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NJ MOVES FORWARD WITH 2010 SALTWATER REGULATIONS Marine Fisheries Council Makes Bid To Avoid Shark Fishing Ban The New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council (Council) met this past Thursday night in the …

NJ MOVES FORWARD WITH 2010 SALTWATER REGULATIONS

Marine Fisheries Council Makes Bid To Avoid Shark Fishing Ban

The New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council (Council) met this past Thursday night in the Toms River Township Office (moved from the normal meeting location of Galloway, NJ to accommodate the anticipated large crowd) for their March meeting. Of primary interest to recreational anglers was the specifications setting for the 2010 seasons for black sea bass, summer flounder and weakfish. Also of interest to recreational anglers under other business was pending regulatory changes to the Coastal Sharks Management Plan. As anticipated, public turnout was high.

For the 2010 season, the Council enacted the following measures:

Summer Flounder - Six fish, 18" min. size (Open May 29 - September 6)

Black Sea Bass - 25 fish, 12.5" min. size (Open May 22 - August 8, and September 4 - October 4; or final season determined by the ASMFC.)

Weakfish - One fish, 13" min. size (No Closed Season)

Given 12 options for summer flounder that had been approved by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) as "conservationally equivalent" from which to choose, there was overwhelming support in the room for the option selected after hearing a report from the Council's Committee recommending Option 1. "There's no good option," commented Capt. Tony Bogan, a Board member of the Recreational Fishing Alliance New Jersey Chapter (RFA-NJ). "All you have to do, is look at the state of New York to see the devastating effect constantly going up in size to extend the season has on regulations," said Capt. Bogan, referring to New York's 21.5-inch minimum size and season which is one of the shortest on the East Coast. Option 1 retains the 2009 size and bag limit, while including both the Memorial and Labor Day holidays. Surf fishermen did have their say noting their desire to extend the season as long as possible.
The black sea bass final regulation may remain in limbo until May. "The National Marine Fisheries Service will issue a proposed rule in March," commented RFA-NJ Chairman Capt. Adam Nowalsky. "A final rule is not likely to be promulgated until possibly as late as May." At issue is the wave 5 recreational landings report for the period of September and October of 2009. Typically available within 45 days of the end of the wave, there are issues with the 2009 data during this period resulting in an extensive evaluation of the calculations with final numbers not likely until mid-April. A required 44% reduction reflected in the specified season is the result of current projections claiming the coast doubled landings of black sea bass during wave 5 of 2009 over the same period in 2008.

Nowalksy explains that these same projections were used for wave 6 (November/December), but have since proven inaccurate as landings from that period in the Mid-Atlantic came in some 80% below landings from the same period the previous year. "The RFA will continue to address the issue of these projections to continue to lower any required reductions for 2010," said Capt. Nowalsky.

The Council had little option in recommending the weakfish regulations that drop the bag limit to only a single fish. This change was mandated by the ASMFC. Stocks of weakfish are known to be in major decline, however recruitment and the young-of-the-year index both remain high, indicating the rate of reproduction of weakfish remains high. As these fish migrate south for the winter, they are seemingly being subject to a natural mortality outside of fishing pressure, and not allowing anglers to see larger fish each successive year.

On the issue of coastal sharks, the Council moved forward with approving measures to bring the state in compliance with the ASMFC Interstate Coastal Sharks Fishery Management Plan. Recently found to be out of compliance with the plan, New Jersey's anglers face a potential moratorium during the coming season. One of the major hurdles cleared was a closure of Large Coastal Sharks (bull, hammerheads, nurse, sandbar, tiger, et. al.) during the spring "pupping" season. New Jersey's recreational anglers primarily target mako, thresher and blue sharks which are labeled Pelagic Sharks, to which the "pupping" closure would not apply. New Jersey submitted a timeline for compliance to the Dept. of Commerce and expects to hear word next week whether a moratorium will be imposed on the state's fishery for 2010. The RFA-NJ submitted a letter as part of the state's efforts to avoid a moratorium.

One final motion by the Council made by Councilman (and RFA-NJ Board member) Ed Goldman was to draft a resolution supporting the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries bills currently in the US House and Senate. The motion, as expected, passed. "We look forward to the Council's continued support on this and other issues such as MRFSS and upcoming Accountability Measures, which could subject every recreational fishery to in-season closures based on the unreliable MRFSS data," commented Capt. Nowalsky.

RFA-NJ Board members were there representing New Jersey's recreational saltwater fishermen and gave extensive public comment on the issues through the evening.

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