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Director’s Message

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After an exceptionally long and cold winter, the warmer days and waters of spring usher in another annual cycle of marine fish and shellfish activity along our coast and in our bays and estuaries. Spring also signals the beginning of another annual cycle of marine fishing for many of New Jersey’s more than 500,000 recreational saltwater anglers and over 3,300 licensed commercial fishermen.

New Jersey may be small in size but it is unquestionably mighty in terms of marine resources and the economic impact of recreational and commercial uses of those resources. Our wealth of marine resources stems from our fortunate geography, which graces us with more than 349 square nautical miles of oceanic waters within 3 miles from shore and more than 500 square nautical miles of estuarine waters.

Not only vast, but productive waters support some of the largest and most successful recreational and commercial fisheries on the Atlantic Coast and in the entire country. New Jersey consistently ranks in the top three Atlantic Coast states in numbers of fish harvested by recreational anglers for all the major recreational species. New Jersey’s commercial fisheries ranks third in the country in terms of pounds landed and value of the landings—only behind Alaska and Massachusetts.

Our vibrant recreational and commercial fisheries fuel a powerful economic engine that annually contributes more than 2 billion dollars to the New Jersey economy. Over and above this is an economic contribution to New Jersey’s tourism industry. Our abundant marine fishing opportunity is an important factor for both non-residents and residents in choosing New Jersey as a vacation destination. The additional economic benefit to tourism from marine anglers is substantial and critical to our coastal economy.

With great wealth comes great responsibility. The future of our marine resource and its sustainable use hinges on responsible management. The magnitude of management responsibility and the way marine fish stocks are managed have changed dramatically over the last 25 years. In the mid-1980s the striped bass was the only New Jersey species whose management was controlled by a federally mandated Atlantic Coast marine fisheries management plan. Today, more than 30 of our most sought after marine species are managed on a coastwide basis through these plans. Each of these plans have research, monitoring and management requirements states must satisfy to allow their anglers to keep fishing for each of those species.

There is growing competition between Atlantic Coast states for harvest shares of marine fish stocks. Our marine staff currently represents New Jersey’s interests on over 25 interstate/federal management boards and nearly 60 different interstate technical/monitoring committees. Now more than ever, the fishing opportunities for marine fish in each Atlantic Coast state is shaped by the quantity and the quality of data collected by each state.

Angler harvest statistics are an important component of Atlantic Coast data that ultimately shape fishing regulations and species harvest in each state. New Jersey anglers now have the ability to contribute valuable data to help maintain and improve their marine fish seasons, length and bag limits.

This issue of the Marine Digest highlights a number of areas where New Jersey anglers can influence fisheries management. One example can be found in the article Partnerships: Work in Fish Sampling Efforts where Fish and Wildlife staff have been working cooperatively with for-hire vessels and fishing tournaments to collect valuable biological samples for striped bass and bluefish. Another article discusses the Marine Recreational Information Program and how this will improve the quality of data used to manage marine fish. Lastly, the New Jersey Recreational Saltwater Angler Survey is an online fishing reporting method anglers should submit every time they fish. This new survey allows for greater management flexibility than otherwise provided by using the older federal survey system. For example, the discard data provided by New Jersey anglers allowed New Jersey to evaluate smaller/dual size limits options for the 2011 fishing season.

Please help us to help you by completing a fishing report for every trip and by registering each year in the Saltwater Angler Registry Program.

Dave Chanda is the Director of the Division of Fish and Wildlife.

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