We recently surveyed a sample set of readers to get a better handle on what you’d like to see covered in The Fisherman Magazine. This year, we also added a rather unique question never before included in our annual poll:
“Are you “opposed to” or “in favor” learning about the positions of politicians regarding fisheries management and marine conservation in The Fisherman?”
Out of nearly 1,000 responses, 91% said they’re “in favor” of learning about political positions on fisheries management and marine conservation, 6% said they’re opposed, while another 2% answered “other” or had no comment. As the most hardcore anglers in the region, I believe a majority of The Fisherman’s readers have a strong desire to know exactly how their fish sausages are stuffed, be it at the federal level or back home in the state capitol; the sample survey numbers spell that out.
There are 120 seats in the New Jersey legislature, 80 members of the assembly and 40 senators representing 40 different legislative districts. Democrats presently hold a 46-34 majority in the assembly and a 24-16 majority in the senate, with democrat Governor Phil Murphy at the top of the legislative food chain. Some folks (perhaps 6% of you) have criticized me for my political leanings; truth be told, I’m not registered with either party. But the very fact that D’s presently hold an overwhelming majority over the R’s in Trenton – and a slight majority in Washington DC – I’d point out that any fishy problems related to bureaucracy and regulation are ultimately the responsibility of those in power.
You’d think sustainable access to public resources would be a nonpartisan issue. Regrettably there seems to be little place in politics today for working across the aisle on issues of shared, mutual concern. Case in point; under New Jersey Statutes 23:2B-7, as part of the “powers and duties” defined by state law, the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) is tasked “To encourage every agency which operates a bridge or road over any of the marine waters of this State to construct a fishing platform on each such bridge.” This has clearly been a bureaucratic nuisance to NJDEP commissioners for eons from both parties; in fact, bridge rats during the Christie administration watched as historic access areas at Drag Island and Lower Bank were ultimately eliminated. To the other extreme, I don’t think current NJDEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette has ever attended a Marine Fisheries Council meeting, much less taken any steps to enhance and improve angler access for all.
The New Jersey statute that created the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council in the 70s also encourages “citizen participation through advisory councils and otherwise, since decisions concerning the distribution and allocation of fisheries resources have important consequences for all citizens of this State.” This too has been ignored by both the governor and commissioner as evidenced by the two missing seats on the council, and the lack of legislative representation at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (more on that in next week’s Editor’s Log: Division & Diversity).
I’m of the opinion that recreational fishing is simply a tedious burden for Commissioner LaTourette as he auditions his way up and out of the Garden State, perhaps eyeing a federal agency slot like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Heck, if he spent 6% as much time following state statutes for managing fisheries as he does updating his Linked In account and crafting a national image, we might have all four voting sportfish members on the council, a legislative rep at the ASMFC, and who knows, maybe a couple of bridges to fish too.
If anyone at the EPA is reading this, could you please hire this guy already? If it helps, I’ll gladly write the letter of reference myself!