ACTION ALERT FROM RFA-NJ CHAPTER
"POTS OFF REEF" BILL PASSES THROUGH SENATE COMMITTEE
For the third time in as many legislative sessions, the Pots off the Reefs bill has been reported successfully out of the NJ Senate Environment and Energy Committee.
Senate Bill number 221 (S 221) introduced by Sen. Sean T. Kean and co-sponsored by Sen. Jeff Van Drew and Sen. Andrew R. Ciesla will now await action by the full Senate which is not likely to come until a companion Assembly bill progresses. That Assembly bill, A 1152, was recently introduced by Assembly representatives David P. Rible and Mary Pat Angelini, and has eight additional co-sponsors. The assembly version of the Pots off the Reefs bill has been referred to the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
Board members of the New Jersey Chapter of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA-NJ) attended this morning's Senate committee hearing on behalf of anglers, and said there's overwhelming public support by recreational anglers in the state to see those reefs freed of fixed gear. "It was a packed committee room in Trenton today, and the RFA-NJ chapter submitted our testimony in person in support of the bill," said RFA-NJ chapter chairman Capt. Adam Nowalsky, adding "we're thrilled that S221 received a unanimous vote, and we're looking forward to seeing this get a full Senate vote in the near future."
Despite the acknowledgement that continuing to allow fixed gear on New Jersey's artificial reefs may subject the state to repayment of federal Sport Fish Restoration fund monies, the legislation had been stalled in the Assembly in recent years. Identical legislation in the last session was never read before committee, and in the prior legislative session the bill was reported out of committee, only to be voted to be tabled when brought before the full Assembly for action.
"Specifically, Director Dave Chanda said the Division of Fish and Wildlife believes it's the right thing to do," Nowalsky said of the today's vote. Nowalsky pointed out that Senator Smith specifically noted the testimony of former reef director Bill Figley as being "devastating" to the opposition's argument against the bill. "Senator Smith said it's important that the public continues to see the benefits of these fishing reefs in support of our recreational fishing community here in New Jersey," said Nowalsky.
As noted in a previous RFA-NJ email alert, the state-approved 2005 Artificial Reef Plan listed the intent of the reef sites as being for hook-and-line and spearfishing activities. For more than 20 years, the administration of the reef program has been funded by donations from anglers and organizations throughout the state, in addition to Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish (Wallop-Breaux) Restoration Funds. Sport Fish Restoration funds are derived from an excise tax on recreational fishing purchases, and federal law requires that these funds be used exclusively to benefit recreational fisheries.
RFA-NJ CHAPTER AT ATLANTIC CITY BOAT SHOW
The RFA-NJ chapter is scheduled to be in place at booth number 858 this week at the Atlantic City Convention Center, as the annual Atlantic City International Boat Show cruises into town again from Wednesday through Sunday of this week. Doors open daily at 11 a.m. through Friday, with special weekend hours starting at 10 a.m.
Back by popular demand are informative fishing classes and seminars produced by The Fisherman magazine. RFA members are reminded that Saturday is RFA Day at the Atlantic City Boat Show, with special seminars focused exclusively on local fishing opportunities and prizes given out throughout the day in the seminar area. Once again, RFA members should remember to bring their updated membership card for five times the chance to win top quality fishing tackle and prizes at the show.
Anyone who signs up for a new or renewal membership at the Atlantic City Boat Show this week will also automatically be entered into a grand prize drawing in late March for an original fish carving; this beautiful hand-carved mahi has been donated by wildlife artist and RFA-NJ board member, Chris Peszka. Come out to Atlantic City this week, check the beautiful piece of art, join the RFA, and get details on the fishermen's rally in Washington DC set for February 24.
For more information, visit www.joinrfa.org
For details about the AC Boat Show, visit www.acboatshow.com
About Recreational Fishing Alliance & RFA-NJ
The RFA is a national, grassroots political action organization representing recreational fishermen and the recreational fishing industry on marine fisheries issues. The RFA-NJ chapter mission is to safeguard the rights of New Jersey's saltwater anglers, protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs, and ensure the long-term sustainability of our Nation's saltwater fisheries.
For information, visit www.joinrfa.org