A New Year has arrived, and with it has come another12 months of regulatory controls, concerns and virtual community workshops.
It would appear from the recent meetings of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) that summer flounder, black sea bass and porgy regulations will not be changing in 2021; whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is open to interpretation.
Same can be said about striped bass, where a year after all the public hearings and management decisions were finalized it seems one aspect of the new regulations is taking a few anglers by surprise. Just before Christmas, the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife (NJDFW) made it official by announcing the following:
“Effective January 1, 2021, non-offset (inline) circle hooks must be used when fishing for striped bass with natural bait in all waters.”
As part of the regulatory controls implemented coastwide at the ASMFC, the new gear restriction for all coastal anglers as of 2021 is intended to reduce the mortality rate on striped bass. According to regulators, it is estimated that 9% of released striped bass die as a result of release mortality; when applying the 2019 effort and participation estimates, 30.92 million stripers were caught by anglers coastwide that year, with 2.15 million were kept for the table, and 28.77 million stripers released. When applying the 9% mortality rate on those released fish it equates to 2.59 million dead striped bass, what the NJDFW describes as “nearly 50% of total striped bass removals are from fish that die as a result of being caught and released.”
Speaking of regulators, the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council (Council) is slated to meet at 5 p.m. this Thursday, January 7 via webinar. A volunteer group, the Council is responsible for advising the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on various issues and management programs related to marine fishery resources. Anglers planning to attend (perhaps those who’d like to chime in on the circle hook regulations) need to visit the NJDFW website at www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/mcnclmtg.htm to register to join Thursday’s Zoom webinar. For additional questions call the NJDFW’s Marine Fisheries Administration at 609-292-7794.
Be sure to register to fish the marine waters in New Jersey for 2021; an updated saltwater registration is required to fish coastal waters every year. Visit saltwaterregistry.nj.gov and to register for free! For a rundown on all the license and registration needs on a state-by-state basis including links for fishing legally in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New York in 2021 go to www.thefisherman.com/legalize-it-2021-fishing-license-time/
In an ordinary year, this first full week of January would mark the start of the new winter show season in the tri-state region with the annual Garden State Outdoor Sports Show in Edison. Regrettably, the continuing COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the show’s cancellation in 2021, though the 2022 date of January 6-9 has already been set by the show promoters for next year. The expected cancellation of many regional outdoor events in 2021 is especially hard on recreational fishermen who enjoy sitting in on the numerous fishing seminars and workshops where folks share their experiences and tactics.
The Fisherman Magazine is hosting the first in a series of live “virtual” seminars during the winter of 2021 on Tuesday, January 5 with Capt. John Paduano who will discuss his unique style of “snap jigging” using spin tackle, a highly effective technique for targeting fluke, weakfish and striped bass in particular. A live presentation with “Q&A” participation from the audience, the ongoing Master Angler Webinar Series this winter should help take the edge off the pandemic restrictions a touch to start the year.
And finally, from the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” department comes news of a pair of offshore wind meetings in January dedicated to recreational fishermen. While the first couple of years’ worth of meetings with the offshore wind developers from the Danish firm Ørsted left many credible concerns by fishermen unanswered or simply ignored, another wind developer, Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind, has tabbed a respected member of the recreational fishing community to work with the community to discuss the offshore venture and ways to address angler concerns.
“Atlantic Shores is committed to coexistence with all users of this shared ocean space, including commercial and recreational fisheries,” the company said in a recent press release while announcing that it has employed a Fisheries Liaison Officer and Fisheries Representative for all phases of development (planning, construction, operation, and eventual decommissioning). “As part of our development efforts, we have brought on for-hire vessel operator Captain Adam Nowalsky as the Recreational Fisheries Industry Representative to assist in gathering feedback and input from recreational fishermen in New Jersey,” the release noted.
Personally, I’ve made no secret as to my concerns with these offshore wind projects – from angler access to the environmental impacts from electromagnetic fields on flounder migrations – but the fact that Atlantic Shores has actually asked a longtime working member of the recreational fishing community to assist in the communication process with saltwater anglers is a positive departure from Ørsted’s methods of soliciting feedback in a vacuum.
On Wednesday January 13, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Atlantic Shores will host their first meeting with the angling public, an Introduction to Atlantic Shores and the state’s offshore wind goals will include an introduction to Atlantic Shores, the new Recreational Fisheries Representative, and general information regarding development of the OCS-A 0499 Lease Area which is located approximately 9 to 20 miles off the New Jersey coast, between Barnegat Light and Atlantic City and encompasses approximately 183,000 acres.
Topics for our first meeting include:
- State goals and information on offshore wind
- Lease area overview
- Role of Fisheries Rep & Fisheries Liaison
- Fisheries Communication Plan overview
- Schedule: Development Construction, Operations
- Current and planned survey work
A second, follow-up meeting is tentatively scheduled for January 20, 2021 as a workshop discussion that features areas of interest within the Atlantic Shores Lease Area identified by members of the recreational fishing community to date. The subject matter for this meeting will be based on feedback received during the Introductory Session held on January 13th. Both meetings will take place via an online format. Find more information about Atlantic Shores at www.atlanticshoreswind.com.
For questions about either event, contact Doug Copeland at Doug.Copeland@edf-re.com or Capt. Adam Nowalsky at 609-618-0366.