Van Drew Bill To Protect Commercial, Recreational Fishing Clears Senate

Legislation Would Restrict Harvest of Local Bait Fish

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May/Cumberland/Atlantic) that would protect commercial and recreational fishing in New Jersey was approved today by the full Senate, and now heads to the desk of Governor Chris Christie.

The bill (S-1140/A-2304) would limit the issuance of permits for the commercial fishing of menhaden, a popular bait fish, beginning in 2011.

The measure was crafted to protect New Jersey from an influx of commercial fishermen from New England looking to harvest menhaden for lobster bait, as a result of a federal restriction on the amount of herring that can be used for that purpose.

“This legislation is about protecting commercial and recreational fishermen in New Jersey,” said Senator Van Drew. “By restricting menhaden harvesting to historical levels, we will prevent an essential free-for-all in our waters by out-of-state commercial fishermen.”

Menhaden is used for bait by commercial fisheries but also is a major food source for striped bass, a top recreational catch in New Jersey. Van Drew noted that commercial and recreational fishermen in New Jersey waters cooperate and said a deluge of out-of-state commercial fishermen could pose a conflict.

Beginning in 2011, the bill would require the Environmental Protection commissioner to restrict the licenses issued for commercial menhaden fishing to people who had a valid license for at least one of the years from 2002 to 2009, and possessed a valid license in the preceding year.

The measure would also limit the size of replacement vessels for commercial fishing, requiring that no new vessel used to harvest menhaden could be greater than 10 percent larger in length, gross registered tonnage or net tonnage; a replacement vessel also could be no more than 20 percent greater in horsepower than the vessel that qualified for a license in 2010.

Additionally, no vessel used to harvest menhaden commercially could be greater than 90 feet in length, and any that did not fit the requirement would have to be retired.

The measure passed the Senate by a vote of 37-0. It was approved unanimously by the Assembly in March.