TRENTON — New Jersey could come into compliance with the East Coast shark conservation plan by July 19 – and keep the Shore’s immensely popular shark-fishing tournaments on schedule – under a timetable that acting state environmental Commissioner Bob Martin proposed Tuesday to the National Marine Fisheries Service.
“In these challenging economic times, I am deeply concerned about hurting New Jersey’s struggling fishermen and associated businesses through no fault of their own,” Martin wrote to NMFS chief Eric Schwaab, asking the fisheries service hold back from imposing a shark-fishing moratorium on the state.
In addition to recreational fishing and a modest commercial shark fishery, New Jersey is the scene of seven major tournaments every year that typically draw 4,000 participants. Those anglers hope to win purses in excess of $500,000 and spend much more than that on lodging and other expenses, Martin says in the letter.
New shark rules were part of a package of fishing regulation that were delayed during the Corzine administration, and recreational advocates urged Gov. Corzine to exempt those measures from his executive order delaying new rule adoptions. In early February the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission found New Jersey out of compliance, and started the clock running on enforcement actions that potentially include a moratorium.
But if New Jersey officials show they are moving promptly to come into compliance with the ASMFC plan, federal officials can delay action enforcement action for six months. Martin’s letter spells the plan out, from filing the rule proposal Thursday this week, followed by legally required milepost including a 60-day comment period, and ending with rule adoption July 19.