realmad From this mornings Courier Post.
Sport fishing won Thursday when the state Senate Environment Committee voted unanimously to advance legislation that, if adopted, would ban the setting of lobster and fish traps on New Jersey's two offshore artificial reefs.

"It's a fairness issue," said state Sen. Stephen M. Sweeney, D-Gloucester. "You can't have a few of the commercial guys taking so many of the fish."

"I was a commercial fisherman myself. I truly believe that the artificial reef was designed for the angler," said the bill's chief co-sponsor, Sen. James "Sonny" McCullough, R-Atlantic, who said he had gone out onto the ocean and checked the reefs.

"It's a shame that the senators had preconceived notions," said Daniel Cohen, president of Atlantic Capes Fisheries Inc., manager of 18 fishing vessels, while servicing an additional 15, at docks in Cape May and Point Pleasant.

"The science testimony was overwhelming," said Sen. Bob Smith, D-Middlesex, and chairman of the committee.

That data came from marine biologist Bill Figley of Manasquan, who argued the state had intended for the reefs to serve hook-and-line fishing and scuba divers, not commercial fishing.

"Reefs are not designed for a few fishermen to set large quantities of highly efficient fishing gear and dominate the catch or access to the reefs," Figley said.

So-called "potters," who sink lobster and fish traps -- about the size of a steamer trunk -- to the bottom, have colonized the reefs, snagging the hooks of the line-fishing recreational fishers with the rope that connects the trap on the seabed to the float on the surface.

Advocates for sport-fishing groups said that setting the traps -- called "pots" -- on the reefs makes it impossible to build up the structures, reduces access for recreational fishing and tends to overfish the wildlife there.

"The reefs belong to everyone," argued Jean Hollerbach, who said she has been lobstering out of Point Pleasant for 26 years, before the reefs were even begun.

The bill now heads to Senate President Richard J. Codey, who will decide if it is to be given a vote by the full Senate. A companion measure exists in the Assembly, where no action has been taken.

Both chambers must OK their bills before the legislation is sent to Gov. Jon S. Corzine. The current legislative session ends in the second week of January.

Smith said the ban would affect only the two reefs in New Jersey's three-mile territorial waters -- Sandy Hook Reef, just under two miles from Sea Bright, and the Axel Carlsen Reef, located about two miles off the Bay Head and Mantoloking beaches.

Smith said the bill calls for the state Department of Environmental Protection to ask the federal government to ban "potting" on 13 other reefs off the Jersey Shore located beyond Jersey waters.

The building of man-made reefs off Jersey's sandy ocean floor, begun in the 1980s, has been acclaimed for providing bountiful fish habitat. Figley said 85 percent of reef life is limpet growth on the structure, 11 percent is shrimp, lobster or crabs, and the last 4 percent represents actual finned fish.

Most East Coast states have banned potting on man-made reefs, North Carolina being the exception. Anywhere north of New York State, in New England, there is no issue because vast areas of the sea bottom there are rocky, requiring no man-made reefs.

Whats the bad new you ask? Only two of the New Jersey reefs are within the 3 mile limit. The Axel Carlsen and the Sandy Hook. Even our beloved "Tires" is outside the proposed limit.

Gentleman, we have a war on our hands. Not only with the Commercial industry but now we have to take on Uncle Sam. I would suspect if this bill passes the full Senate you'll see a greater number of "pots and traps" on out reefs.

I for one am tired of being pushed around over a resource we all have worked to provide. This has really became the straw that broke the camels back. I for one do not plan to sit around and take a wait and see attitude. I want to take these :xxx: on. Any one else ready?
sore back , bad knees , and all wet!!! it must be a whaler.
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