TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator John H. Adler which would prohibit commercial fishing off New Jersey’s artificial reefs in order to preserve the sites for recreational fishermen was approved by the Senate today by a vote of 32-4.
“Recreational fishermen are the foundation of New Jersey’s Shore tourism economy,” said Senator Adler, D-Cherry Hill. “Thousands and thousands of recreational fishermen visit the Shore each year to practice their sport, and spend money at local shops, restaurants and lodgings. By preserving artificial reefs for recreational fishermen, we will ensure the vitality of the Shore economy that depends on them.”
The bill, S-336, would prohibit, within New Jersey’s waters, any person from using commercial fishing gear, such as lobster pots, trawl nets, gillnets and other gear, within 100 feet of artificial reefs created under the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s artificial reef program. The only exceptions would be for rod-and-real, hand line, spear or recreational gig. Violators of the provisions of this bill would be subject to the penalties established under the State’s Marine Fisheries Management and Commercial Fisheries Act, which includes civil fines ranging from $10 to $5,000, at the discretion of the Department of Environmental Protection.
Senator Adler noted that the artificial reef program has been funded through contributions from recreational fishermen. As such, the lawmaker argued, these fishermen should have access to the reefs. However, due to the nature of commercial fishing, many of these sites are littered with commercial gear, making access for recreational fishermen impossible.
“Recreational fishermen built New Jersey’s artificial reefs through their contributions, and are being driven away by commercial over-fishing,” said Senator Adler. “These reefs were created for everyone to enjoy, but when commercial fishermen move in, they take over the location. Without regulation, the little guy would have no opportunity to enjoy these man-made wonders which were originally intended for everyone’s use.”
Senator Adler noted that there are fifteen man-made reefs within 2 and 25 miles off New Jersey’s coastline, covering 25 square miles of sea floor. The sites are all within easy boat range from one of New Jersey’s 12 ocean inlets.
The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration.