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Funding Cuts Harm Sportfishing In New Jersey
...state lawmakers failed to take appropriate action to protect the reefs....
Following notification that the federal government is terminating funding for New Jersey's artificial reef program because the state has failed to comply with fishing regulations near the reefs, Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose today called for an immediate hearing on bipartisan legislation she has sponsored that would bring New Jersey into compliance with the federal rules.
"The loss of this funding is going to have a tremendous negative impact on a lot of people," explained McHose, R-Sussex, Morris and Hunterdon. "Not only will it hurt our state's tourism industry and businesses such as tackle shops and charter and party boats, but it's unfair to the 800,000 recreational anglers and divers who will suffer because state lawmakers failed to take appropriate action to protect the reefs and much needed federal dollars for the program.
"For years, various outdoor organizations have appealed to legislators to bring New Jersey into compliance with the federal Sport Fish Restoration Act (SFR)," she continued. "Unfortunately, those pleas have fallen on deaf ears. As a result, our recreational fishermen, who paid to have these reefs constructed, are the ones who will have to endure the consequences."
McHose is a co-sponsor of A-1152 which would limit commercial fishing on New Jersey's artificial reefs that are located in federal waters. Specifically, the measure would prohibit any person from using, leaving unattended, setting or deploying fishing gear, other than rod-and-reel, hand line spear or recreational gig, within 100 feet of artificial reefs created under the Division of Fish and Wildlife's artificial reef program.
According to SFR regulations, the artificial reefs are meant for hook and line, and spear fishing only. Commercial fishermen however, have been using fixed gear on the reefs in violation of federal rules. Since the state has failed to rectify the situation, it is in violation of SFR rules which has resulted in the loss of federal funding.
Five states along the Atlantic coastline have brought their reef programs into compliance with federal regulations including Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia and New York. Delaware is in the process.
McHose said Assembly Democrat leaders should post the bill for an immediate hearing and move it quickly through the legislative process to minimize the effects of the funding loss. The Senate last month approved an identical bipartisan measure, S-221.
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