Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
|Feds Kill Funding to NJ Reef Program!
April 13, 2011
A letter (email) sent to DEP Commissioner Martin from John Organ, Ph.D., Chief, Division of Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), ends funding for New Jersey's artificial reef program. Dr. Organ substantiated his actions by referencing gear conflicts on artificial reefs that violate the Sport Fish Restoration Act (SFR).
An excerpt of the letter includes the following statement, "Because of the aforementioned conflicts that clearly violate provisions of the SFR Act and its implementing regulations, I am terminating all further SFR funding for the artificial reef program in New Jersey, effective the date of this letter [April 12, 2011]. Funding can be restored when appropriate action is taken to eliminate the conflicts that currently interfere with recreational fishing on these reefs."
Anthony P. Mauro, Sr., Chairman, of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance said of the news, "Clearly, the trappers and potters with fixed gear on the artificial reefs are responsible for the termination of funding. For years Reef Rescue, the NJOA, and other outdoor organizations, have warned legislators and policy makers that New Jersey has not conformed to the grant objectives of the Federal Sport Fish Restoration Program. We've remained idle as states along the Atlantic seaboard brought their reef programs into compliance with federal regulations, including; Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, and New York. Now, Delaware has begun the process."
Mauro continued, "Apparently, the USFWS believes that New Jersey's violations of the SFR Act are so egregious that it is necessary to interrupt funding until gear conflicts are resolved. According to the letter, our legislators and policy makers have the opportunity to quickly correct the situation and ensure that we continue to receive federal funding for the artificial reefs. We are researching whether New Jersey can continue using monies already obligated to the reefs. If so, perhaps a quick resolution to the gear conflict will leave the reef program intact."
Captain Pete Grimbilas, Co-founder of Reef Rescue and President of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance Conservation Foundation said, "For five years we've made every effort to ensure that New Jersey conformed to the Federal Sport Fish Restoration Program. This all could have been prevented and is especially unfair to the 800,000 recreational anglers and divers because not only have they paid for the reefs, they've also been restricted from accessing the reefs and they will now suffer because of the loss of funding for the reefs - through no fault of their own. Resolution and the reinstatement of funding are now, and have been, squarely in the hands of those in Trenton."
Grimbilas emphasized, "We can only imagine the negative impact a prolonged disruption of funding will have on the tourism industry, and businesses such as charter boats, party boats, and tackle shops. This situation needs to be corrected immediately so that funding can be restored to the reef program and the public can finally have unrestricted access to New Jersey's artificial reefs."
According to the Sport Fish Restoration Act, artificial reefs were designed for use by the general public and built with Federal Sport Fish Restoration funds; the appropriate gear for use on ocean reefs is inefficient gear; hook and line, and spear. Hook and line, and spear can be used by recreational or commercial fishermen. This is also true for reefs built in other states.
Dr. Organ's letter states that action was taken due to his being, "... contacted by phone, mail, and personal visits by a variety of New Jersey recreational anglers who have claimed that proliferation of lobster pots and fish traps for commercial purposes interferes with hook and line and spear recreational fishing." He writes, "My staff has investigated the allegations and confirmed that the use of pots and traps is interfering with the purposes for which the reefs were constructed."
Additionally, it was reported that during a recent Reef Committee meeting of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, a USFWS representative warned New Jersey and Delaware that they risk losing federal funding if they did not resolve access problems on reefs. Since then, Delaware has passed a regulation that prohibits traps on their bay reefs. Delaware also plans to petition the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council for Special Management Zone status for its offshore reefs.
People can go to the link that follows and send a prewritten letter to state legislators asking that they pass Bill A1152, which will resolve gear conflicts and likely restore funding to New Jersey's artificial reef program:
More details are forthcoming.