TRENTON – The Assembly Agriculture Committee took steps Monday to regulate menhaden fishing.
A4036: This bill, passed unanimously, would establish regulations, including establishing geographical boundaries, times and dates for fishing.
Also, the bill would mandate the state comply with the menhaden catch quota established by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
The Anglers Conservation Network pointed out that establishing catch limits for a fish whose population is at an all-time low is important.
However, the Anglers network raised opposition to one clause that would allow the holder of a Menhaden Landing License to land “an incidental catch of up to 6,000 pounds per day” of menhaden following the close of the official menhaden fishing season.
Scot Mackey of the Garden State Seafood Association supported the bill that it said is drastically needed. “It is a vital forage fish,’’ he said, and historically it has lacked a catch quota. “We can only catch it in New Jersey for bait purposes, not reduction purposes.’’
Virginia, he said, catches the vast majority of menhaden along the East Coast and that includes reduction purposes, which means transforming the fish into pellets, meal, or other products.
The Seafood Association worked quickly with the Department of Environmental Protection to bring the bill together, he said, because the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is enacting quotas for states.
That action by the Marine Fisheries Commission allocated to New Jersey 11 percent of the quota, which actually will lead to a reduction in New Jersey’s catch by about half, or 40 million pounds, approximately worth $3 million, Mackey said.
Without this state legislation, it could “be the Wild West’’ out there, Mackey said, in which a few fishermen could take up most or all of the quota.