Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Pots Off the Reefs Compromise Bill
Passes Assembly Committee



Assembly bill A2645, that establishes restrictions and requirements for use of fishing gear and conch, fishing, and lobster pots on artificial reefs, has passed out of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee by a vote of 3 in favor and 2 abstentions.


Below is a copy of the testimony given by Jersey Coast Anglers Association yesterday at the hearing.


We would like to thank the committee for holding this hearing on an issue that is very important to the recreational fishing community.  JCAA has had no time to review the bill that you are discussing today since it was released yesterday.  However, it does not appear that this bill will address our major concerns about the artificial reefs. 


While this may not be the intention of the sponsor, we believe this bill is simply a delaying tactic.  It does not solve the problem or address the issues from the perspective of the recreational fishing community.  It also does not address the ruling of the Fish and Wildlife Service that denies the use of their Sport Fish Restoration Program by the Division of Fish and Wildlife on New Jersey's artificial reef program.  


The reason JCAA feels this bill is only a delaying tactic is that this bill does not in law regulate the gear restrictions on the artificial reef.  It redirects this effort back to the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council.  In 10 years the NJ Marine Fisheries Council has been unable to address this problem and it is unlikely they will be able to do so now.  There is a basic flaw in the NJ Marine Fisheries Council since the recreational community has four (4) votes and the commercial community has 5 votes.  When problems with the artificial reef was first brought to the Council before, there were never enough votes for passage.  Recent history confirms this inequity.  Last Thursday, the recreational members of the NJ Marine Fisheries Council introduced a proposal on the recreational regulations for 2012.  The commercial community, even though this had no impact on them, made a motion and voted for a measure that was not supported by many of the recreational members.  Because of this inequity, we never accomplish anything for recreational anglers.  This is like one part rule with never an election to change the balance.  We need the Legislature to step up and solve this problem with appropriate legislation. 


The NJ Senate passed a bill three times by an overwhelming vote.  This is the bill that the JCAA supports.  Last session, 43 Assemblymen and women, including members of this committee, supported the Senate bill.  When the Assembly version on the Senate bill was introduced in the Assembly in January, it had 44 sponsors.  That is a bipartisan majority of the members of the Assembly. 


This is the bill that should be posted for a vote in this committee.  This is the bill that has the overwhelming support of the 800,000 recreational anglers in New Jersey.  This is the bill that would solve the problem, not just delay the solution for another five (5) years. 

If the commercial community wants artificial reefs, they should fund them and build them the same way the recreational community has.  According to studies, 40% of the fish caught by recreational anglers to take home and eat come from the artificial reefs. 


What this discussion frequently ignores is the job loss in New Jersey's recreational community.  By moving the pots off the artificial reefs, you will not cause the loss of one job in the commercial community.  But by your inaction, you are causing many job losses in recreational community because many recreational anglers have simply given up the sport they love.  Loss of access to the artificial reefs plays a major role in this loss of jobs. 


JCAA is asking you to scrap this bill!  At the next meeting of the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, we want you to post the Assembly version of bill S1177 that will address these problems.  Passage of that bill will also allow for the restoration of funding from the US Fish and Wildlife Service to the artificial reef program.  




Thank you,

Joseph Puntasecca


Jersey Coast Anglers Association

Respectfully, you may want to check your regulatory phrasing.  New Jersey is not banning commercial fishing from these reefs, nor would the MAFMC be able to place an outright ban on commercial fishing from the 13 offshore reef sites from Sea Girt to Cape May.  I believe we're all together in looking in gear restrictions to free these inshore and offshore artificial reefsites of fixed gear, but a complete "ban commercial fishing on the federal reefs off our coast" is not something we should be anticipating.
Also, should be noted again that the pot management plan listed in the legislation would deal exclusively with the 'pots' and not the 'reefs'.  The way I read the legislation, by law A2645 would limit where the pots could be placed upon Axel Carlson and Sandy Hook artificial reef sites; the pot management portion of the bill on the other hand would address how NJDEP accounts for the pots themselves at these and all other locations (Red Church, Shrewsbury Rocks, various wreck sites and natural snags) 
Jim Hutch Jr.
On Fri, Mar 9, 2012 at 3:57 PM, a href="mailto:AnglerPMH@aol.com">AnglerPMH@aol.com> wrote:
     On the evening of 3/7  there was an emergency meeting of various recreational groups put together by Reef Rescue. At the meeting it was explained that the intent of Assemblyman Albano's bill is allow commercial fishing on about 5% of the total square miles of all the reefs off the New Jersey coast. Since NJ cannot set the regulations in federal waters and in anticipation that the MAFMC would ban commercial fishing completely on our reefs in federal waters the bill allows for commercial fishing on 15-25% on our state reefs which equals about 5% of the total reefs off our coast. We viewed maps of the proposal and studied the coordinates and it appeared as though commercial fishing would be allowed on about 25% of the two NJ reefs but one individual thought it would be closer to 15 %. Further Assemblyman Albano stated the coordinates needed to be adjusted. I suggest that everyone study them when they are released. Also, there is no guarantee that the MAMFC will ban commercial fishing on the federal reefs off our coast. They might very well do so but then again they might do nothing or they might assign a similar percentage of the reefs to commercial fishing as we did with our state reefs.
In a message dated 3/9/2012 1:12:44 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, AnglerPMH@aol.com writes:

Assemblyman Albano, Chairman of the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee posted a Pots off the Reefs Compromise Bill his committee yesterday. The bill passed through committee and a companion bill is expected to be posted by Senator VanDrew in the Senate. This bill would allow commercial fishermen to utilize 15-25% of the Axel Carlson and Sandy Hook Reefs that  are in state waters.  It is very concerning that the bill was only released the night before and voted on the next day. Then rather than to amend it or table it, it was pushed through in its current form which does not address the desires of the vast majority of recreational fishermen. Assemblyman Albano suggested that these changes be made in Senator VanDrew’s anticipated bill but I would rather have had it done right the first time. This is an issue that we have been trying to resolve for over 5 years. Garden State Seafood was there representing the commercial fishing industry and spoke in favor of the bill. Only one recreational fishing organization spoke in favor of the bill. Most of the other 10 or so recreational fishing organizations opposed the bill though a couple of them asked for it to be tabled or abstained because the information became available on such short notice. Listen to the testimony yourself by clicking on the link below. It probably lasts about 45 minutes but if you care about our reefs, you will find it very interesting. Below is the position of the JCAA on the bill followed by position  of the Berkeley Striper Club.


Paul Haertel 2nd V.P. JCAA, Legislative Committee Chairman, BSC



Pots Off the Reefs Compromise Bill
Passes Assembly Committee

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