Edited by njdiver on 3/10/2017, 8:20 am
Due to warming inshore waters and predation in Lower Cape Cod, RI, and CT, the American Lobster landings in the Commercial fishery have declined drastically in what is referred to as the Southern New England (SNE) stock that also includes NY, NJ and further south to Cape Hatteras. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is trying to increase egg production by proposing seasonal closures and restrictions to gauge sizes and possible trap reductions with the Draft Addendum XXV available at http://www.asmfc.org/uploads/file/58a35d02AmLobsterDraftAddendumXXV_PublicComment.pdf. Last year I personally observed more lobsters in 60 plus ft. of water out of Barnegat Inlet then I have in many years, and dive shops and captains I talked to did not report any shortage of lobsters. With this Alert, the NJCDC is making some recommendations, but use your digression.
Unfortunately, the Addendum mentions the summer months, such as July through September as the most beneficial time for a seasonal closure (p. 18). This could virtually shut down the sport diver fishery for lobster during our high season, and adversely affect dive shops, dive boats, and sport diving in 2018. The Addendum suggests in Issue 3 (Recreational Fishery), the possibility of separating the recreational lobster fishery from the commercial fishery and/or applying gauge changes only to the Recreational Fishery. Sport divers should consider supporting Option C (recreational fishery subject to gauge changes, but not closed seasons). Safety in sport diving is very dependent on the weather which tends to be calmer in the summer. It may take a significantly large number of letters to convince the American Lobster Board to accept this option.
Issue 1 asks the question, how much should egg production be increased with target options from 0 (status quo), 20, 30, 40, and 60 percent. A 60 percent target is likely to close the fishery for both Commercial and Recreational and would be unrealistic. It is unlikely that the American Lobster Board will accept 0 (status quo). A realistic target such as 20% might be best for sustaining the fishery. Issue 2 involves management options and asks whether management tools can be used independently or must be used in combination with one another. The NJCDC is uncertain of its impact, but perhaps the flexibility of Option A would be best. Issue 5 involves uniform regulations across the Lobster Conservation Management Areas in the SNE stock. Option B would require regulations to be uniform over Area 4 and 5. Area 4 and 5 splits a few miles north of Barnegat Inlet on a line that runs East to West and areas North and South of that line presently have different closure dates, creating confusion in the recreational fishery and enforcement problems for NJ Conservation Officers. Option B should get rid of that problem! Most of the other issues 4, 6 and 7 pertain specifically to the Commercial pot fishery or States south.
There will be public hearings on March 15th at Belmar Municipal Court, 601 Main St, Belmar, NJ. At 6 PM. For New York divers, the hearing will be on March 20th at 6 pm at the NYSDEC Div. of Marine Resources, 205 N. Belle Mead Rd, East Setauket NY.
Written comments should be addressed to Megan Ware, Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, 1050 N Highlands St, Suite 200 A-N, Arlington, VA 22201. Or by E mail to email@example.com. Comments must arrive by April 7th, and designate all comments with “Lobster Addendum XXV”.
In conclusion, sport divers should consider supporting Issue 1, Option B, Issue 3, Option C, and Issue 5, Option B. Most importantly and make it loud and clear – NO 3 MONTH SUMMER CLOSURE!
NJCDC Legislative Committee