Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Fri. March 25, 2011:
Spent the first half of the days working with a young crew of independent moviemakers. They're doing an education video on
Holgate. Stu D. helped me out, as the crew out of Philly interviewed and videoed adjacent to the worst erosion area, where the Osprey Nest used to be. By the by, the area is worse than ever, as the refuge gets ready to shut down the south end next week. Obviously, nothing will be done any time soon to lessen the disappearance of the area.
My thinking: I sure don't see how it benefits the wildlife to have the area erode away to nothing. Yet, by Wildnerness Act
mandates, there can be no heavy equipment on the property owned by the refuge, namely above mean high tide. Interestingly,
mean high tide is now coming close to literally crossing over Holgate, meaning the property owned by the refuge is being broken into parcels. The zone around the former Osprey Nest is so over-washed, extending all the way to the bay, I question the integrity of the refuge signage keeping pedestrains from crossing over to the bayside meadows. I'm not looking to debate the point, I'm just noting how complex it's getting -- and sure to worsen to the point of decision-making time by the state, i.e. when the beach has disappeared so throughly that it essentially reverts back to state ownership, via the state constitutional mandates regarding public access to riparian areas.
I'm not writing this to re-ignite previous debate issues. Truth be told, the next time I go full Monty over the South End will be
when things are so bad down there that it's obvious to one and all that the refuge, as owners, must be made to address its
stewardship of the Wilderness Area. I'd venture to say this is the only Wilderness Area in the country that is actually going to
disappear right under the Refuge System's eyes. Admittedly, it's not even remotely the refuge's fault. However, there is a point
where the state -- and possibly even the feds -- must literally end the eroison. We have the technology. Whether or not enough
Holgate fans are out there to force someone's (anyone's) hand, remains to be seen -- and likely will be within the next few years.
Anyway, the videomakers got some footage today, by shooting from the wet sand beach. Still, the refuge claimed that's not
permitted without written OK from refuge authorities. I might question that, based on public domain laws. We were surely on
state property. If you can't even shoot from outside the refuge inward, now we're talking some very weird interpretations of the
Wilderness Act. I fully understand such restrictions applying to any footage taken while actually going onto refuge property. I just hope this isn't, once again, that same old nonsense that the refuge can also control usgaes of adjacent land they don't own. There are, indeed, some very limited cases where that applies. Setting up a gunning range on proerty next to the Wilderness Area? That's not happenin'. But claiming that videoing the area in the background while cameras are positioned on public land? I don't care if the footage is used for profit -- it's not, in this case -- just try to tell, say, some director, "You can't aim your cameras anywhere near that tiny piece of land called Holgate or you've violated the Wilderness Act."
Pots Off Reefs Update
March 27, 2011 - New Jersey legislation which would prohibit the use of fixed gear within 100 feet of artificial reefs created by
the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and their Division of Fish and Wildlife (Division) has successfully
moved out of the Senate in a vote of 31-4. The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) has supported "Pots Off Reef" legislation
since originally introduced back in 2007, and continues to support those legislative efforts to protect the access rights of
recreational anglers along New Jersey's artificial reef complex.
"We support getting the pots off the artificial reefs, we've never wavered in that view," said RFA executive director, Jim
Donofrio, who explained that submerged trap lines and high fliers have adversely impacted access for all users. "This is definitely
an access issue, and on that point the RFA supports both the senate bill (S221) and the assembly companion (A1152), as we
always have," he said.
While RFA says the legislation would effectively eliminate gear conflicts on the state's artificial reefs and help improve
recreational access, the organization has also warned of a bigger conservation issue that needs to be addressed. Since 2006, RFA has been bringing attention to the unmanaged commercial pot/trap fishery that has existed in New Jersey for many years, an issue they claim impacts not only the fishermen but the fish themselves.
"What we really want to know is just how many traps are out there to begin with, and that's an answer we're not getting,"
Donofrio said. "Other groups now starting to get involved in state fisheries are unaware of the history as it relates to species like blackfish and sea bass, and they've been quick to blame legislators when the state has had the power for many years to pass regulations consistent with the New Jersey Reef Plan that would prohibit all pots and traps from the reefs."
RFA believes that in addition to angler access, unaccounted fish traps present a serious conservation issue that must be also
addressed, something Donofrio says "we've been requesting since long before these reef bills were introduced." In March of
2006, he sent an official welcome letter to then-incoming Division Director Dave Chanda, in which RFA brought attention to
problems with the tautog (blackfish) stock along the coast.
"Discussions with NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife have indicated that the state does not have the adequate information to
separate the percentage of blackfish directed fishing effort from all fish pot license holders," Donofrio wrote in 2006. "We
encourage the state to determine the current number of legitimate pot fishermen targeting blackfish and the number of pots being fished. From this information, pot tags can be issued to ensure that all gear is removed during closures."
"Furthermore, we urge the state to require removal of all pots and enforce a no-sale/no-possession provision from June 1 through November 14. This will allow law enforcement to determine illegal points of sale such as restaurants and markets," he added.
RFA says the illegal and unreported landings and sale of tautog have been a persistent problem and perhaps the biggest driver of the stock's decline over the years, and the group has encouraged coastal states to address the seriousness of the issue with
increased enforcement to address poaching issues and a stronger management state-by-state management plan to address fish
pots and traps.
RFA's 2006 letter to division director Chanda also set a June 1, 2006 cutoff date for the state to initiate response or action, at
which time Donofrio said "we will pursue stronger measures through the legislature." RFA is continuing to work with key coastal legislators on drafting language which will address both access and conservation issues related to coastal fisheries management in New Jersey, and they're hoping that more tie-in from the coastal community can help put
"Every angler in New Jersey realizes that the current legislation does not have the support of New Jersey's commercial fishing
community, which is why this pots bill has become such a political football in Trenton," said RFA-NJ chapter chairman, Adam
Nowalsky. "Obviously, the commercial and recreational sector is not in agreement on getting pots off the reef, but the point we do all agree on is that the accountability issue with undocumented fish traps soaking in our coastal waters 365 days a year." An
Atlantic County resident and charter boat captain, Nowalsky is also legislative proxy for New Jersey at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC).
According to Capt. Tony Bogan of the United Boatmen, the access and conservation issues surrounding New Jersey's pot
management problem have been debated for years. "We've been pushing this issue at the state level for over a decade and have made countless recommendations on how to address the seriousness of the live market problem," he said. Bogan, who also represented the state of New Jersey as representative at the Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council from 2003-2006, said the simple act of removing pots from the state reefs is part of a much bigger state issue.
"We have no idea how many pots are out there, but instead of addressing the serious management problem, individuals are
allowing state legislators to battle over a bill that will essentially just spread illegal pots out over a bigger area," Bogan said.
"Moving conflict from one place to another will not address the most serious fisheries issue we have on our reef fish."
RFA continues to support efforts to get all fixed gear off New Jersey's artificial reef complex, both along inshore state waters and outside the 3-mile limit in federal waters, but without a true management plan to follow, RFA believes the current legislation is mostly symbolic. "A simple executive order from the Governor can get those pots off the reef next week, and when you look at the final reef program, the DEP has the legal means to comply," Donofrio said.
"We've done our due diligence on this legislation, and RFA is going to have to ask our legislators for more help in dealing with both access and conservation issues along the coast," Donofrio said.
NEW YORK'S SALTWATER LICENSE TO BE REPEALED
User Fee Will Be Gone in 180 Days - Replaced By Free Registry
New York's saltwater fishing license is being repealed!
According to the Associated Press, New York lawmakers and the Cuomo administration have just reached an agreement to end the state's $10 annual saltwater fishing license and replace it with a free registry for the state's coastal waters. Legislators announcing the change yesterday say it will cover two years.
The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) received a "high priority" email sent through DEC channels yesterday afternoon regarding the license repeal, noting that budget discussions between Governor Cuomo and the New York state legislature helped facilitate the repeal effort, which is said will take place in the next 180 days.
Last Tuesday, March 15th, a Senate Budget Resolution calling for the repeal of the MTA Payroll Tax for public and private schools, as well as full repeal of the saltwater fishing license was passed in the New York Senate. "I made clear from the beginning of the Budget process that I would not support any new taxes or fees," Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said last week.
Sen. Zeldin, a Long Island saltwater angler, last month introduced legislation in the New York Senate (S3638) which would amend the environmental conservation law in relation to establishing a registration system for saltwater recreational fishing, essentially repealing that part which mandates that a fee to fish be levied on saltwater anglers. Under the Senate Budget Resolution passed last week, the saltwater fishing license and fee would end with the expiration of the current 2011 license.
On Friday, March 18th, a fax campaign was initiated by the RFA and the New York Sportfishing Federation to help garner support from Assemblyman Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst) as chairman of the New York Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee. According to the Associated Press, Stephen Liss, counsel to Assemblyman Sweeney, said a three-way deal was worked out this past Tuesday night which will be included in the upcoming budget.
The Associated Press reports that an administration official confirmed the agreement, which still must be ratified in the State Budget, which is expected to be approved by April 1.
Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. (I-Sag Harbor), who vehemently opposed the license requirement two years ago, had sponsored legislation ever since to repeal the requirement, including legislation in the current session with Sen. Zeldin (A6169). Thiele also supported litigation by the Southampton and East Hampton Trustees with five other Long Island Towns which successfully obtained an injunction against the law in the seven Long Island towns. In a release issued yesterday, Thiele said New York's license law will be transformed into a registration requirement to meet federal law, and noted that this week's agreement also provides that the registration will be guaranteed to be free for the next two years. In addition, those who purchased lifetime licenses will be granted a refund minus the fee for the past year.
"The idea of a saltwater fishing license was ill-conceived from the outset. Not only was it a tax on one of the fundamental rights that Long Island residents have had since colonial times, but it was a burden to the recreational fishing industry at a time when the recession was taking its toll on the local economy. This action will send a message that the State recognizes that the right to fish should be free and that recreational fishing is a critical part of the Long Island economy," Thiele said.
The RFA said while some state workers may view the bipartisan decision in Albany as a dark day for the public sector, the decision is good news for private sector constituents concerned about the rising cost of bureaucracy.
"With all due respect to our friends in the public sector, the private sector is fed up with this same old 'pay me now, bill me later' mentality permeating state government," said RFA managing director Jim Hutchinson. "New York's saltwater fishing license was an inferior product from the start, and as consumers, constituents and taxpayers, our state's sportfishermen asked that it be replaced," Hutchinson.
"We're grateful to all those New York legislators who showed what true bipartisan leadership is all about," Hutchinson said, crediting Governor Cuomo, Sen. Zeldin, Assemblyman Sweeney and Assemblyman Thiele for working together to secure an agreement on behalf of the New York marine district.
"Those who would impose a user fee on public access are quick to make claims of the privilege of fishing and paying for said privilege, but that's not the way we see things at the RFA," Hutchinson said. "The vast majority of sportsmen in New York's marine district do not believe that fishing is only a privilege, but instead believe strongly in their right to access this public resource. The recent legal challenge on the East End helped reconfirm that long-held belief, and we have nothing but praise for those legislators for helped honor that continued coastal tradition, from the Governor's office on out to our Long Island Assembly and Senate leaders, democrats, republicans and independents alike," he said.
RFA and the New York Sportfishing Federation also wish to thank all those members and friends who participated in this past weekend's fax campaign to spread the word about the repeal efforts, which they believe made a significant impact in getting the license repeal through.