Gimme Back My Humpbacks - The Fisherman

Gimme Back My Humpbacks

The New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council (Council) meets on Thursday, July 13 at 4 p.m. at the Galloway Township Branch of the Atlantic County Library at 306 East Jimmie Leeds Road in Galloway, NJ, just off Parkway exit 41.

Anglers should keep in mind that most staffers at the Bureau of Marine Fisheries (Bureau) who manage marine fisheries in the state are based out of the Nacote Creek facility in Port Republic, 7 miles from the Galloway library. Of course, the volunteer appointees to the 11-member Council (four representing the sportfishing community, three for commercial and processing interests, two from the shellfish council, and another two members of the public at-large) come from all over the state and may also have to give up work themselves to get to the meetings. And no, they aren’t paid as Council members.

No matter where and when these fisheries meetings are scheduled, the timing and location will surely crimp someone’s schedule. But consider the responsibility of protecting and conserving 127 miles of Atlantic coast from the point at Cape May to the tip of Sandy Hook; Cape May is mile marker “0” on the Garden State Parkway, Sayreville and the Raritan are at “127” which puts Exit 63, Manahawkin/LBI practically smack dab in the middle. While the July meeting of the Council is 22 miles south of that, there are two or three meetings a year held in Manahawkin.

The point is that there are plenty of rational reasons why Council meetings are coordinated where, why and how they are; and in terms of the public’s ability to attend these hearings when there’s something important to stand up for, we should all try to figure out a way to make it. This month’s meeting may be one of those important ones.

The most recent black sea bass stock assessment conducted by NOAA Fisheries found the stock to be 230 times rebuilt over target and fully recovered, which should result in an increase in the 2017 recreational harvest limits. However, when the final MRIP survey data came out for 2016, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) revised their earlier, more optimistic decision, and now wants New Jersey to take a 17.5 percent reduction over last year.

Why the revision? The Massachusetts delegation at ASMFC is mad at New York for hitting the inshore black sea bass grounds hard last November and December; if you believe MRIP data, New Yorkers landed 88 percent of the entire recreational landings for 2016 across the whole region. So yeah, this is kind of like when NY, NJ and CT got crammed into regional fluke management; the regional black sea bass management ain’t necessarily working fairly either.

Which brings us to the July 13th meeting in Galloway. Last winter, Council made a bold stance telling NOAA Fisheries and ASFMC “enough is enough” with regard to fluke. Specifically, Council voted to fire a warning shot across the ASMFC bow by going against all fluke options presented to the public. With support from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and Governor Christie himself, the payload was delivered with swiftness and resolve; the deafening opposition was such that NOAA Fisheries and the Commerce Department took notice and thus far have not responded to ASMFC calls for “non-compliance.”

ASFMC wants punitive measures on black sea bass leveled against the northern region – which includes New Jersey – with a five fish bag limit in November and no option to reopen the sea bass season in September once fluke closes on September 5. All anglers who fish New Jersey should consider stepping up to support the Council, NJDEP and Governor Christie while asking leaders to remind ASFMC’s punitive bureaucracy that “enough is enough.”

Ask the boss for a little comp time, and let’s pack that library with a unified message from the Raritan Bay to the Delaware on July 13; we want a reasonable and responsible sea bass fishery back – a 15-fish bag, 12-1/2-inch size, a September opening, and no more punitive political games at fishermen’s expense!

Council already took a stand this year on summer flounder – maybe they’ll do it again this month for black sea bass too!

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