Deputy Chief of Fisheries.  Cimino has degrees from SUNY Cobleskill and Plattsburgh in Fisheries and Wildlife Technology and Environmental Science, respectively.

Interestingly enough, ASMFC members also elected Dan McKiernan, Director of Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, as Vice-chair.  “Newly elected Vice-chair Dan McKiernan and I will strive to emulate his success by working with our stakeholders, state, federal, and academic partners, Congress, and especially Bob Beal and the outstanding (ASMFC) staff to ensure Cooperative and Sustainable Management of Atlantic Coastal Fisheries is not just a vision statement but a reality,” Cimino added.

I say that’s “interesting” because of the two rather stark contrasts between Massachusetts and New Jersey in terms of one key ASMFC managed species, that being striped bass.  It was Massachusetts that led the emergency rule decision to tighten the slot on striped bass, and many folks believe that it’s the state of Massachusetts actively working to undermine New Jersey’s striped bass bonus program.  In fact, a buddy of mine who has been involved in fisheries management for over 20 years noted how he believes Massachusetts has shown a deep institutional bias against the Garden State when it comes to fisheries, so yes, this will be an interesting couple of years.

As I’ve noted many times, Massachusetts has a commercial striped bass quota of 700,379 pounds, and just about anyone with a pulse can buy a commercial permit to catch and kill 35-inch stripers in Mass waters.  New Jersey’s total unused commercial striped bass quota stands at just 215,912 pounds, and according to NJDEP data, New Jersey anglers in the bonus program used up just 17% of that available quota in 2022 (whereas Massachusetts filled their entire quota rather quickly this season).

In the official press release from the ASMFC, Cimino also said the two-year focus will include “how best to respond to the possible recalibration of recreational fishing effort and harvest data from the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) Fishing Effort Survey.”  Of course that’s the survey recently found to be alarmingly off in terms of actual effort by as much as 30 or 40% which ultimately led to the decision to tamp down striped bass limits.

Cimino has a lot of experience working with other state resource departments, and hopefully this elevation to the role of Chair can help put New Jersey’s recreational fishing community in a better position.  That said, I’m anxious to see how the yin and yang play out between Massachusetts and New Jersey in the next 2 years.

Stay tuned.

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