JCAA Alert – Fluke and Sea Bass
by Paul Haertel, Jersey Coast Anglers Association
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) will have a joint meeting in Annapolis, Maryland from December 11 th to December 14 th to discuss a number of fisheries issues, especially fluke on December 12th and sea bass on December 13 th.
Though JCAA initially considered chartering buses for anglers to attend these meetings, we have now decided not to do so. We had anticipated that the fluke and sea bass meetings would be on the same day but have now learned that there is quite a detailed agenda for these species over a two day period. We do not believe there are enough people willing or able to go to Annapolis for two days to warrant the hiring of a bus. However, JCAA will have representatives there and we are willing to assist in carpooling others who would like to attend.
Regarding fluke we know that the coastwide recreational quota will increase from 3.77 million pounds in 2017 to 4.4 million pounds in 2018. That coupled with the fact that New Jersey as well as the entire coast collectively will have underfished their quota for this year is good news. However, the Council and Commission most likely will act conservatively due to the unreliability of the MRIP numbers. Still, this should result in some liberalization of our regulations for 2018. Modifications to the fluke addendum will be discussed at the joint meeting. The JCAA supports having an option that would allow New Jersey to remain in its own region rather than being forced back into the region with Connecticut and New York. We also support conservation equivalency that would allow the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council (NJMFC) to set regulations independently that would not be tied to what other regions are doing.
The situation pertaining to sea bass is a little more complex. Sea bass will be discussed at length at the joint meeting on 12/13 from 9:00AM until 4:30 PM. Despite the fact that the spawning stock biomass is at 230% of the target, the recreational quota is currently set to be reduced from 4.29 million pounds in 2017 to 3.66 pounds in 2018. The JCAA intends to request a higher quota. Currently, MRIP numbers for this year are projected to be only slightly over the 2018 quota so that could result in status quo regulations for 2018. However, MRIP data for waves 5 and 6 are not yet available so things might have to be revised.
Additionally, the new addendum that is being developed and discussed at this meeting will include options that would change the alignment of the regions. JCAA supports options that would allow New Jersey to become its own region or to be placed in the southern region as opposed to remaining in the region with states to our north. If we are allowed to do so, this could indeed allow us to liberalize our regulations. If in fact the regions are realigned in this fashion, the JCAA supports the quotas being established based on the last ten years or more of the harvest rather than just the past five years. This is due to the fact that in recent years New Jersey’s share of the overall harvest has been reduced significantly due to harsh regulations.
Written comments concerning fluke and sea bass may be submitted by going to the ASMFC/MAFMC on line at www.mafmc.org/public-comment . In addition to having a presence at the meeting the JCAA will send detailed comments on fluke and sea bass to the above web link. Briefly, the JCAA recommends the following:
1. The option to have New Jersey be in its own region for fluke.
2. The option to have New Jersey be in its own region or in the southern region for sea bass.
3. The option to have quotas for sea bass based on the last ten years or more of harvest.
Following the December meeting, the draft addendum for sea bass is expected to be released for public comment. Revisions to the fluke addendum may follow sometime thereafter. Additional meetings of the ASMFC, MAFMC and NJMFC will then be scheduled at which time the public will have an opportunity to comment further. The JCAA will send out Action Alerts when the dates and times of these meetings are known.
For those planning on attending the December joint meeting of the ASMFC and the MAFMC, it will be held at the Westin Annapolis, 100 Westgate Circle, Annapolis, Maryland.