NJ Anglers: A Story of David and Goliath
By Anthony P Mauro, Sr (c) 2011
USA –-(Ammoland.com)- In the story of David and Goliath the Philistine army gathered for war against Israel.
The two armies were positioned on opposite sides of a steep valley. The Philistine’s had a daunting weapon; a gigantic warrior measuring over nine feet tall and clad in full armor.
They would send the giant, named Goliath, out each day to mock the Israelites and challenge them to fight. This act of provocation and intimidation continued until a volunteer chose to fight the imposing tyrant.
The challenger was named David; a young teenager dressed in a simple tunic, and armed only with a slingshot and stones. In spite of overwhelming odds David remained fearless – he was inspired by an honest cause.
As Goliath approached David he became enraged by the boy’s defiance. David searched for a hole in the giant’s armor, then secured the stone and slung it at an opening near Goliath's forehead. The giant's legs buckled and he fell lifeless to the ground.
Today, the recreational anglers of New Jersey find themselves in a situation similar to David. And, it is state government that has become giant-like through the influence of commercial fishing interests. The state government of NJ is the Goliath that intimidates the everyman and acts to keep him from the ocean reefs for which he has paid. Apparently it is a state government that believes it is unaccountable to its people.
It is the recreational angler that funds the ocean reefs, not the commercial fishing industry. Recreational anglers pay a federal excise tax on sport fishing tackle and gear. These tax monies are given back to states as Federal Aid, and are designated to be used for management and restoration of fish having material value in connection with sport or recreation in the marine and/or fresh waters of the United States.
To be eligible to receive Federal Aid, states are required to assent to federal law and pass laws for the conservation of fish which include a prohibition against the diversion of license fees for any other purpose than the administration of the state fish department. With respect to reefs, they were designed for use by the general public and built with Federal Sport Fish Restoration funds. The appropriate gear for use on ocean reefs is inefficient gear; hook and line, and spear. Hook and line can be used by recreational or commercial fishermen.
In April of this year, the federal government terminated funding to New Jersey's Reef Program because NJ state government allows excessive traps, pots and lines to restrict access to the reefs by anglers and divers. State government built the reefs with money from recreational anglers and with the same purpose as a public park; everyone is welcome as long as they participate in activities for which the park was designed. A park is designed for public recreation, not a place for commercial fishing enterprises to profit.
In fact, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, and New York have all complied with the federal government and have removed traps and pots from their ocean reefs. Delaware has now initiated steps to do the same. Only New Jersey state government behaves as Goliath. Even as New Jersey enacted the toughest anti-bullying law in the country it ignores its own bullying behavior. The New Jersey Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee (A&NRC) refuses to allow a bill to be heard that will bring New Jersey into compliance with the law for federal aid and allow conflict-free access to reefs.
To date, New Jersey state government has refused to follow the lead of the other states along the Atlantic seaboard and remove traps, pots, and lines from the ocean reefs. The A&NRC refuses to hear the bill: 1. Even though the Senate has overwhelmingly passed a companion bill. 2. Even though the majority of Assembly members have signed on as co-sponsors. 3. Even though it will likely restore Federal Aid to New Jersey’s Reef Program. 4. Even though it will eliminate conflict by removing fixed gear.
It is evident that the recreational angler must act as David against a state government that acts as
Goliath. It is the recreational angler that must contact Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (973) 395-1166, and Assemblyman Nelson Albano, Chairman, A&NRC, (609) 465-0700, and ask that they allow Bill A1152 (legislation that prohibits the use of certain fishing gear on artificial reefs) to be heard.
It is also up to the recreational angler to contact Bob Martin, Commissioner, Department of Environmental Protection, (609) 292-2885, and ask him to create a regulation that will restore Federal Aid to New Jersey’s Reef Program. We must ask him to follow the lead of Commissioners in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, New York, and Delaware, and remove traps, pots, and lines from New Jersey reefs. Legislation or regulation can be used to remove the fixed fishing gear.
If you are told that there is a compromise in the works, make sure to insist that any compromise must remove fixed gear and also restore Federal Aid to New Jersey’s Reef Program.
There are approximately 800,000 recreational anglers in NJ, which would make it the largest voting bloc in the state should anglers speak with one voice. As New Jersey state government acts as Goliath, anglers must look at the giant with the same perspective as David and not feel defeated. David knew that action needed to be taken and did the right thing in spite of overwhelming odds.
So, respectfully ask Speaker Oliver and Assemblyman Albano that they allow Bill A1152 to be heard and to make certain Federal Aid is restored to New Jersey’s Reef Program. Respectfully ask Commissioner Martin to create regulation that will do the same. Let New Jersey policy makers know that you expect them to do the right thing.
This is an election year and the voices of 800,000 recreational “Davids” can change a state government that acts like “Goliath”. Our collective voice is the one stone we have that is capable of slaying a giant.
About: Anthony P. Mauro, Sr, (also known as “Ant” to friends and associates) is Chairman and co-founder of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance, New Jersey Outdoor Alliance Conservation Foundation, and New Jersey Outdoor Alliance Environmental Projects. Ant's commitment to the principles of sustainable use of natural resources and environmental stewardship helped to create the New Jersey Angling & Hunting Conservation Caucus (NJA&HC). The NJA&HC is the first outdoor caucus of its kind in New Jersey and is designed to educate opinion leaders and policy makers about the principles of conservation; the foundation for healthy ecosystems, fish and wildlife.
Ant is a public speaker on the topic of conservation and the ways anglers and hunters can become involved in shaping outdoors releated legislative policy. He has authored three books on conservation, hunting and the great outdoors including the controversial and highly regarded, “Color The Green Movement Blue” (available as ebook). His other books include; “Take Me on Safari: A Family Affair” (available as ebook) and “The New Age Hunter”. He also wrote the children's book “Where is Wildbeary?”
Ant is available to speak at your club and to do book signings. ~ Contact him: [email protected]