By Dave Chanda
This year the excitement and anticipation of another marine fishing season will be somewhat tempered by the memory and ongoing reminders of Superstorm Sandy’s devastating blow to coastal communities and the state’s commercial and recreational marine fisheries. Governor Christie has been — and continues to be — a strong advocate for securing the aid necessary to rebuild the hopes and dreams of residents and communities hardest hit by the storm. The DEP and our Division’s Marine Fisheries staff have worked tirelessly since the storm to assess, monitor, repair and mitigate the storm’s impacts to water and sewer infrastructure, state park and wildlife management area facilities plus our marine and coastal waterways and natural resources. Great progress has been made in clean-up and rebuilding. However, the storm’s impacts to marine anglers and the marine fishing industry will require substantially more relief than was provided by the storm relief package approved by Congress.
On November 16, 2012, Acting Secretary of Commerce Blank determined a fishery resource disaster occurred in New Jersey and New York, which provided a basis for Congress to appropriate disaster relief funding. As part of the larger Sandy relief package, $5 million was appropriated by Congress for expenses related to fishery impacts in both New Jersey and New York because of Hurricane Sandy. The two states will determine how the $5 million dollars will be split later this spring. Unfortunately, the losses sustained by our state’s fishing industry far exceed the $5 million dollars currently appropriated.
The National Marine Fisheries Service conducted an independent assessment of the economic losses incurred by New Jersey and New York’s fishing industries because of Hurricane Sandy. The report, released on March 15, 2013, estimated that the uninsured losses sustained by New Jersey’s fishing industry range from $77–$120 million. Recreational fishing-related industries — party/charter boat, bait and tackle shops and marinas — accounted for more than 80 percent of all losses.
Fish and Wildlife’s Marine Fisheries Administration staff played a very active role in providing information and working with the socioeconomic team from the National Marine Fisheries Service that conducted the initial economic assessment of damages and losses to New Jersey’s fishing industries. In addition to supporting the National Marine Fisheries Service assessment, our Marine Fisheries Administration — thanks in part to the help of many constituent groups — is conducting its own comprehensive assessment and analysis of losses incurred by party/charter boats, bait and tackle shops/marinas, commercial fishermen, commercial fish dealers and shellfish aquaculture operations. Preliminary data suggest that uninsured losses may significantly exceed the National Marine Fisheries Service estimates.
Additional aid may find its way to the state through a bill introduced on April 9 by U.S. Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. Congressman Pallone’s federal disaster relief bill would provide $193 million for New Jersey and New York storm-related fisheries impacts with $121 million of that money going to New Jersey.
The damage to the state’s marine fishing industry is unquestionable. However, the rich diversity and abundance of our marine resource remains intact and fishing opportunities abound. Now more than ever, marine anglers need to continue — and even increase — their fishing trips to support and hasten the economic recovery of New Jersey’s marine fishing industry.
I hope to see you on the water.
Regulations in red are new this year.
Purple text indicates an important note.