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RFA targets illegal fish harvesting

Pricey market for live fish in restaurants fueling poaching, hurting legitimate commercial, recreational fishermen, Donofrio says
Published in the Asbury Park Press 03/18/05
By John Gieser


(PHOTO COURTESY SCOTT'S BAIT & TACKLE, BRADLEY BEA
Chris Mitchell of Neptune caught this 10.4-pound, 25-inch blackfish on clams at Long Branch in January. RFA executive director James A. Donofrio says tight restrictions on the recreational fishery are the result of unregulated fish harvesting.

The Recreational Fishing Alliance announced this week that it is mounting a national campaign against the illegal harvest of fish to supply the live fish market.
James A. Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, said that government must address the burgeoning illegal fishery that is impacting the recreational and legitimate commercial fisheries for some species on both the East and West coasts.

"In our waters it's the live blackfish fishery," he said. "On the West Coast, it's California rockfish and other species being caught illegally to support the live fish market."

Donofrio said the illegal fishery is undermining the traditional commercial fishery, damaging the recreational fishery and frustrating attempts of the federal government, regional management bodies and state agencies to manage the nation's marine resources sensibly.

"These fish are being landed outside the system," Donofrio said. "In management, they call it illegal, unreported and unregulated landings ? IUU."

The live market in New Jersey and New York developed a few years prior to the realization that blackfish stocks were declining rapidly. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which has management control over the fishery, had only one place to turn to remedy the perceived collapse ? the recreational sector.

The reason for the choice was obvious: the conventional collection of landings data over the years indicated that 97 percent of the blackfish landings came from recreational fishermen.

"The trouble is, we're not the ones causing the problem," Donofrio said. "There was no problem before this unreported live fish trade opened."

The recreational sector is now burdened with a possession limit of four fish from Jan. 1 through May 31, one fish from June 1 through Nov. 14, and eight fish from Nov. 15 through Dec. 31. In addition, the minimum size limit has been increased to 14 inches.

"A possession limit of one blackfish is ridiculous," Donofrio said. "This is particularly damaging to the party and charter boat industry, and for what? They say the stocks are still in trouble, the illegal fishery is thriving, and the party and charter boat industry and the recreational sector are suffering."

Donofrio said he was invited to attend a West Coast recreational fishing conference in Las Vegas last year, and during a break he and several others visited an Asian fish restaurant for dinner.

He noted that live California rockfish was on the menu, and he inquired about a fillet.

"They told me it was $200 a pound just for the fish, and I said no thank you, but that gives you an idea of what this fish is worth on the retail market," he said.

"We've got the problem right here in New Jersey and New York," he continued. "Illegal fishing ? supplying the live fish market in New York City and Philadelphia with unreported blackfish at $10 to $20 a pound."

Donofrio said the illegal trade is so lucrative that those participating in it can make money with small boats landing in out-of-the-way places, unloading into vans and pickup trucks and taking the fish directly to the city.

"We've had enough," he said. "We're tired of being over-regulated because of these guys. They're never giving these fish a chance to grow and spawn.

"Blackfish are long-lived fish ? they can live for 20 or 30 years ? and they're slow to grow and mature," he added. "This illegal fishery is taking all sizes, and we're being punished for it."

Donofrio reminded that 25 years ago the 2 to 3 percent of the blackfish harvest taken commercially was either the result of bycatch in lobster traps, incidental to other efforts or from the small pot fishery.

"The sale is unbelievable today," he said. "They're selling them to markets as far away as Canada. There's a huge market in New York City ? they're making big money satisfying the appetite for live fish.

"What we want to do is partner with the traditional commercial fisherman and put an end to this rampant disregard for law and conservation," he said. "There's no place for illegal, unreported, unregulated harvest in today's fishery."

Donofrio said the new questionnaires on RFA members' preferences for striped bass regulations are being printed this week, and will be sent out immediately.

"It's only one card with two choices ? two at 28 (inches) and the slot (present law)," he said. "Volunteers from the Shark River Surf Anglers and Asbury Park Fishing Club are going to help count the cards.

"Because there are only two questions in the survey, we can count thousands in a short time," he said. "It's not like the last one where there were a lot of questions and the information had to be analyzed."
 

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I have seen this and agrre it is a problem but the amount of fish we are talking about here is very small,it takes alot of effort to haul 100-150 pounds of live fish anywhere if you are trying to be discrete and not driving a truck with a 500 gallon tank,most of the guys you are talking about occasdionally hook and line a few fish and take them to the market.I guess if you add it all up it may look like alot but i do not think it is a big problem in the overall scale of fishing.
 

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I started with a much different line but had to edit it because it wasn't proper.

Let me just say I disagree with Fred and I agree with the RFA its not reported and it's a big number.

[ 03-20-2005, 10:07 PM: Message edited by: Mike Hammer ]
 

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Originally posted by Fred81876:
I have seen this and agrre it is a problem but the amount of fish we are talking about here is very small,it takes alot of effort to haul 100-150 pounds of live fish anywhere if you are trying to be discrete and not driving a truck with a 500 gallon tank,most of the guys you are talking about occasdionally hook and line a few fish and take them to the market.I guess if you add it all up it may look like alot but i do not think it is a big problem in the overall scale of fishing.
What planet are you living on? Go to any Jetty and peak in the windows of the vans.
 

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MPA's A-Go-Go..............
 

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A couple of years ago I was on a party boat for blackfish and there was 4 or 5 guys from New York who had two 55 gallon drums that they put the fish into and they kept doing water exchanges to keep the fish alive
 

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man 100 or 150 lb a day @ even five dollars a lb is good money! $500 to 750 aday a five day week 2500 or more.. 10k a mounth ?

how much can you earn a day captn ? you don't need much water if you hual the fish with a pure o2 bubbler,

yes something needs tobe done,!

my problem is how did it go this far? illegale is illegale, i don't have any problem with anyone makeing money off any fishery,as long as they stay with in the limmits set...

had they got permits to sell live fishies so be it!

but no "black market" crap!

"most of the guys you are talking about occasdionally hook and line a few fish and take them to the market.I guess if you add it all up it may look like alot but i do not think it is a big problem in the overall scale of fishing."

fred your not saying it's ok to (steal/rob) as long as it's only a little bit are you..?

freedom ots.
 
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