On Thursday, the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council approved new size, bag and season limits that will take effect within the next few weeks. The new regs were required in order to comply with an Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) mandate to reduce blackfish harvest.
The new rules increase the size of legal blackfish to 15 inches and set the following seasons and bag limits: Four fish from Jan. 1 to Feb 28; Four fish from April 1 to April 30; One fish from July 27 to Aug. 31; One fish from Oct. 18 to Nov. 15; Four fish from Nov. 16 to Dec. 31.
Addendum VI from the ASMFC established a lower mortality rate for blackfish and called for a 56 percent coastwide reduction in blackfish harvest.
Individual states were directed to develop and implement regulations that will enable them to meet the new mortality rate.
There are those, however, who say the Addendum did not address the bigger issues that face the tog fishery in New Jersey.
Capt. Adam Nowalsky, chairman of the New Jersey Chapter of the Recreational Fishing Alliance is among them.
Nowalsky was dissapointed by the fact that no action was taken on what is seen as the real problem in the blackfish fishery — illegal harvest.
“The original intent of the Commission’s blackfish addendum was to address illegal harvest of blackfish and yet that turned into no action being taken on illegal harvest,” Nowalsky said. He also questioned the science.
“This is very discouraging, given that individual state science shows states are fishing at much lower levels than what is indicated by a coastwide model, and this is purely due to the fact that the blackfish stock assessment is in dire need of improved science and we need to get that science moving as quickly as possible,” Nowalsky said.