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TRENTON – Acting to protect New Jersey fishermen, the Senate yesterday approved and sent to Governor Christie legislation sponsored by Senator Van Drew that will strengthen licensing requirements for fishing menhaden – a popular baitfish that is used to catch striped bass and other fish locally, but also has been fished off New Jersey’s coast by out-of-state boats for commercial use.
The Senate convened yesterday to take action on the single bill (S-2726) in order to protect local fishermen and ensure that menhaden – the fishing of which is subject to new regional limits – is available to New Jersey’s commercial and recreational fishermen. The session was held in order to address what is a crucial issue for New Jersey.
“The overfishing of our coastal waters by out-of-state fishermen hurts our economy, our fishermen and cuts into our quota,” said Senator Van Drew (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland). “We have to make sure that New Jersey’s menhaden supply is available to our local fishermen and not wiped out by those from other states. This legislation is about protecting what is the lifeblood for commercial fishermen and a beloved sport for recreational fishermen in the Garden State.”
Last December, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted to reduce the allowable catch along the Eastern seaboard. The bill is intended to ensure that menhaden caught by out-of-state fishermen – who fish just outside of the state’s jurisdiction in federal waters, three miles off the New Jersey coastline – and offloaded, or landed, in the state are not taken from New Jersey’s menhaden quota.
The bill would create a number of new licenses for menhaden fishing. Through the new licensing and reporting requirements, menhaden caught in federal waters by out-of-state fishermen would be tracked and would not be counted in New Jersey’s quota. The bill would also provide separate license fee lists for in-state and out-of-state fishermen. Additionally, it would require that any fisherman landing menhaden in New Jersey obtain a new Menhaden landing license, which would be limited to those who have historically landed these fish in New Jersey. Anyone accepting a certain weight of menhaden would need a dealer license. Licensing fees, and fines collected for violations of the law, would go to a new Marine Fisheries Management Account.
“Overhauling our licensing structure will ensure those fishing off our coast are not depleting our menhaden allocation to the detriment of our state. These new regulations will protect New Jersey and the thousands of jobs that are vital to our residents and to our economy,” said Senator Van Drew.
Menhaden are fished off New Jersey’s coast by commercial fishermen. Commercial fishing of the fish is split into two sectors: Reduction fishing – in which fish are ground and used for fertilizer, pet food, industrial products and dietary supplements – and bait fishing. Reduction fishing makes up 80 percent of the commercial fishing and is conducted by essentially one company, the Virginia-based Omega Protein Inc. Bait fishing, which comprises the other 20 percent, is conducted by New England fishermen who catch menhaden off New Jersey’s coast, land them in our state and truck them to New England for use in baiting lobster.
“This is incredibly important legislation for the state of New Jersey and for our fishermen. I want to thank the Senate President for going to this extraordinary length to hold a voting session for this one bill,” said Van Drew. “This will allow our state to act quickly to strengthen licensing requirements in order to protect against the depletion of our menhaden allocation, which would have caused severe harm to the commercial fishing industry, recreational fishing and to our state as a whole.”
The Assembly passed the bill on May 20. The Senate approved it unanimously yesterday. It now heads to the desk of Governor Christie.
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