On March 22, 2010 the Assembly voted in favor of A832. This bill would create a saltwater fishing license. That license will require DEP to create and implement a free license for saltwater anglers. NJ needs a saltwater license but it cannot be free.
A license is necessary because of the requirement of the Federal Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act passed in 2007. The act created a federal salt water fishery registry. All saltwater anglers would have to register with the Federal government or with their State, if the State had a registry.
The purpose behind the registry is to help provide more accurate data to the Marine Fisheries Council. More accurate data can then be used to determine whether a species is overfished, experiencing overfishing or is being fished in a sustainable manner. This data can then be used to the councils make better decisions on how to manage the fishing stock. We need better information on our fishing stock and we need to manage them better.
Currently, we know of 93 U.S. fish populations that are already overfished or that are currently being fished at unsustainable rates—nearly a third of the 304 fish populations that scientists have assessed (NMFS,2002b). The majority of the already overfished populations are still being fished unsustainably, frustrating rebuilding efforts. The status of another 655 populations, including 120 major stocks (those with landings of at least 200,000 pounds of fish a year) is unknown Pews Ocean Commission, America’s Living Oceans: Charting A Course for Sea Change.
In the last several years NJ has done little to address the findings of the two ocean commissions. Little has been done to learn more about the health or our fisheries. Also, we have done little to overcome the reasons for overfishing. While NJ has the third largest commercial fishery port and has somewhere between 500,000 to 1 million recreational anglers, NJ is not dedicating meaningful resources to managing this vital resource.
One of the problems is that while environmentalist and even Mid-Atlantic Fisheries council believe many fishing stocks are overfished, the fishing industry disputes this claim. They allege that the science relied on by the council and environmentalists are flawed and incomplete. One thing I think that both sides would agree on is that we do not know enough to have a 100% complete picture on the health of our fisheries. We know a lot but we could learn more.
In order to obtain better data, the reauthorized Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act created a national fishery registry. All recreational anglers are required to register. 2010 is the first year the national registry has been in place and it is free. Next year the cost of the registry will be $15 to $25. That money will go to the general fund in D.C. and will not necessarily be distributed to help the Fish and Wildlife. It also will not go to the states. One can opt out of the federal system if the State enacts its own registry. Most of the Atlantic coast has enacted a registry. NJ is considering one or more bills. One of the bills passed out of the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee last week. That bill would create a free registry. A free registry that would have to be created and administer by DEP. This free registry comes at a time when DEP’s resources are windingly. The current budget proposal would decrease DEP’s budget another 2% one of many cuts it has suffered over the last several years. Those cuts show. For example compare the amount of resources dedicated by North Carolina to marine fisheries with NJ:
New Jersey is dead last of the Atlantic coast states in dollars spent by Government in support of marine fisheries:
This lack of resources has cost NJ and will continue to cost NJ. You cannot have good science without paying for it. You cannot make good management decisions without good information. A paid registry system will fund NJ DEP’s Fish and Wildlife’s marine programs. This funding will allow FWS to do the science that is necessary to insure that our fisheries are healthy and being managed sustainable. A free system will not do that. A free system will actually pull resources away from managing the resource. Both the marine ecosystem and those who use the resource will benefit.