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.
Jersey Coast Anglers Association