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Today, Assemblyman Robert J. Smith (D-4th), Chairman of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, and Assemblyman Steve Corodemus (R-11th) introduced the New Jersey Freedom to Fish Act.

Monday, 10 February 2003 This bill establishes requirements that must be met before any of the state's marine waters can be closed off to rod and reel fishing.

"Recreational fishing is one of the most popular outdoor activities in this state. It adds a lot to our quality of life here in New Jersey," said Assemblyman Smith. "New Jersey has a thriving recreational fishing industry which includes anglers, boat builders, retailers, party and charter boat businesses, marinas, and many others up and down our coast."

"Nearly a million anglers fish in New Jersey waters each year making a major contribution to the state and local economies," added Mr. Smith. "This bill establishes standards that must be met before any of our marine waters can be closed to rod and reel fishing."

According to a 2002 report from two independent consulting firms, 805,870 anglers fished in New Jersey waters in 2001 a total of 10,857,000 fishing days for a total economic output of $1.4 billion.

"Our ocean, bays and estuaries are some of New Jersey's most important natural resources and they must be managed effectively," said Assemblyman Corodemus. "The marine environment can be adequately protected without unnecessarily closing off areas to rod and reel fishermen."

Recreational fishermen have long demonstrated a commitment to conservation through abidance with minimum size requirements, bag limits, seasonal closures, and the use of non-lethal rod and reel fishing gear. Rod and reel fishing is a highly selective, inherently inefficient method of catching fish that traditionally has not led to overfishing.

The NJ Freedom to Fish Act prohibits closures to rod and reel fishing unless there is a clear indication that this type of fishing is causing a specific conservation problem and that less severe measures will not be adequate. This bill would also require periodic review of any closures, a scientific basis for the size of any closure, and provisions to reopen areas to rod and reel fishing whenever the basis for the closure no longer exists.

"This initiative is in response to the radical environmental movement to close off vast areas of our oceans by creating no fishing marine protected areas (MPAs)," said Jim Donofrio, Executive Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA). "Right now, recreational and commercial fishermen in California are facing a closure of some of their state's best fishing grounds."

"We're not out to ban MPAs," added Mr. Donofrio. "We want to establish standards in NJ before any closures can be made."

"NJ fishermen are fortunate to have friends like Assemblyman Smith and Assemblyman Corodemus in office," said Gene Doebley, RFA-NJ Chapter Legislative Chairman. "The NJ Freedom to Fish Act is a proactive bill that will enhance our ability to go out and enjoy the great fishing opportunities we have here in New Jersey."

"The use of MPAs in one form or another is not new," said Assemblyman Smith. "What is new is the push to exclude recreational fishing with no rationale for doing so and that is simply unacceptable."

The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) is a national, grassroots political action organization representing individual sport fishermen and the sport fishing industry. The RFA Mission is to safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers, protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs and ensure the long-term sustainability of U.S. saltwater fisheries.



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