After a thorough review by the individuals responsible for New Jersey's reefs it has been determined that the state may be out of compliance with the Sport Fish Restoration Act, as amended by Wallop-Breaux.
The Chief, U.S. Division of Wildlife and Sport Fish Recreation along with Commissioner NJ Department of Environmental Protection and Director, Division of Fish and Wildlife have determined that although the reefs belong to both recreational and commercial fishers --- they must be fished using hook-and-line and spear in order to be in compliance with the Sport Fish Restoration Act.
Q) What is the Sport Fish Restoration Act?
A) The provisions of this Act are funded through the Sport Fish Restoration Account, which is part of the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund created by the Wallop-Breaux amendments in 1984. The Account consists of sales tax on sport fishing equipment (including fishing rods, reels, lines, hooks; artificial lures, baits and flies; and fishing supplies and accessories), electric outboard motors and sonar fish-finding devices, and import duties on fishing tackle and yachts and pleasure craft. Congress authorized the amounts received by the Sport Fish Restoration Account to be appropriated for carrying out the Act.
Q) What does it mean?
A) The taxes collected on the sale of sport fishing equipment, primarily paid for by recreational anglers, is apportioned back to New Jersey, and other states, for things such as reef maintenance. If found out of compliance the state could lose this federal funding. The dollar amount could reach into the millions-of-dollars annually.
Q) What about all the years the reefs were out of compliance, would New Jersey need to reimburse the federal government?
A) The state could be required to pay back for all the years it was found to be out of compliance - a sum that could be in the tens-of-millions of dollars.
Q) What are the objectives that must be met in order to receive federal monies?
A) According to the Sport Fish Restoration Program, one objectives is:
"To increase diversity, abundance and availability of reef-dependent species sought by recreational fishermen through creation of artificial reefs."
Q) Any other objectives?
A) There are several, but another is: "To provide increased fishing opportunity to recreational anglers, and thus provide economic benefits to New Jersey's sport fishing industry."
Q) What does all this mean?
A) Federal regulations and requirements are explicit that commercial use of the reefs cannot interfere with the purposes for which the lands are being managed. Commercial traps and gears limit recreational anglers from accessing the reefs, which means they interfere with the purposes for which the lands are being managed. In other words, New Jersey's reefs appear to be out of compliance and federal funding may be in jeopardy.
Q) Are commercial fishers allowed to fish the reefs under the Sports Fish Restoration Act?
A) It is our understanding that they can but they must use hook-and-line or spear.
Q) Are you sure?
A) Commissioner Jackson (NJ DEP) and Director Chanda (NJ DFW) have reviewed the specifics of the Sport Fish Restoration Act and recently announced that they would support all legislation that restricts fishing on the reefs to hook-and-line and spear. Their position was recently memorialized in a letter to the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance from Director, DFW, David Chanda.
Q) What can we do?
A) Let our legislators know that NJ reefs may be out of compliance with the Sport Fish Restoration Act and this may cause the loss of millions-of-dollars in federal monies. Let them know that recreational anglers are being denied access to the reefs that they paid for through their Wallop-Breaux tax dollars. Find your legislator: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/members/legsearch.asp
Also, be sure to:
Contact Senator Codey, Senate President, and ask him to post bill S-336 (Traps Off the Reefs) for a vote in the senate. Call 973-731-6770 or go to his site and email: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/members/BIO.asp?Leg=82
Contact Assemblyman Roberts, Speaker, and ask him to have bill A-1519 (Traps Off the Reefs) posted for a committee hearing, and then posted in the assembly. Call 856-742-7600 or go to his website and emaiI: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/members/BIO.asp?Leg=16
More information to follow.