The council voted in favor of special management zones for the 13 artificial reefs in federal waters off the coast of New Jersey. The measure now goes on to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for final adoption.
That means it could take until 2018 before that status is actually in place, and the decision could be reversed or amended.
Commercial fishermen will most likely continue to advocate for a compromise on the reefs, instead of a measure that prohibits them from use of the reefs.
The designation has the power to prohibit the use of any gear on the reefs except hook and line and spear fishing, and the taking of fish by hand. In other words, it would eliminate fish traps principally used by commercial fishermen.
Captain Pete Grimbilias, now the chair of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance, was a driving forces to get commercial pot lines off the reefs. He was cautiously optimistic after the council took its position.
"It's a great step. It's been a long battle over the last ten years since the problem first came to our attention," said Grimblias. "It's not over yet though, we need to get NMFS on board with it."
Greater Atlantic Region Fisheries Office
National Marine Fisheries Service
55 Great Republic Drive
Gloucester, MA 01930