WEST LONG BRANCH — A big concern for anglers who showed up for a public scoping meeting is ensuring that no additional regulations would be imposed on their industry if the Hudson Canyon were designated a national marine sanctuary.
They did not walk away with one after meeting with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sanctuary staff at Monmouth University’s Urban Coast Institute on Thursday. NOAA, however, was not there to make promises or make management decisions. At this stage, it is simply a matter of gathering public input, the first part of a multi-year designation process.
NOAA Sanctuary staff will then use public feedback to develop a management plan for the Hudson Canyon, such as sanctuary boundaries, permitted uses, and protections. If it came to a sanctuary, an advisory committee would be created where fishermen would have a seat at the table, staff said.
The canyon is a prolific fishing area that begins about 90 miles off Manasquan Inlet and is in the sights of a public debate on sanctuary designationwhich would give NOAA more leverage in managing the resources of the largest submarine canyon off the Atlantic coast.
The canyon, which attracts hot water swirls from the Gulf Stream, is an ecological wonder, home to large schools of tuna and squid; it is a foraging area for whales and porpoises and is home to many bottom fish and curious sea creatures such as anemones, crabs, octopus, deep sea corals and is dotted with shipwrecks , some dating from the 19th century.
The canyon itself is 350 miles long, reaches depths of 2 to 2.5 miles, and is up to 7.5 miles wide. It was carved into the ocean floor thousands of years ago by the Hudson River when the area was exposed during the last ice age. If the water were removed, the ocean floor would look a lot like the Grand Canyon.
Commercial vessels fish for tuna, squid, and lobster, while the state’s recreational fishing fleet, made up of for-hire vessels, continually takes anglers into the canyon to catch fresh tuna and tilefish.
“We are probably the largest and strictest fisheries management country in the world. Why do we need this extra layer on top of everything we have now?” said Jason Bahr, seafood wholesaler and vice president of Blue Water Anglers Associationa professional group of commercial longline fishermen who fish for pelagic species such as tuna and swordfish in the Hudson Canyon.
Bahr said strict regulations helped shrink the East Coast longliner fleet from 500 boats in the 1990s to 60 today.
Several federal and international agencies and regulatory acts already manage fish species that pass through or reside in the canyon, including the Magnuson-Stevens Act, Atlantic Highly Migratory Species, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Mid-Atlantic Marine Fisheries Council, and the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, or ICCAT.
“We’ve taken a lot of hits. The number of party boats, charter boats has gone down. So many tackle shops are closed. Right now we’re saying recreational fishing will be allowed in the canyons. But if that changes , where are we going to go? Recreational anglers rely on this canyon,” said John Toth, president of the Jersey Coast Anglers Association, an advocacy group for recreational anglers.
The sanctuary program would give NOAA additional oversight of the Hudson. In the program’s 40-year history, 13 National Marine Shrines and two National Marine Monuments have been created, beginning with the wreck of the Civil War-era battleship USS Monitor off Cape Hatteras, Carolina. North. However, no sanctuary is managed equally and NOAA has authorized additional fishing regulations to protect the seabed and cultural heritages such as shipwrecks at several sanctuaries.
Top anglers were assured Thursday that fishing, both recreational and commercial, would continue to be allowed in the canyon, as had been recommended by the Wildlife Conservation Society New York Aquarium, the entity that named the canyon for marine sanctuary designation in the first place in 2016.
“The appointment made it clear that the fisheries in the Hudson Canyon are well managed by the Fisheries Management Boards and by NOAA Fisheries and should continue to be managed under those authorities. We tend to agree “said LeAnn Hogan, of the National Marine Sanctuary’s East Region. Desk.
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The purposes of the sanctuary designation would be to protect the canyon from oil, gas and mining operations, to conserve its resources, to promote science, education and ecotourism, and to focus on maritime history and heritage.
Officials from the Jenkinson Aquarium in Point Pleasant Beach attended the meeting and went public with their support for the sanctuary designation.
“For us, being an aquarium on the Jersey Shore also gives us the opportunity to share with our guests and visitors from around the world the importance of the animals that live off our shores,” said Danni Logue, Jenkinson’s Animal Welfare Officer. programming coordinator.
Congress should eventually vote on sanctuary status. U.S. Representative Frank Pallone, DN.J. said he supported the designation and was in favor of the sanctuary’s goals, especially the additional protection against drilling into the ocean floor.
“For decades I have led efforts to clean up the Atlantic Ocean and protect it from spills and pollution, marine debris and plastics. I truly believe that a healthy ocean is key to tourism in our region, our economy and our fishing industries. I think we need to do everything we can to ensure that our economy continues to thrive,” said Pallone.
However, Pallone said he could not support it “if it imposes additional restrictions on fishing”.
The public comment period ends on August 8. It will be another three years or more before NOAA decides to make the canyon a sanctuary.
When Jersey Shore native Dan Radel isn’t reporting the news, you can find him in a classroom where he’s a history teacher. Contact him @danielradelapp; 732-643-4072; [email protected]