While many of us were at the rally yesterday, Tom was testifying before the Senate budget committee and requesting much needed funding for the New Jersey Bureau of Marine Fisheries. Thanks for your efforts Tom!
2nd VP JCAA
JCAA Testimony from the
NJ Senate Budget Committee
March 21, 2012
I am testifying today as the legislative chairman for the Jersey Coast Anglers Association. JCAA represents 75 recreational fishing clubs in New Jersey and it has been in existence since 1981 and the New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs that represent 150,000 anglers, hunters and trappers in NJ. I have been testifying before committees about fisheries issues for over 35 years as a volunteer for sportspersons of NJ. In that time one of the most crucial issues has been the lack of funding for the Bureau of Marine Fisheries. In the 1980's, Director Of Fish and Game, Russ Cookingham, the Governor and the Legislature agreed to an approximate 3.1 million dollar funding for the Bureau. This money came from state appropriations and Federal sport fish restoration money. This was before the onslaught of fisheries management plans that required extensive gathering of information and tremendous staff hours to meet the Federal and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Management Council requirements. For example, in 1981, the only regulations in effect in New Jersey that required state oversight were an 18 inch size limit and 10 fish bag limit on striped bass and a 13 inch size limit on summer flounder. In 1984, the Striped Bass Conservation Act was passed by Congress and required New Jersey to do more research and monitoring of striped bass as we implemented more stringent regulations. In the mid-90's the Atlantic Coast Conservation Act was passed. This legislation required management plans for all the inshore species that had not been regulated before. With the reauthorization of the Magnusson/Stevens Amendments in 1996, there were many additional requirements placed on the Bureau for the management of species in federal waters. We went from one management plan in 1980 to management plans for almost every species of fish harvested commercially or recreationally in New Jersey. The pressure of this increase of doing more management plans has been immense on the budget and the staff of the Bureau. In 1981, we funded Marine Fisheries for about 3.1 million dollars with about 2.1 coming from state appropriations. In 2011, the Bureau of Marine Fisheries didn't even have a line item appropriation and received its only state funding from the nuclear fund. The total was less than one million dollars. Clearly the Bureau is being required to do much more with much less money and far fewer staff.
When we talk about marine fisheries in New Jersey, we need to consider the total resource. The Division of Fish and Wildlife is also responsible for oil spill response, and any other issue that impacts on the marine environment. But if we look at the just the value of the marine resource by considering just the commercial, recreational and boating industries, we are talking about 4 billion dollars in economic value. This estimate comes from the National Marine Fisheries Service figures for 2006. The boating industry data comes from Marine Trades in 2006. They estimated the boating industry was worth about 2 billion dollars to the state of New Jersey. The National Marine Fisheries Service estimated the recreational monetary value (which varies from year to year) was worth between 800 million and 1.3 billion. The commercial fishery for fin fish is worth more than 100 million dollars and shell fish, crabs and other species is worth about 400 million dollars. That represents tremendous economic value to New Jersey and many thousands of jobs both direct and indirect (tackle sales, gas, boat repair, beach fees, restaurants, and home sales or rentals in our beach and boating communities). It is also an integral part of the tourism in New Jersey. The sport fish restoration money comes from the excise tax on fishing tackle. Sales tax estimates (NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife) for hunting and fishing in New Jersey are about 120 million dollars. A large part of that money comes from the sale of fishing tackle for marine fisheries. The permits for 4 wheel drive permits for Island Beach State Park are called fishing permits. Sold for 190 dollars the over 5,000 permits generate close to 1 million dollars, more than New Jersey is currently spending on the total management of New Jersey's marine resources.
Of states that manage marine resources, New Jersey ranks LAST in funding. New Hampshire, that only manages 18 miles of coastline, spends 9 million dollars. No director since Russ Cookingham has been able to get an increase in state funding. Instead, the funding has decreased and is less than half of what it was in 1980. The only resource currently available to the Bureau of Marine Fisheries is a state appropriation. This should come through a budget line item. The marine resource in New Jersey is of such great economic and quality of life value that the Bureau should not be treated like a stepchild. It needs its own consistent, reliable funding through a budget line item. Anything less puts New Jersey's commercial and recreational fishing industries in jeopardy.
I am one of the three Commissioners to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and from this position I see firsthand how New Jersey is lacking the funding it needs compared to how other states funds its marine resource management. For example, NMFS has listed sturgeon as an endangered species; to prove there is no interaction with sturgeon in the NJ commercial fisheries New Jersey will probably need to spend at least 1 million additional dollars for research to keep some commercial fisheries open. Other states have the money to make this happen but not NJ. New Jersey has also just been forced to close every river in New Jersey to the harvesting of river herring because we don't have the money to do the research that is necessary to prove the herring runs are sustainable. Other states had the money and their fisheries will remain open. These are just two examples of how a lack of funds inhibits the necessary research that impacts on our availability of fish to harvest. We are now seeing examples of other states getting more favorable allocations because they can provide the research to support their management plans. You cannot allow this to happen to the recreational and commercial fishing industries of NJ. The only solution is a consistent, reliable funding for the Bureau of Marine Fisheries through a budget line item. We need sufficient funding to hire the staff and pay for the research. At the very least we need an appropriation of 3 million dollars solely for the Bureau of Marine Fisheries. We would still be at the bottom of the funding list but at least we would be headed in the right direction.
Jersey Coast Anglers Association
About Jersey Coast Anglers Association
The Jersey Coast Anglers Association is a non-profit organization formed in 1981. The original objective of the JCAA was to combine a loosely fragmented group of marine sportfishing clubs in order to form and promote a united consensus on issues relevant to saltwater anglers in New Jersey. Over the years, the mission of the JCAA has remained unchanged, but now has the added goal of joining forces with organizations having similar objectives in states along the East Coast and national organizations. While the JCAA is relatively young, it has emerged as the most effective organization of its kind on the East Coast. For more information, or for information about becoming a member of the JCAA, please call (732) 506-6565 or visit www.JCAA.org
Jersey Coast Anglers Association | 1201 Route 37 East | Suite 9 | Toms River | NJ | 08753