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Bluefish quota reallocation takes center stage in coastwide public hearings, with Delaware set for June 21, New York on June 26 and a pair of hearings in New Jersey on June 27 and 28.

By Jim Hutchinson, Jr.  |  June 10, 2018
ASMFC and MAFMC are holding a series of public hearings in coastal states to discuss changes to the fishery management plan for bluefish, with commercial and recreational allocation of quota taking center stage.

The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (Commission) are initiating development of an amendment to the Bluefish Fishery Management Plan (FMP).

The amendment is to review and possibly revise the allocation between commercial and recreational fisheries, fishery management plan goals and objectives, commercial allocations among states, and commercial quota transfer process.

Hearings will be held June 20 through July 16 in nine coastal states from Massachusetts to Florida. The last four hearings will be joint hearings of the Council and Commission. All comments, submitted either through public hearings or in writing, will be presented to the Council and Commission. Written comments will be accepted until July 30, 2018.

The amendment will involve a comprehensive review of the Bluefish Fishery Management Plan’s (FMP) sector-based allocations, commercial allocations to the states, transfer processes, and goals and objectives. Specifically, the Council and Commission will consider whether modifications to the FMP’s goals, objectives, and allocation strategies for bluefish are needed.

The Council and Commission need public input both to identify management issues and to develop effective alternatives. Comments, especially those submitted early in the amendment process, will help them address issues of public concern in a thorough and appropriate manner. Anglers, particularly fishing clubs and angling organizations, are s encouraged to submit comments regarding the range of potential issues to be addressed in the amendment.

For complete details, see the Public Information Document.

"We need to show up in force especially with the poor bluefish fishing in New Jersey,” said Tom Fote of the Jersey Coast Anglers Association (JCCA). In a recent JCAA newsletter, Fote called the plan to reallocate bluefish away from the recreational sector an “outrageous move by the Council and the Commission,” and said he was shocked to hear it come up in joint meetings of the two fishery management bodies.

“This proposed change to the bluefish management plan would reward the recreational community for their conservation by catch and release and their allowance for the transfer of the unused recreational quota to the commercial community by reallocating the recreational quota to the commercial fishermen,” Fote said. “I could not believe that anyone would suggest this.”

Two public hearings are scheduled in New Jersey later this month on June 27 and 28, with one scheduled in Delaware on June 21 and another in New York on June 26.

June 21 at 6 p.m.
DNREC Auditorium
89 Kings Highway
Dover, Delaware
Contact: John Clark, 302-739-9914

June 26 at 6:30 p.m.
NYSDEC Division of Marine Resources
205 North Belle Mead Road, Suite 1
East Setauket, New York
Contact: Maureen Davidson, 631-444-0483

June 27 at 6 p.m.
Ocean City Library
1735 Simpson Avenue
Ocean City, NJ
Contact: Mike Celestino, 609.748.2040

June 28 at 6 p.m.
6:00 - 8:00 pm
Ocean County Administration Building
101 Hooper Avenue
Toms River, NJ
Contact: Mike Celestino, 609.748.2040

This is the first and best opportunity for members of the public to raise concerns related to the scope of issues that will be considered in the amendment. The public is encouraged to submit comments on the issues listed below as well as any other issues that should be addressed in the amendment.

Are the existing objectives appropriate for managing the bluefish fishery?
o If not, what should the goals and objectives be?
o What else should the Council and Commission consider with regard to goals and objectives in the bluefish fishery management plan?
Is the existing allocation between the commercial and recreational sectors based on the annual ACL appropriate for managing the bluefish fishery?
o If not, how should the current allocations be revised?
o What else should Council and Commission consider regarding allocation between rec and commercial fisheries?
Are the existing commercial state allocations appropriate for managing the bluefish fishery?
o If not, how should current measures and requirements be revised?
o What else should the Council and Commission consider with regard to commercial state allocations for bluefish?
o Are the existing transfer processes appropriate for managing the bluefish fishery?
o If not, what are appropriate requirements for managing the transfers within the commercial fishery?
o When and why do state transfers occur?
o What else should the Council and Commission consider with regard to quota transfers in the bluefish fishery?
Are there other management issues or considerations that should be considered as part of this amendment process?
o Have there been changes in fishery productivity?
o Ecosystem considerations?
o Changes in the fishery or fisheries?
o Changes in the distribution of bait fish?
o Changes in average fish size or weight?
o Changes in availability, effort, and/or marketability?
o Impact of changes observed over time?

In addition, written comments may be submitted by any of the following methods when the comment period opens:

1. Online at www.mafmc.org/actions/bluefish-allocation-amendment
2. E-mail to the following address: mseeley@mafmc.org
3. Mail or Fax to either:
Chris Moore, Ph.D., Executive Director
Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council
North State Street, Suite 201
Dover, DE 19901
FAX: 302.674.5399

Bob Beal, Executive Director
Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission
1050 North Highland Street, Suite 200A-N
Arlington, VA 22201
FAX: 703.842.0741

Learn More: The Scoping Document contains background information on bluefish management and on issues that may be addressed in the amendment, as well as a description of the amendment process and timeline. Additional information and updates available online.