Funding For New Jerseys Saltwater Fishery
When the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council met in Galloway Township this past Thursday night, funding options for the state's Bureau of Marine Fisheries took center stage.
After rather contentious debate amongst Council members with input from the public, the governing body voted to conditionally endorse legislation that would create a state conservation lottery to provide funding for the state's natural resources, including marine fisheries. The Council also supported the creation of a dedicated Striped Bass License Plate, so long as both options provided funding directed to the Director of the Division of Fish & Wildlife to be utilized by the Bureau of Marine Fisheries.
The Council also voted to endorse the idea of a Saltwater Fishing License, although as noted by Council members, there is no legislation currently in play which would implement a marine license in New Jersey, and some council discussion on Thursday said that a poorly written license bill could ultimately be worse for anglers than other options.
As reported in last Friday's Asbury Park Press, both license supporters and opponents at the Council meeting are in agreement that New Jersey shortchanges its fisheries programs to sometimes dangerous levels. The money that comes from seafood and recreational fishing puts New Jersey in the top tier of East Coast fishing states, right behind leaders like Massachusetts and North Carolina, but industry advocates complain the Legislature always fails to spend enough money to manage those resources.
Despite National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) reported revenues of $100 million in sales tax revenue (on $1.6 billion in gross sales) generated by recreational fishing in the state of New Jersey, the FY 2011 budget appropriates only $600,000 to the Bureau, with additional funding coming in the form of federal Wallop-Breaux funding derived from a 10% federal excise tax on fishing equipment sold in the state.
According to Capt. Adam Nowalsky, Chairman of the Recreational Fishing Alliance's New Jersey chapter (RFA-NJ), no one would like to see the marine fisheries of New Jersey properly funded more than the saltwater fishermen. "The saltwater license, however, has no existing legislation attached, and it's not as fully developed as the conservation lottery and the license plate initiatives that have both Senate and Assembly sponsors and cosponsors in Trenton," Nowalsky said.
Senate Resolution SCR93, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Van Drew, and Assembly Resolution ACR119, sponsored by Assemblyman Nelson Albano, propose making Constitutional amendments that would authorize the creation of a state lottery to fund conservation programs, including the state's marine fisheries. Nowalsky cited a 2002 study by Southwick Associates as saying that a conservation lottery in conjunction with specialized license plates could generate tens of millions of dollars for state fisheries and natural resources.
"Marine Fisheries has been fighting for years for the funding to do their job in support of New Jersey's anglers," Nowalsky said, adding "If the state's unwilling to allocate more of the fishing community's direct taxes back toward the marine resources, then we believe a constitutionally protected revenue stream through a lottery makes the most sense right now."
The Council also decided to hold a special meeting in April each year to set that year's recreational regulations, including size, season and bag limits. Typically this takes place in March, but the change, initiated by a change in Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission schedule, will allow for this usually well attended meeting to be held in a more centralized location with a larger seating capacity than the usual meeting place of the Council.