SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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NWR MAINTENANCE BACKLOG AND FISH INTERRELATIONSHIP
SUBCOMMITTEE ON FISHERIES CONSERVATION, WILDLIFE AND OCEANS
COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS
Maintenance Backlog at National Wildlife Refuges and the Interrelationship of Bluefish, Striped Bass, and Forage Fish
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APRIL 21, 1997MANAHAWKIN, NJ
Serial No. 10514
Printed for the use of the Committee on Resources
COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES
DON YOUNG, Alaska, Chairman
W.J. (BILLY) TAUZIN, Louisiana
JAMES V. HANSEN, Utah
JIM SAXTON, New Jersey
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee
JOEL HEFLEY, Colorado
JOHN T. DOOLITTLE, California
WAYNE T. GILCHREST, Maryland
KEN CALVERT, California
RICHARD W. POMBO, California
BARBARA CUBIN, Wyoming
HELEN CHENOWETH, Idaho
LINDA SMITH, Washington
GEORGE P. RADANOVICH, California
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCWALTER B. JONES, Jr., North Carolina
WILLIAM M. (MAC) THORNBERRY, Texas
JOHN SHADEGG, Arizona
JOHN E. ENSIGN, Nevada
ROBERT F. SMITH, Oregon
CHRIS CANNON, Utah
KEVIN BRADY, Texas
JOHN PETERSON, Pennsylvania
RICK HILL, Montana
BOB SCHAFFER, Colorado
JIM GIBBONS, Nevada
MICHAEL D. CRAPO, Idaho
GEORGE MILLER, California
EDWARD J. MARKEY, Massachusetts
NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
BRUCE F. VENTO, Minnesota
DALE E. KILDEE, Michigan
PETER A. DeFAZIO, Oregon
ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American Samoa
NEIL ABERCROMBIE, Hawaii
SOLOMON P. ORTIZ, Texas
OWEN B. PICKETT, Virginia
FRANK PALLONE, Jr., New Jersey
CALVIN M. DOOLEY, California
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCCARLOS A. ROMERO-BARCELÓ, Puerto Rico
MAURICE D. HINCHEY, New York
ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD, Guam
SAM FARR, California
PATRICK J. KENNEDY, Rhode Island
ADAM SMITH, Washington
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
CHRIS JOHN, Louisiana
DONNA CHRISTIAN-GREEN, Virgin Islands
RON KIND, Wisconsin
LLOYD DOGGETT, Texas
LLOYD A. JONES, Chief of Staff
ELIZABETH MEGGINSON, Chief Counsel
CHRISTINE KENNEDY, Chief Clerk/Administrator
JOHN LAWRENCE, Democratic Staff Director
Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans
Jim Saxton, New Jersey, Chairman
W.J. (BILLY) TAUZIN, Louisiana
WAYNE T. GILCHREST, Maryland
WALTER B. JONES, Jr., North Carolina
JOHN PETERSON, Pennsylvania
MICHAEL D. CRAPO, Idaho
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NEIL ABERCROMBIE, Hawaii
SOLOMON P. ORTIZ, Texas
FRANK PALLONE, Jr., New Jersey
SAM FARR, California
PATRICK J. KENNEDY, Rhode Island
HARRY BURROUGHS, Staff Director
JOHN RAYFIELD, Legislative Staff
CHRISTOPHER STEARNS, Democratic Counsel
C O N T E N T S
Hearing held April 21, 1997
Statement of Members:
Saxton, Hon. Jim, a U.S. Representative from New Jersey; and Chairman, Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans
Statement of Witnesses:
Able, Kenneth, Rutgers University Marine Field Station
Atzert, Steve, Manager, Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge
Bergmann, Charles, Lund's Fishery, Inc., Cape May, NJ
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCBittner, Frank C., President, New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs (prepared statement)
Cross, Jeffrey, Director, Sandy Hook Marine Research Laboratory, National Marine Fisheries Service
DeCamp, William, Jr., President, Save Barnegat Bay, Ocean County Izaak Walton League
Donofrio, James A., Executive Director, Recreational Fishing Alliance
Dunnigan, John H., Director, Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission
Fote, Thomas P., Legislative Chairman, New Jersey Coast Anglers' Association
Koons, Joan, President, Board of Trustees, Alliance for A Living Ocean
McCloy, Thomas W., Administrator, New Jersey Marine Fisheries Administration
Rogers, John, Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior
Schaefer, Richard, Director, Office of Intergovernmental and Recreational Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service, Department of Commerce
Shinn, Robert, Commissioner, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Streeter, Robert, Assistant Director for Refuges and Wildlife, USFWS
NWR MAINTENANCE BACKLOG AND FISH INTERRELATIONSHIP
MONDAY, APRIL 21, 1997
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U.S. House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans, Committee on Resources,
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 10 a.m. at Mill Creek Community Center, 1199 Mill Creek Road, Manahawkin, New Jersey, Hon. Jim Saxton (Chairman of the Subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. SAXTON. Thank you, everybody, for being here and thank you, especially, for being here on time so that we can begin this hearing on two subjects that are extremely important to all of us. The refuge operations and maintenance backlog will be part of this hearing, which obviously relates directly to the Forsythe Refuge and many other wildlife refuges around the country. We will also discuss the interrelationship among bluefish, striped bass, and forage fish, which is an ongoing topic of concern.
Before we begin to discuss the wildlife refuge issue and the striped bass, bluefish, forage fish issue, we have with us this morning a good friend of mine, Mr. John Rogers, who is the acting director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and with him is Will Goebel, G-O-E-B-E-L, who is a wildlife artist and some of his art was chosen last year for the Federal wildlife stamp.
And John, let me just turn this over to you for just a moment, Mr. Director, and you have a presentation to make, I believe.
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ROGERS. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. As you indicated, we do have a very important presentation to make this morning.
The Fish and Wildlife Service for about six months has been looking for an appropriate opportunity to present you with a token of our appreciation for your ongoing interest in the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Wildlife Refuge issues.
What we have is a copy of Will Goebel's winning duck stamp art from last year as a token of our appreciation. It is, of course, a wonderful piece of art, but it symbolizes both your district as well as the National Wildlife Refuge system. So it's a pair of surf scooters and the background is the historic Barnegat Light. It is the only duck stamp depiction that has contained any structures, certainly the only one to ever contain a historic structure. It is very important because one knowseveryone knows that hunters must have a duck stamp with them when they're waterfowl hunting, and the proceeds from this stamp go to purchase lands for the National Wildlife Refuge Systems, so it very nicely ties together both art and the wildlife world. And on behalf of the Fish and Wildlife Service I would like to present this to you.
Will Goebel, the artist.
Mr. SAXTON. Will, welcome back to New Jersey. This is quite an honor for the people of the third congressional district, which includes, of course, Barnegat Light and Barnegat Bay. Those of you who have visited my office know that when you come in the front door you see a number of wildlife prints, particularly waterfowl prints, from a local organization, the Barnegat Bay Museum folks from Tuckerton, and if you wander on into my inner office you'll find another wall covered with wildlife waterfowl prints, and so this will make a great addition to the office of the third congressional district in Washington, D.C.
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So John, we thank you, and, Will, congratulations to you on your art having been selected. This is a great picture of sea ducks and Barnegat Lighthouse, and the print will be most appreciated by those who visit the office, 339 Cannon Building, incidentally, if anybody wishes to come and visit. So Will, thank you very much for your participation.
All right, on a more official note, let me welcome all of you here today. The Subcommittees on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans will now officially come to order.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. JIM SAXTON, A U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FROM NEW JERSEY; AND CHAIRMAN, SUBCOMMITTEE ON FISHERIES CONSERVATION, WILDLIFE AND OCEANS
Mr. SAXTON. We are meeting today to discuss two issues of great importance. The first issue is the operation and maintenance backlog in the National Wildlife Refuge System, and of course, we chose this area for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the wildlife refuge is located within yards of here, and it, obviously, was named for my predecessor in Congress.
The Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge was created in 1984 by Public Law 98293. The act consolidated the Barnegat and Brigantine National Wildlife Refuges into a single refuge. Barnegat was created in 1967 and Brigantine in 1939. The Cape May National Wildlife Refuge was created in 1989.
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In 1995 the Forsythe and Cape May Refuges were placed under a unified management. These refuges are referred to collectively as the Jersey Coast Refuges. They were established to protect migratory birds, to protect and conserve wetlands, and for the conservation and protection of wildlife resources.
This might be a good point for me to pause and to just say that, obviously, we are protective in the strictest sense of the word of the Wildlife Refuge System and continue to try to find ways to enhance it, both by enlarging it, and by acquiring uplands to protect the wetlands that are currently such an important part of the refuge system here in New Jersey.
I have here a map, which I picked up a week ago today, when I visited for half a day, I guess, the wildlife refuge here, which is known as the Forsythe Refuge, and as John helps me hold this up, you can see what I'm sure look like little spots to you in the audience, but they are actually migratory birds, and each of these migratory birds indicates the location of a wildlife refuge someplace in our country.
We're way up here in the north, and as you can see, as we move across the country, there are many refuges which the Federal Government finances for two basic purposes. One, of course, is for the benefit of wildlife. In case of the wildlife refuge, there are many species which habitate the area, but also, of equal importance, we also have a purpose of the wildlife, although it is called a secondary purpose, and that is for historic human use of the areas, and we believe, I believe in particular, that that is extremely important, because while it's important to have places for wildlife to live and to do well, it is equally important for us to be able to study that wildlife and to conduct historic uses of fishing and crabbing and hunting and other uses that are related.
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So we, generally, across the country, set aside 60 percent of the refuges strictly for use by wildlife and 40 percent for use by human beings as well as wildlife. And I think that's very important to point out as we move forward.
The Forsythe Refuge currently contains 42,000 acres and has an approved land acquisition boundary of 60,000. Cape May contains 8,300 acres with an approved land acquisition boundary of 17,000 acres. Slightly more than $50 million has been spent to acquire property at the refuges. The administration's fiscal year 1998 budget requests $2 million for Forsythe and $3 million for Cape May land acquisition from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
This is particularly important, and you'll hear me talk about this very often. The 42,000 acres which we currently have is extremely important. It includes some uplands, but a limited amount. I think it is vitally important. I believe that unless we acquire uplands which otherwise could be developed someday, that the very existence, as we know it, of the Forsythe Refuge and other refuges is at least in question and possibly threatened.
Throughout the nation, and this is important, there is a backlog of operations and maintenance for refuges that is, to me, quite alarming. I am looking forward to hearing from our witnesses about specific problems throughout the refuge system and most particularly in the Forsythe Refuge. And incidentally, this is the second in a series of five hearings which we are holding in different parts of the country.
I am also pleased to note that the Resources Committee is seeking an increase of nearly $9 million above the administration's request for refuge operation and maintenance.
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The second issue that we'll deal with, partly during the first panel, but then more completely later in the hearing, is the interrelationship among bluefish, striped bass, and forage fish. Bluefish and striped bass are migratory species of fish that are common along the U.S. east coast. Both are highly prized by anglers and for their fighting abilities, and both support commercial fisheries. Both species have also a long history of major population swings. Bluefish and striped bass require similar habitat and food supplies, and many of their food sources, including menhaden and blue crabs, support important commercial fisheries themselves. Many fishermen and fisheries scientists believe that the interaction of all these species is very important in their population trends and that these interactions are not taken into account in the current management policies.
The purpose of the hearing is to examine the interrelationships between these important species, discuss the effectiveness of present single-species management plans in light of these interactions, and determine what further study will be required to address these issues.
Let me just take care of one housekeeping chore. Over the past twelve years that I've served in Congress, I have received many requests by constituents of the Third District and other districts in the southern part of the State to come in and talk about wildlife-related issues. And without fail, I believe I have tried to do so, both in my office and in public meetings and hearings around the district.
Today is different. Today, while the public is invited to be here, we have tried to assemble a series of witnesses who deal with these issues in their professions on an ongoing basis. The purpose of today's hearing, therefore, is to hear from these witnesses, and while we would like to hear from members of the public today, we are able to do so only in writing, because of time constraints. If there are, at the same time, members of the public who feel a burning desire to help us with information, I will be more than happy to schedule additional meetings in the very near future.
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Also, let me just say that we are being broadcast live on radio, so, witnesses, I just wanted to mention that, so that you are all aware of it.
Let me move now to our first panel of witnesses, Mr. John Rogers, the acting director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which, of course, is housed within the Department of Interior. John will discuss with us, in his opening statement, the issues involving the Forsythe and other refuges around the country and the maintenance backlog. And also on the first panel, and this is the only panel that is divided between the two issues, is Mr. Richard Schaefer, the Chief of the Office of Intergovernmental and Recreational Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service, which is located, not in the Department of Interior, but the Department of Commerce.
I would also just like to mention that there is a little light panel with a red, yellow and green light. We have put that there for kind of a guideline only. If you run over into the red light district please try to wrap your comments up when the red light comes on. However, if you run over, that's all well and good.
So John, thank you for being here. Why don't you begin at this point with your discussion of your perspective on the refuge issues that we are here to discuss this morning.
STATEMENTS OF JOHN ROGERS, ACTING DIRECTOR, U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR; ACCOMPANIED BY ROBERT STREETER, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR REFUGES AND WILDLIFE, AND STEVE ATZERT, MANAGER, FORSYTHE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
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Mr. ROGERS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for inviting us to be here today to discuss the maintenance backlog facing the Fish and Wildlife Service's National Wildlife Refuge System.
I'm accompanied by Dr. Robert Streeter, Assistant Director for Refuges and Wildlife, and Mr. Steve Atzert, manager of the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.
For nearly a century the National Wildlife Refuge System has been one of America's greatest treasures. From a single island off the coast of Florida set aside by Theodore Roosevelt in 1903, the system has grown to 509 refuges, covering more than 92 million acres. It is the world's largest system of land set aside exclusively for wildlife conservation. The very existence of the system and the 30 million people who visit it each year is a reflection of the deep love and respect Americans have for wild creatures and wild places.
Any system of lands, of course, though requires maintenance, and the National Wildlife Refuge System is no exception. If we want to maintain and enhance biological resources, while at the same time accommodating the public's growing appetite for wildlife-dependent recreation, we must be willing to make an investment in these lands and the facilities on them.
Unfortunately, over the years we have not committed the necessary financial resources to properly maintain the refuge system, and we are reaping the consequences of those actions today. We have more than $4.5 billion in assets on national wildlife refuges, including thousands of water management facilities, 2,700 miles of dikes, 6,500 miles of roads, and more than 1,000 buildings.
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Many of these facilities are in poor condition because of a long history of limited funding for maintenance, as the Department of Interior's Inspector General pointed out in its 1992 audit. As a result, we currently have a maintenance backlog of $505 million.
The Service's 2,200 refuge employees are as dedicated a group of people as you will find in the Federal Government, but sometimes their dedication needs an assist from a backhoe. Several private industry studies indicate that annual maintenance reinvestment rates, ranging from 1.5 to 4 percent of the value of the capital assets, is necessary to maintain those assets.
This would indicate a minimum amount of $67.5 million should be applied annually to arrest the growth rate of maintenance backlogs. The fiscal year 1998 funding request for this routine maintenance is $31.7 million.
In addition to increases in its budgets for annual operational maintenance, substantial increases are needed disbursed over a reasonable period to address the backlog itself. The fiscal year 1998 budget request for this is $33.8 million, $10 million above fiscal '97 as a start in addressing these needs.
Deferring maintenance and allowing backlogs to accumulate costs the taxpayer more in the long run. Facilities that are not maintained properly deteriorate faster and generally use more energy than properly maintained ones. They need to be replaced long before they would have to be if they were maintained properly. To use an analogy, it's like not changing the oil in your car. Saves a little money in the short run, but costs a great deal in the long run.
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Likewise, as these facilities deteriorate the cost of repairing and replacing them increases. More important, delaying maintenance hinders our refuge manager's ability to manage wildlife for the benefit of all Americans, and it reduces our ability to open refuges to wildlife-dependent recreation.
The 1992 departmental audit, I mentioned a minute ago, found that because of budget shortfalls the service was not maintaining refuges in a manner that would effectively enhance and protect wildlife habitat or provide a safe and aesthetic experience for visitors.
Americans spend tens of billions of dollars each year on wildlife-dependent recreation supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs. Many communities around wildlife refuges depend on visitors' dollars to bolster their economies. The gradual deterioration caused by poor maintenance of refuge facilities ultimately will be felt by these communities.
We realize that this is an era of tight budgets, but we are doing what we can to improve the way we use the funds we do have. For example, we are developing comprehensive management plans for our refuges. These plans define objectives, document the status of resources, and provide a blueprint for refuge management. The 1998 budget request includes an increase of just under $2 million to allow the completion or initiation of 14 new plans, covering 29 refuges, including one for the Forsythe Refuge that Mr. Atzert manages.
The ingenuity, energy, and enthusiasm of our employees have carried us far, but the reality is that human capability must be matched with material, with equipment, and with horsepower. Our employees work hard to manage a natural national treasure that is cherished by millions of Americans, and they need and deserve the funds to do the job right.
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Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to appear this morning. I'd be happy to answer any questions, and if I can't, I know I've got plenty of able help.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Rogers may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. SAXTON. Thank you, John. I'm tempted to ask questions at this point, but I think what we'll do is follow standard procedure and move over to hear from Dick Schaefer. Dick, thank you for being here this morning. You may proceed.
STATEMENT OF RICHARD SCHAEFER, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF INTERGOVERNMENTAL AND RECREATIONAL FISHERIES, NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE, ACCOMPANIED BY JEFFREY CROSS, DIRECTOR, SANDY HOOK MARINE RESEARCH LABORATORY, NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES SERVICE
Mr. SCHAEFER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate this opportunity to appear before you and your committee this morning to address the public interest in possible stock interactions between bluefish and striped bass, and other related concerns.
At this time, I would also like to introduce Dr. Jeffrey Cross, who sits on my left, who is the Director of the Sandy Hook Marine Research Laboratory of the National Marine Fisheries Service. Dr. Cross is accompanying me because of his scientific expertise in several of the areas intended to be addressed by your hearing.
Because of limited time, I will keep my remarks very brief and will simply summarize much of what is already contained in my written testimony which you have in your possession. And, in that regard, Mr. Chairman, I would request that you allow my written testimony to be entered into the public record?
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Mr. SAXTON. Without objection.
Mr. SCHAEFER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Anecdotal assertions about alternating cycles of striped bass and bluefish abundance can be found in the popular literature well back into the last century. Interest in this issue, then, is hardly anything new. However, there exists little hard quantitative data to validate these assertions, and even less scientific evidence that would suggest cause and effect with respect to these anecdotal observations.
Therefore, the issue remains open to initiate scientific inquiry that might shed some light on this matter. In that regard, we are pleased that, through your efforts and that of your Committee, Congress has seen fit to provide $785,000 to the National Marine Fisheries Service in its fiscal '97 budget to look further into the matter of striped bass/bluefish interactions.
Further, it is my understanding that our Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts is currently in the process of transferring much of that appropriation to Rutgers University under a cooperative agreement to carry out a considerable portion of those initial investigations.
I might add, Mr. Chairman, that I can't think of a more outstanding academic institution to assist in carrying out such studies. Of course, simply because I'm a native of New Jersey and an alumnus of the University, I wouldn't want you to think my view is biased in any particular way. But oh, if they could only play football and basketball, too.
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On the matter of striped bass and bluefish foraging, and the abundance and availability of forage fishes, I also have little to offer. Both species are primarily sight feeders and feeders of opportunity. That is, they will eat just about anything that is easily available to them when they are hungry.
Earlier in my career, when I was working as a fisheries scientist, I conducted feeding habit studies on both whiting off New Jersey, and on striped bass along the south shore of Long Island, New York. I found that whiting fed primarily on themselves; that is, they are cannibalistic. With respect to striped bass, I found that they feed primarily on very small crustaceans in the spring and on a wide variety of fin fishes in the fall.
As far as bluefish are concerned, my own anecdotal observations are that one should not dangle any valued body parts in the water when that species is in a feeding frenzy. It is documented, for example, that, on occasion, some people in Florida have been bitten by bluefish while bathing in the Atlantic surf.
And with that, Mr. Chairman, I would conclude my opening remarks and stand ready to answer any questions you might have for me. Thank you very much.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Schaefer may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. SAXTON. Thank you very much. What I'd like to do is to go back to subject one, if I may, and this will not be the pattern of the hearing, incidentally. Once we finish with these witnesses, we will move on to others who are expert, and we will divide the subjects into two separate panels. But let me ask John, the popular notion, at least in many public sectors, when it comes to wildlife refuge management, is that there is 42,000 acres in terms of the Forsythe Refuge, and that it is land, that it was acquired, and it's wetlands, and it's out there, and somehow it takes care of itself.
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Would you or one of the folks who are with you explain in some detail the activities that the Fish and Wildlife Service undertakes in order to keep a refuge in good operative condition and how it involves the public at the same time?
Mr. ROGERS. Yes, Mr. Chairman, we can, I'm sure, engage in considerable discussion on this issue. A piece of land that serves as habitat for wildlife, back in historic times, may have been left alone because of the entire ecosystem of which it was a part had naturalwas naturally and normally functioning. Today, unfortunately, national wildlife refuges are islands, many times in a sea of agriculture, often in a sea of urban environment. At any rate, they're parts of fundamentally changed systems. Thus, the Fish and Wildlife Service or any manager of wildlands, must continually and, at their own hands, mimic or duplicate or otherwise encourage natural processes.
Water regimes are one of the most important that comes to mind. We have, as I mentioned earlier, thousands of water control structures that attempt to create impoundments where impoundments, natural lakes, have been destroyed that mimic tidal flow in other areas so that the marine creatures, estuarine creatures can have access to freshwater.
We do a lot of prescribed burns in areas wherethat were normally subject to natural fires, and with our country's history of fire suppression, natural fire regimes have been altered. One of the biggest and mostand least known impacts on wild systems is the impact of exotics. Exotic plants gobble up thousands of acres per year on our national wildlife refuge system, and they must be sometimes individually controlled, and in other areas we have to both create, develop, and utilize, either biological controls or other controls of noxious invasive plant species, as well as animal species in some areas.
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So then to make the areas accessible and safely accessible to the public, we must maintain road and trail systems, visitor centers, other use facilities which require an extensive infrastructure to do what we think is a very important job, and that is, make these areas available when and where compatible with the wildlife mission to the American public.
Mr. SAXTON. Thank you. One of the primary reasons that we're here today is to use the Forsythe as an example so that we can highlight for others who don't, perhaps, focus on these issues as closely as we do, the importance of proper management.
Now, as I understand it, and please feel free to answer this in any way you choose, the Forsythe Refuge, many years ago, was a natural estuarine system, and that many of the activities that go on that benefit wildlife today are efforts and the expenditure of funds that try to duplicate as much as humanly possible an estuarine system similar to the one that was there many years ago, so that particularly migratory birds will have an atmosphere in which they can, not only survive, but propagate and feel like they are truly at home in a system like the one that used to be here.
Would you, or one of the people who are with you, explain what it is that we do and how difficult it is?
Mr. ROGERS. I'd be happy to do that, Mr. Chairman. It's kind of like the TV lawyer shows have asked and answered. You came very close to what is necessary, and my best answer is to defer to the expertise of Mr. Atzert.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SAXTON. We're going to hear from Steve Atzert, who is the refuge manager at Forsythe.
Mr. ATZERT. Yes, Mr. Chairman. Is this the appropriateOK. Good.
First, I'd like to talk a little bit about what's happened to a lot of our coastal streams along the Jersey shore in the last 50 years. We've had a lot of lagoon developments. Where previously the streams would sort of meander through a tidal marsh, allowing freshwater and brackish salt water to mix together and create a very good environment with lots of flushing to provide food coming in and then flushing materials out for fish to use back that might be in the deeper waters, over the years these lagoon impoundments have basically destroyed a lot of these tidal exchange areas. They've created many deep areas, deep and shallow areas, filled in other areas, so that we do not have a lot of the brackish water exchange, interchange areas that we used to have.
That's one of the reasons that we have the Brigantine impoundments and why they're so important to maintain, is that a lot of these shallow streams just don't exist anymore.
Mr. SAXTON. Now, impoundments are areas that have been walled off through the use of levies and dikes and
Mr. ATZERT. Right, it's a fancy name for an artificial lake.
Mr. SAXTON. For an artificial lake. Now, that's necessary andas I understand it, because it used to be, as you just described, that there werewe'll disregard that for the question and answer period. For those who can't see, we have this red light system that goes on, and we've been talking about this issue for five minutes, but we're going to go on anyway.
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Historically, salt water and freshwater merge in an estuarine system. And when that happens the tide comes in, and the salt water floods an area, and the tide goes out, and freshwater returns, and as the water level goes up and down there are certain effects that that causes twice a day.
Mr. ATZERT. Correct.
Mr. SAXTON. Can you describe that?
Mr. ATZERT. All right, well, one of the most important things about salt marshes, that they are about the most productive ecosystem, ecocommunity in the world. They put your Iowa corn fields to shame. There's a lot of primary production going on there.
When the tide comes up, some of the materials will get suspended and then get flushed out with outgoing tide, and it could be little shrimps, could be, you know, little copepods. The young bluefish out in the bays will be eating those things up, the herrings. It's like having a slug of food coming out of the marsh twice a day.
You need the spartina marshes to produce that. You know, once you divide it up into a lagoon development you have lost that. So that's one reason that the tidal marshes are so important. They're very, very productive, and it's like a twice daily slug of food going out to the back bays.
Mr. SAXTON. Now, the Forsythe was established in 1939, and we've been enlarging it off and on ever since. My understanding is that that is primarily because the Forsythe has become a kind of a haven which migratory waterfowl use as a place to stop and eat on their way north, and then again on their way south in the fall; is that correct?
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Mr. ATZERT. That's correct, and the impoundment at Brigantine is one of the biggest attractorsattractions that we have. We'll have 30,000 snow geese in there in the fall. Very important for them. They'll stay usually untill about the middle of December and then fly farther south. During that time they are utilizing the spartina grasses that are outside of the impoundment, but they do love to use the freshwater environment or the brackish water environments in the east pool and the west pool for loafing areas.
Mr. SAXTON. So the area known to you as impoundments and to those of us who are visitors of the area, we can call the impoundments, too, but to where I go to see a lot of pretty birds, those areas actually are not there just so people can drive their cars out those dikes and those levies. They're there so that wildlife, food source, and other habitat aspects can be enhanced and protected.
Mr. ATZERT. Absolutely. That was the original reason. It's just that when you build a dike, and they have to be fairly substantial out there, you have a place to put a road, not only for maintenance use but for people to get out and actually see what we are doing on their behalf.
Mr. SAXTON. Now, Acting Director Rogers testified that our national maintenance backlog is over a half a billion dollars, $505 million to be precise. And I suspect that there are some projects at the Forsythe which you would think could be undertaken if you had more resources.
Mr. ATZERT. You're correct on that, Mr. Chairman.
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Mr. SAXTON. And some of those activities that you could undertake would be fairly important to maintain the system that we have just very carefully tried to describe.
Would you like to tell us about some of those projects?
Mr. ATZERT. Certainly.
As you are aware, we are finishing off our rehabilitation of the west impoundment and the east impoundment, hopefully this year. And when that is completed we're going to go andwell, I shouldn't say we're going toour next highest priority is to re-slope the north dike, which is an integral part of the west impoundment area and also an integral part of our automotive tour route that is used by almost, I think, about 170,000 people each year.
What has happened over the years is that the marshes to the north of the impoundment have received substantial use by the snow geese and have created mud flats which are excellent habitat type for the shore birds when they come through in the spring, but at the same time, it does create an area where waves can be kicked up by the wind, and over the years the water erosion has been gnawing away at the north dike.
We now have cut banks. The dikes are usually supposed to be sloped at a three to one slope. We now have a little beach and then amaybe a two- or three-foot vertical drop in some areas.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SAXTON. Now, in this case Mother Nature has given us an abundance of snow geese, and the snow geese have come through the area, and they have transformed what was previously, I guess you could call it, a naturally vegetated breakwater and have transformed it into a mud flat, which is fine, because that's part of Mother Nature's process as well. But the north dike of the impoundments has now become the breakwater and is washing away.
Mr. ATZERT. Correct. That's absolutely correct.
Mr. SAXTON. And how much money is needed for this project?
Mr. ATZERT. We estimate about $200,000.
Mr. SAXTON. $200,000, and that would be used for fill known as rip-rap?
Mr. ATZERT. Well, we would probably use our owntry to get one of our own excavators to re-slope the dike, pulling the trail in from the former borrow pit or borrow ditch that was along the north slope, and then come back and set some rip-rap, which is stone, probably one- to two-foot size rip-rap down to the base to soak up the wave action.
Mr. SAXTON. And if this is not accomplished then someday, maybe not too far into the future, the north dike could break through.
Mr. ATZERT. Correct, and then we have to, you know, fix the break, which is first of all additional moneys. Second of all we would use our ability to manage the water in the west impoundment for the sake of, let's say, spring migratory shore birds coming through and then in the fall for the ducks coming through.
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What we try to do is we'll be using one side of the west impoundment as a reservoir and the other side as a moist soil unit to stimulate marsh vegetation to grow, and as the summer proceeds, this vegetation would grow higher and higher, and we would flood it. Then in September, just before the ducks come back, so that they could swim around and use the pantry; if the area's not flooded the ducks can't use it.
Mr. SAXTON. Now, getting away from the north dike for just a moment, without being specific with everything you need to do, in terms of these kinds of projects, is the backlog of work that needs to be done on these kinds of projects whichand the activities which you undertake to keep the refuge operable and efficient, are there other projects? And if so, what are the nature of them, and if you could just describe that briefly.
Mr. ATZERT. One that would be high on our list would be to rehabilitate the dike at Lilly Lake. That dike was built back in the '20's. About five to seven years ago we purchased the area. That's now our responsibility. It's the only freshwater fishing opportunity on the refuge. And also that dike would hold back water that we could use to manage the main impoundments at Brigantine.
Another thing that we need to be dealing with is the office facility that we have at the Barnegat unit. We're in a trailer. Trailers are designed for temporary facilities. Hopefully, the National Wildlife Refuge at the Barnegat Division is going to be here in perpetuity. Trailers are only good for so long. They start to fall apart. Very high maintenance on those.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We'd like to get around to building a modular-type office for our office up here at the Barnegat Division. Cape May has no storage facilities whatsoever right now, and if you're going to start doing habitat management, you need equipment. To further the life of the equipment it's good to have it under cover. Also, it prevents people from borrowing things from Uncle that they like. And that has happened on occasions.
The maintenance building down there, a storage facility down there, we figure, would be over $200,000.
So these are the kinds of things we're talking about.
Mr. SAXTON. Well, I look forward to working through these issues with you, as you know, and we'll be talking about them more. I just thought it was important to get some of those things on the record, because the record that we take back to Washington with us will be shared with other Members of Congress.
John, Mr. Rogers, let me return to you to just explore one other issue. As you may have heard me say in the past, I believe that public support for the refuge system is essential. That goes without saying.
So to the extent that we can involve members of the public in activities on refuges like the Forsythe, public support will be enhanced.
I understand that there are something in the neighborhood of 98,000 birders who visit this refuge each year and contribute over $4 million to the local economy. And I also knowand incidentally, if it sounds like I know some of the answers to these questions before I ask them, it's only because I spent last Monday with Tracy Castleman down at the refuge looking at these, looking at some of these issues.
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I know that, with regard to this question, you are planning to enhance nature trails, re-open some nature trails, and perhaps there are a number of other things that you are doing or planning to do, John, to enhance public participation at this refuge and other refuges around the country.
The question is two-part. On a national level, what are we doing with regard to this subject, and, specifically, at the Forsythe, what are we doing?
Mr. ROGERS. On a national level, you correctly state that both public participation, public enjoyment, and public involvement in the refuge are critical, both for the support of the refuge and also for the education of the people who use the refuges.
Public participation is a critical involvement component of the comprehensive planning process, that is, where we principally and officially derive the input of the public into where we should be going with management and development of a particular refuge.
Second, public use of the refuge system is paramount where it iswhile dependent on the wildlife resources existing on that refuge and where it is compatible with the purposes for which the refuge was established.
Too frequently our public use ability is impaired because of the lack of funding for developing the kinds of facilities you spoke briefly about, that is, trail systems, boardwalks, road accesssafe road access, and the like. So the public is a critical component of the refuge system, first through the comprehensive planning process and our ongoing interaction with the public as neighbors, and second, because the refuges are there. Once they are fulfilling their wildlife missions, they're there for the public to use and enjoy where it is dependent and compatible with the wildlife mission.
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For the specifics on Forsythe, I defer, once again, to Steve.
Mr. ATZERT. Talking about public use. Let me talk about public use first.
We are currently working on opening a trail at the Reedy Creek unit of the Barnegat Division up in Brick Township. We'd like to get that done. I'm looking at TracyJune 10?
Mr. CASTLEMAN. June 7.
Mr. ATZERT. We're looking to dedicate that trail on June 7th of this year. Something else we're working on right now is a partnership with people around Barnegat. Allison Banks, our Barnegat Division Manager, has been working with two citizens in Barnegat as well as with the township. The township is interested in putting in a fitness trail, and we will be putting up a observation platform at the Barnegat impoundments so that people can stop on their walk around the fitness trail and observe nature up close.
We are currently working with a group in Cape May County that's interested in putting in a trail through the Cedar Swamp Division. The trail location is also a priority for the State trail system.
They're trying to put together a trail from Cape May all the way up to Manumuskin in Cumberland County. And this two-mile stretch would be part of that. So we're working with townships of Dennis, Borough of Woodbine and Middle Township on that particular trail, and hopefully we'll be getting the county involved as well.
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Mr. SAXTON. Thank you. Do you subscribe to the National Guidelines of 60 percent of the refuge being used for wildlife only and 40 percent being used for other historic human uses?
Mr. ATZERT. Well, that's more than a guideline. That's one of ourone of the laws, and I believe it requires that we not open more than 40 percent of an area to migratory game bird hunting unless the Secretary of the Interior determines that opening up a greater area would be beneficial to the refuge and to the species involved.
Mr. SAXTON. And did you have a new hunting program last year involving non-migratory Canada geese?
Mr. ATZERT. Yes, we did. This past January and February, during the States resident Canada goose season, we opened up the impoundment at Brigantine for the first time ever to controlled hunt, and we did that five Wednesday mornings, and the idea was to give people an opportunity to getto shoot those geese.
We do have a problem in this State with resident geese. We did not do it every day. The idea was to shoot them one day and then let them sort of settle back in, and then come back the following week. We also worked with some of the local golf courses to sort of coordinate efforts to reduce the population in the area.
Mr. SAXTON. Well, thank you. I think that last question may have been a difficult one for you to answer for a variety of reasons, but Commissioner Shinn, who is also here, who will be the lead witness on the next panel, and I know full well of the impact of the non-migratory geese and the difficult issues that they have brought to us over the last decade or so.
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John, with your permission, let me address a question to Bob Streeter, if I may.
As you know, the practice of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, relative to acquisition of refuge property, has historically been to acquire additional property through whatever funding mechanisms we have from time to time, and upon acquisition those lands were immediately closed to all historic human uses until a management plan was adopted.
I understand that there has recently been some change in that policy. Can you explain what the new policy is?
Mr. STREETER. Yes, Mr. Chairman, I'd be happy to.
The past policy was, basically, any new lands added to the refuge system would be closed until we could do a compatibility determination process, and then they would be open by regulation.
We are now looking at another way of going about it, which we think is a lot more neighbor friendly. The policy that was implemented, first of all, through an executive order that was signed last year by the President basically says, as we move to acquire new lands, before we acquire them, we will make a determination of which of the existing uses can be continued on, at least, an interim basis after we would acquire those lands. So that the public involved, the public or the neighbors, know what our plans are immediately after acquiring that land, and then, as we move through the comprehensive planning process that John talked about that we hope to have completed if we get our '98 budget, we hope to have completed over the next eight years, there will be full public involvement then as we do the comprehensive planning in a longer term framework.
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But the bottom line is we want to let our neighbors know what those lands will be used for, what they can be used for of the existing uses right after we purchase them, rather than immediately closing them. And we have some examples that have alreadywe've been able to implement that plan or that policy through this last year already.
Mr. SAXTON. Well, I appreciate that very much. We have had some cases here in New Jersey, particularly the most notable of which was Bonnet Island, which was a very visible part of the Forsythe Refuge, which the refuge system acquired some years ago, and immediately closed it by erecting a gate with a sign that said, ''Keep out.'' And it was not good public relations, and I'm very pleased that we have now changed that policy.
Mr. STREETER. May I make one other comment, Mr. Chairman?
It does cause some strains with our existing refuge operations. Steve might be able to address that better, but in general, we have a refuge budget, we acquire new land, and we haven't gotten additional money to manage a particular use, but we are hoping that, through partnerships and through making adjustments, we can modify our operations to provide that use as compatible.
Mr. SAXTON. Thank you very much.
I'm going to turn now to Dick Schaefer. Let me thank you all very much for your participation.
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Congressman Pallone has arrived, and we want to welcome the gentleman from the north shore area of coastal New Jersey, and so while he's getting settled, let me ask Dick Schaefer a couple of questions.
Dick, historicallywell, first, let me say what brought this forage fish issue to my attention as it relates to bluefish and striped bass, and I don't know that anybody has the answers, and that's why we've sent Ken Able to find the answers. But essentially, we seem to see different behavior from differentdifferent behavior exhibited. I'm not sure if it's different, or what is apparently different behavior.
During the decade of the '70's and early '80's the striped bass disappeared from our coastal areas, not completely but for as far asas far as fishermen were concerned, they had disappeared. And then they came back, and we all know why, or we all think we know why that was, because of some different human behavior, which may have been environmental in nature, in part, and which may have been regulatory, in part, based on a partnership of the State and Federal Government formed on that issue.
More recently bluefish seem to have moved offshore and come back to visit us occasionally, but by and large the biomass seems to be offshore. And at least, the third party of this, I guess, third issue is that forage fish, including Barnegat Bay, its blue crabs, seem to be in shorter supply than at any time that I can remember. And the bunkeralso known as menhaden and other forage fish speciesseem to be in shorter supply.
Is that an accurate description? And if so, can you elaborate on anything that you may have, in terms of information, that might be helpful to us?
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Mr. SCHAEFER. Let me try, to the best of my knowledge, Mr. Chairman. I will admit, I certainly don't have the market cornered on the information on this subject.
As you correctly point out, striped bass stocks have recovered over the last ten years to a level which is as high as that stock has everwe've ever witnessed in human history, and we're pleased with that for the very reasons that you mention.
Current status of scientific information on bluefish is that they are in a period of current decline, as you also observe. The stock, many believe, is being overfished, but that is not the sole reason, probably, for the decline. It's probably synergistic with environmental effects that are poorly understood at this time.
As I indicated in my testimony, we don't have any evidence. I'm unaware of any evidence that would suggest any causal effects between striped bass abundance and the current dearth, if you will, of bluefish.
Blue crabs have relatively short life cycles, and their levels of abundance are influenced strongly by environmental effects. For example, I happen to have a house on the Chesapeake Bay, and last year blue crabs were in very short supply, as you indicate, and the early indications this year are that the blue crab population is probably pretty healthy. So these annual fluctuations in blue crab abundance are not particularly unusual, but the scientists in the Chesapeake, at least, tell us that the stock is maintaining itself at an historically average level.
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As far as menhaden are concerned, I frankly don't know much about the current status of that fishery. Perhaps Dr. Cross can help me out, but that fishery has gone on for years. It's pretty dependent upon recruitment of young fish in the southern part of the range, and by that I mean the Chesapeake Bay, North Carolina fisheries, and as the fish age, the fisheries to the north, New Jersey and north, are more dependent upon older age classes. It's an in-shore fishery, occurs largely within State waters, always has, fisheries largely pursued with purse seines. It's almostit's a very clean fishery in terms of what is caught.
I used to go on menhaden boats early in my career and the percentage of other species taken as bycatch was one percent or less, very, very minimal. But that doesn't answer your question directly.
The interactions between all these species, you mentioned, as I say, is poorly understood, and I think is going to take a lot of scientific investigation to try to validate these observations, if you would.
Mr. SAXTON. With regard to menhaden, what is your tendency to say, with regard to the fishery currently? Is it in bad shape, is it kind of in a normal cycle, or
Mr. SCHAEFER. I'm going to ask Dr. Cross to help me on that one. I think he would probably have more information on the current status of the stock than I do.
Dr. CROSS. Actually, I'll probably defer to the representatives from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, since it is responsible for looking at that fishery, but the landings have been fairly consistent for over the last decade.
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Mr. SAXTON. Are there any other species of forage fish or species that we would generally refer to as forage fish which are in short supply?
Dr. CROSS. Some of the species that run up the rivers, like shad, river herring, we've seen declines in their populations but, on the other hand, some of the off-shore species, like mackerel, herring from farther north, are at very healthy population levels. So I guess the evidence is mixed.
Mr. SAXTON. What would you say to near-shore fishermen who have noticed that there seem to bethis is, of course, anecdotal reportsthat seem to be of very short supply of menhaden?
Dr. CROSS. I'm afraid I don't have an answer for that question.
Mr. SAXTON. Unless Congressman Pallone has any questions for this panel, I would like to just say, at this point, that we've got two more panels to address these two issues separately, and so I want to thank all of you for being here with us today, particularly those of you who came from out of town. We've appreciated your participation, and we'll look forward to working with you on these and other issues as we move forward.
OK, if I may call Panel II. We are going to proceed with Panel II. Let me just introduce the members of this panel. Mr. Robert Shinn, who is the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, is with us, and if you folks would come forward and take your places at the table. Mr. Frank Bittner, President of the New Jersey Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs; Ms. Joan Koons, President of the Board of Trustees of a group that we know as ALO, or Alliance for a Living Ocean; Mr. Willie DeCamp, who is President of the Save Barnegat Bay, Ocean County, Izaak Walton League. And we welcome all of you here. I might point out at this point that Commissioner Shinn is here. He just handed me a note, however, that he has a telephone conference call which he must make, and he will rejoin us in something in the neighborhood of 15 or 20 minutes.
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So while we are waiting for him to rejoin us, we will begin with Joan Koons, and of course, we're now switching our subject back to the Forsythe and issues that are related to it. We are anxious to hear from all of the members of this panel. We'll proceed with Ms. Koons and then Willie DeCamp, and, again, the little lights indicate a time limit; however, don't worry if you tend to be a little bit longer than the allocated five minutes.
Joan, you may begin.
STATEMENT OF JOAN KOONS, PRESIDENT, BOARD OF TRUSTEES, ALLIANCE FOR A LIVING OCEAN
Ms. KOONS. I thank you, Congressman Saxton and Congressman Pallone and the Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife, and Oceans, for this chance to testify.
My testimony will spotlight one acquisition that our grass roots group holds so dear. For the last few years the Alliance for a Living Ocean, ALO, has had the honor of being a facilitator for the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, Bonnet Island Unit. Various schools and organizations, such as Ocean Nature and Stafford Township Intermediate School, have used this refuge as an educational site. Our volunteer guide points out indigenous flora, fauna, and birds which stop over as they use the major flyway on the east coast. Water quality and how people affect it by non-point source pollution is stressed repeatedly.
As we look across the bay to the development on Long Beach Island we feel the need to preserve areas such as the Bonnet Island refuge. The importance of these protected areas cannot be overstated. However, individuals should be able to visit the refuge to further understand their importance.
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ALO has made the Bonnet Island area its spring cleanup target. Each April volunteers clean the grass area littered with highway debris concentrating on the pond and bay beach area. At this point in time it is almost impossible to access its trails. Our volunteers have brought out thousands of pounds of debris, including old cars. Now we are ready to use it to teach the worth of non-point source pollution control and the necessity of preserving wetlands.
In 1996 a mitigation project was begun on Bonnet Island in accordance with a New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection ruling. The project included a pond and the planting of various indigenous plants. The plantings were done under the supervision of Dr. Eugene Vivian of ACES Environmental. He instructed an ALO volunteer on how to monitor the health of the project and observe the wildlife. The trails were not maintained in a manner that the volunteer could access and observe this project.
Bonnet Island is a sheltering place for flocks of herons, glossy ibis, black ducks, brants, tree sparrows, juncos, red-winged blackbirds, harriers, sharp-shinned hawks, yellow-rumped warblers, white egrets, et cetera. The pond area shows evidence of raccoon, red fox, and deer footprints.
In August, 1997, ALO will be completing its tenth year. We look forward to making the education of residents and visitors alike to our barrier island area a priority. We hope to factor in the use of Bonnet Island as an educational laboratory. However, we are met with frustration when the land is there and our facilitators cannot access it properly because the designated pathways are not maintained. We want to be partners. We want to help the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; however, we do not have extensive funding that would make this possible. We are asking the Federal Government to re-evaluate the appropriation of adequate funds for proper maintenance of refuge properties. We have the greatest respect for the management staff in our area and desire to work fully with them.
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ALO is proud to be a facilitator of this property. We have come to love and understand its value to the ecosystem. The Alliance for a Living Ocean is committed to this important partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Mr. SAXTON. Joan, thank you very much. If I may just postpone my questions for you for just a minute. Commissioner Shinn is with us, and he's got an extremely busy schedule, and he's been here for over an hour already, and I know that he has got other things that he needs to do, so, Willie, with your permission, if we may go to Commissioner Shinn at this point to hear his testimony, andwhat is your timeframe period this morning?
Mr. SHINN. I'm fine for the next
Mr. SAXTON. OK. OK. Proceed. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF ROBERT SHINN, COMMISSIONER, NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION, ACCOMPANIED BY THOMAS W. McCLOY, ADMINISTRATOR, NEW JERSEY MARINE FISHERIES ADMINISTRATION
Mr. SHINN. Great. And good morning, and thank you, and good morning, Frank. It's good to see you with us. It's funny some of the shore issues divide themselves, and we see a lot more with Frank and the dredging issues that are focused to the north.
I appreciate the opportunity to be here this morning. Of course, I'm Bob Shinn, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. I could probably shorten my testimony a great deal by simply saying there's not enough money and there's not enough fish, but as you know, the bridge to solving that issue is a lot of public understanding of the problem and a lot of work in the estuary to enhance the habitat to create more fish to start with.
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New Jersey is home to five national wildlife refuges totaling more than 60,000 acres. These refuges combined with New Jersey's own wildlife management areas, parks and forests, create a key link in the long-term protection of New Jersey's wildlife resources. I'm happy to say the high degree of cooperation between the State and Federal wildlife management personnel has further enhanced the value of this linkage.
Refuges provide important opportunities for hunting, fishing, birding, and other wildlife associated forms of recreation.
Our nation's wildlife system is a success story we can all be proud of. The system holds much potential for improving fish and wildlife habitat and for providing recreational opportunities for people.
These important opportunities cannot be realized without adequate operation and maintenance funding. I strongly support an increase in the funding requested and appropriated for these high priority activities.
Land acquisition for the purpose of habitat protection and public use and enjoyment is a high priority. Funding for operations and maintenance should not come at the expense of land acquisition efforts. Separate funding mechanisms should be available to support land acquisition and operation and maintenance.
The department's biologists within the Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife participate actively in the service's ecosystem teams landscape management and the service is an important component of our developing programs. Both of the above approaches to wildlife conservations are designed to establish partnerships to manage species across agency lines.
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Without sufficient O & M funding, the service is hampered in developing partnerships with other agencies, particularly in regard to developing compatible GIS capabilities.
The service is also hindered in providing much needed facilities for wildlife-associated recreation. Trails, observation blinds, boat launch ramps, and other similar facilities which are in great demand in New Jersey are rarely developed, due to the shortfalls in operation and maintenance funding.
General non-facility wildlife-associated uses, such as hunting, fishing, and birding, are also restricted due to lack of operation and maintenance funding. The excessive administrative burdens placed upon the refuge managers make it difficult, if not impossible, to open areas to traditional compatible uses for many years, and sometimes decades.
Areas that have compatibly supported wildlife-associated recreation for literally centuries are closed to these uses once they become part of a national wildlife refuge. This is a result of the manager's responsibility to re-write history time and time again for every use proposed on a refuge.
There is general agreement among wildlife scientists that most wildlife-associated recreation is compatible with refuge purposes in most situations. Although I applaud the President's efforts to encourage compatible wildlife-associated recreation, the Federal legislation under which the refuges are administered needs to be improved.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, let me take a couple of minutes to talk about other subjects that you are addressing today.
Predator-prey relationships in marine species are generally poorly understood.
Bluefish and striped bass are primarily fish eaters in their adult stages. When they are in the same area, they are probably competitors for forage species. Bluefish and striped bass extensively utilize estuaries as nursery areas. Striped bass appear to rely more heavily on invertebrates, such as small shrimp and amphipods in their early stages.
By the middle of the summer both species rely on small fish for a substantial portion of their diet.
Both bluefish and striped bass are opportunistic feeders, but if given the opportunity, striped bass prefer soft-rayed species such as Atlantic menhaden, river herring, bay anchovies and silversides.
Bluefish diets may be more diverse, including butterfish, menhaden, round herring, sand lance, Atlantic mackerel, bay anchovy, young weakfish, spot and Atlantic croaker.
Although some predation of small striped bass by large bluefish and vice versa may occur, those species do not seem to make up a significant portion of their diets. Several studies indicated that predation of striped bass by other species did not contribute to the decline of striped bass in the late '70's and early '80's.
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There have been periods of time such as the early to middle '70's and possibly earlier when both striped bass and bluefish were at relatively high levels of abundance.
Prey species, such as menhaden, bay anchovy, and silversides are very abundant. With a wide variety and large biomass of prey species available throughout the range of striped bass and coastal bluefish, the likelihood of prey items constituting a limited factor for bluefish or striped bass population is not high.
Obviously, I don't have all the answers solving either the money or the fish population issues; however, some very positive things are happening throughout the area.
Number one, Barnegat Bay Estuary Plan, and you've been a significant part of that, and together with the governor, I think are the primary reason that that came to fruition. And the interest in that program and the information and general data that we already have recorded on our geographic information system has really given us a jump start in that estuary program.
Increase in pump-outs are already starting to lead to no discharge areas, which is going to give us a major improvement in our estuary.
New Jersey's new Draft Water Shed Plan, which I just released last week, starts to look at our discharges in a different vein and look at something we've talked about for 20 years, non-point pollution on a very regimented basis.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC An aggressive Green Acres acquisition program. In the last three years we've purchased individually and jointly with non-profits, and certainly partnering with New Jersey Fish and Wildlife, the State's acquired over 77,000 acres over three years, and if you look back to 1961, our average acquisition over three years was 30,000 acres. So we've significantly enhanced our acquisition program.
A new plan for the coast to be launched on the 29th of this month, the Coastal Master Plan is more of a consensus document than a top down plan, but we've got all the issues, from sea level rise to all the issues with barge unloading and litering and all the issues that impact our coast and have in the recent past.
Our GIS program, and that's something I mentioned in my formal remarks, but we would like to see more Federal involvement on our GIS program. It's geographic information computerized mapping with overlay capabilities. But we're getting all of our wildlife habitats, all of our wetlands areas, all of our parks, facilities. Our new acquisition program, I talked to you briefly about the other day, that maps all the acquisition, Federal and State agencies, non-profit, local, county mapping which really puts together, for the first time in a single map, all the linkages that are created by everybody that's interested in land acquisition and points up some new priorities that, I think, we've got to address in, not only shore protection, but in stream corridor protection and headwaters protection, and it gives us a little bit of a new vision in where we're headed with acquisition. And there's an ideal opportunity for enhancing our partnership with the Federal Government in this effort.
I think today'sI'd particularly like to commend the Committee and yourself on today's hearing. I think the information gap on what happens in preserve areas, and what suffers when you don't have adequate funding to provide operational maintenance, and one of the most effective areas that I think we need to focus on going forward is the public education and interpretation. If we don't do that, we're not educating our young people on what this environmental balance that we're just coming into understanding on in recent years, what it means to our long-term survivability on the planet and what it means to our economy.
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The economics of environmental protection and the economy, as you know, are closely linked in probably no stronger place than they are right where we're sitting. But a strong environment means a strong economy, certainly, on the coast and, I think, throughout New Jersey.
So I thank you for the opportunity to testify today, and wish you a lot of luck in your hearing efforts.
Mr. SAXTON. Thank you. Commissioner, before you leave, and with the permission of the other two witnesses on this panel, I'd just like to ask you a couple of questions, if I may.
Before I do that, let me thank you for giving the governor and I so much credit on the Barnegat Bay's inclusion in the National Estuary Program. You're being much too kind.
Frank and I worked, and I think we can both agree with this statement, Frank and I worked together for a decade trying to get Barnegat Bay named as part of the estuary system, and it wasn't until you became commissioner that we were able to get that done, and I know how much you contributed to that, and so thank you for the kudos, but you should look in a mirror when you say those words, because you were primarily responsible for getting it done, and Frank and I both appreciate it.
Mr. SHINN. Those partnerships work great.
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Mr. SAXTON. Yes, they do.
Let me ask you two questions. One about the striped bass program, which has obviously, an extremely heavy involvement with State and Federal partnership, with the State playing today, in my opinion, the major role.
Is it workingwhile the results are obvious, as Dick Schaefer pointed out, we've got more striped bass today than anytime in recorded history. If you'd just like to comment on it from a State perspective, and is there anything that we ought to know that we could do differently? Obviously, New Jersey has some special aspects that work pretty well with regard to the program.
Just in a general sense.
Mr. SHINN. When I was sitting in the audience listening to the testimony I was thinking back to my high school days when I spent most of that time in the summers mating on fishing boats and it was really common to go out and pick up two or 250 snapper blues, and most of those would be a pound and a quarter or less. And if you wanted to get a decent size bluefish, you had to go to the Barnegat Ridge, north or south ridge, and you might pick up a four or five-pound blue, but in recent years we've been picking up larger fish, not only close to the coast, right offshore, but in the inlets and in the bays, which would be totally unheard of in the '50's.
The dynamics of the small fish versus the large fish, I have to tell you, I totally don't understand. But the one thing I think I've got a fairly clear picture of, that the quality of the bay water and the quality of the estuary in general has a very large dynamic on breeding characteristics of fish.
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And I think we're at a fortunate time to bring focus on the Barnegat Bay estuary. I think if we can improve the water quality, and I think there are some significant management activities we can undertake to improve the water quality, the pump-outs, the handling of storm drainage.
We know a lot about the Barnegat Bay. We've got a lot of data on our GIS system. An aggressive acquisition program, I think, is part of that strategy, but certainly we need maintenance money, too, to carry out these strategies once the acquisition is done.
I think there are man-made things we can do to enhance fish population, fish population enhancement, and I think we're on our way to doing it, and there's probably some better science that's on the horizon than I've talked about, but I think enhanced environmental quality in the estuary is a key ingredient to enhancing fish population.
Mr. SAXTON. Thank you. Let me change the subject.
There is a species in New Jersey known as the glass eel. I'm told that because they can bring as much as $300 a pound today, there isin JapanI am told that today there is tremendous pressure in this fishery. Is New Jersey making certain that these eels will not be overfished, and is there something that the Federal Government ought to know and do in order to assist in your efforts?
Mr. SHINN. Let me get some able assistance on that subject. My knowledge of that specific area is not that great so
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Mr. SAXTON. Fair enough.
Mr. SHINN. I brought help with me.
Mr. SAXTON. This is
Mr. MCCLOY. Tom McCloy, with the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Administration.
The glass eel fishery has existed for a number of years. In the last few years it has taken on more importance as more people realize the economic benefits to be made from that, and as a consequence more people have gotten into it.
Last year we had a considerable number of problems which we tried to resolve through regulatory actions, restricting the gear, restricting the season, etcetera. I'm not sure it helped a lot considering what occurred this year. We had more people doing it, theoretically at least, with less efficient gear. The problems associated with the fishery were extremely exasperated, even over last year. Trespass problems, buoying problems on streams, even instances, I'm sure you read about in the paper, of individuals carrying firearms, et cetera.
Because of this we're taking a very critical look at regulations for next year. And incidentally, the season just closed yesterday. So we're going to be taking a hard look at that to see what steps we need to basically try and address those problems that occurred this year. Maybe nothing less than a total ban would be required in order to accomplish that.
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You should be aware that the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is also developing a plan for the American eel, whichthis is the younger life stage of the glass eel, and although that plan is not coming on line probably for another year or two, we're looking to them for some kind of guidance, also.
Mr. SAXTON. Thank you very much.
Mr. Shinn, let me just ask one last question, and then I'm going to turn to Congressman Pallone for his questions.
You mentioned in your testimony the extensive holdings that both the State of New Jersey and private organizations have, in terms of environmentally sensitive land in the coastal areas.
Obviously, we're here to discuss, as well, or primarily, I guess I should say, the Federal role in this regard. Is there an opportunity for partnerships among private, State and Federal landholders, and would you comment on that briefly?
Mr. SHINN. Absolutely.
I think we're fortunate that we have a great relationship with the Federal agencies, but I think we can take that to the next step. I thinkI keep talking about GIS all the time, but I think it's our information data base and the department. We've got 18 or 21 counties up on the system. The Barnegat Estuary Plan is going to be on the GIS system, and it's going to be on the internet probably by the end of the summer. But we have about 50 plus software packages out to non-profits, so environmental groups are working on this computerized mapping data base themselves.
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We see it from a watershed perspective, GIS base, so that all the data, as mapped on GIS, if you've got an unidentified pipe or you've got a discharge in a certain area in a swamp that's hard to identify, you can use global positioning to nail that site down. So it's just an exceptional mapping base to work with in a watershed context.
So we found, also, that working with non-profits, like Trusts for Public Land, who have been very active in this particular region, has given us an extra lever to work on land acquisition, and we can actually buy more land per dollar by using non-profits in the exercise.
So I think even enhancing a very good partnership that we have now is on the horizon. And of course, it gets tough when resources are short, because everybody's trying to put fires out, and we've certainly been through that exercise, as well. But I think really getting the state of the resource to the optimum and creating partnerships to the optimum extent possible, and not only governmental but also private involvement.
I heard several people were interested in putting trails in different areas of the refuge, and I think that's great, and I think those are the kind of things that are going to let us do more from a public perspective in areas of tight budget times.
So I think working closer together, leveraging our resources, both governmentally and privately, and trying to, I guess, blend over those tough areas where you go from governmental to private for the public benefit, somethere are some difficult barriers there, but I think working through them, and I think we can get there. And I think we need to.
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Mr. SAXTON. Thank you very much.
Before returning to Willie DeCamp and Joan Koons, Willie for his testimony and then questions for both, Mr. Pallone, would you like to address some questions to Mr. Shinn?
Mr. PALLONE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Let me just follow up on what Jim just said. With regard to possible State, local cooperation with the Federal Government, the one thing that cries out through all this with the National Wildlife Refuge is the lack of funding. And it's very difficult for us to make the case, not only for additional acquisition, but even for operations and maintenance. We can make the case, but the money isn't there, and we don't have the ability, because of the atmosphere in Washington right now, to convince a majority of our colleagues, to do a lot more.
I'm just wondering what you face and whether or not, in terms of operations and maintenance, because I know that we've already heard from Ms. Koons, and we're going to hear from others, I'm sure, about the problem of keeping up.
Is there a source of funding or other ideas in terms of volunteer groups? These volunteer groups are doing as much as they can, but it's just so frustrating, because we know the statistics are out there as to what should be done and how much it's going to cost, and we don't appropriate the money to do it.
I'm just wondering if you had some ideas, Mr. Commissioner.
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Mr. SHINN. Well, there are some
Mr. PALLONE. I don't really have any, I'm not trying to put you on the spot, because I know it's tough at every level, but
Mr. SHINN. Yeah. No, it's certainlysome good things have happened over the last twelve months or so.
Number one, there was two questions on the ballot, one wasgave the department four percent of the corporate business tax, which is roughly $46 million plus a year that the department has for specifically identified items.
And the other was the bond issue which, as you know, went for dredging and other economic development projects. They were, to me, aside from having the money, which is very, very welcome, they were good indicators that there's strong public support for environmentalthe environment, open-space type activities, plus getting our ports viable from a dredging perspective.
In addition to that, we have a committee that's being chaired by Assemblywoman Ogden, who you know very well
Mr. PALLONE. Sure.
Mr. SHINN. [continuing]who is looking at the stable source of funding for our parks and maintenance included, and as a primary pre-requisite, because funding goes up and down with budget cycles, and you've been through that drill before
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Mr. PALLONE. Exactly.
Mr. SHINN. [continuing]and know it well. So I guess we've really moved our site remediation programit's in transition right now, but I think there were $70 million in that bond issue for site remediation. That'll probably be our last site remediation bond issue, and now we'll go to stable source of funding under the corporate business tax. Fifty percent of those dollars was dedicated to site remediation.
So we've gotten the department, in the last three years, off of fees and fines, and on budget, and it was a difficult time to do that transition, as you know, but I think the good news is we can set environmental priorities and fund them and not be a fee-driven agency. Plus we've got site remediation moving to a stable source of funding. And my goal, ultimately, is to have our park system on a stable source of funding, and I think we'll be much more able to address the issues that we're talking about today, because operation and maintenance and adequately staffing parkswe're adding parks in New Jersey. We've added a couple of parks over the last couple of years.
So it's really a challenge to keep up with the demand. The public demand for our park system, while other States are sort of waning, is increasing annually. So the more increase you have, the more staff requirements that areparticularly interpretation. I think we're missing the boat, by and large, in an area that I'd like to spend more effort on, is interpretation of our park system and bring more school children through the system, because I think that's where our future lies, and I think that's where we need to focus our efforts.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PALLONE. I appreciate that. I think that, particularly, the stable source of funding is so crucial. I mean, because that's what we face, you know, the, as you say, ups and downs in terms of Federal funding levels in a given year. And I just wish that we could address the problems in the same way.
Mr. SHINN. I think exactly what's going on here today is part of the solution. All of us have been around this business long enough to know what drives the system is the public, and if youI think we've seen strong indications of the public's concern for environmental quality, and I think by having these kinds of hearings, talking about the nitty-gritty problems of managing a reserve that normally don't come on the public screen.
I think we're getting a better understanding as well put our environmental problems out there. And one thing the GIS system has done for us, we've put out lists ofour known contaminated site list in the State of New Jersey contains some 8,600 sites. For the first time, we've put out a package. The GIS system puts all these sites out there, underground storage tanks, superfund sites, spill fund sites, brownfields, the whole litany of impacted sites. So you can go on a GIS system or call an 800 number and say, ''Gee, my home is here. Is there a site around my home, either one that I have or one that I'm buying,'' and just find that information out in a snap.
So I think that kind of data and sharing of data is what's going to get all of our problems out to the public and get a better recognition of what we're trying to deal with as governmental officials from a public perspective.
Mr. PALLONE. OK, well, thank you very much.
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Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. SAXTON. OK, Willie and Joan, thank you for bearing with us.
Bob, I don't know whether you have any more time to spend with us. If you do, you're welcome to stay; if you're tight on time
Mr. SHINN. I'd love to stay, but this schedule that drives me won't let me.
So thank you very much for
Mr. SAXTON. Thank you for being with us. We've
Mr. SHINN.thank you for letting me jump in and do this.
Mr. SAXTON. We've enjoyed your participation and
Mr. SHINN. OK, but I will leave a couple of experts on the issue if you need any more information.
Mr. SAXTON. Thank you. We appreciate it.
Willie, thank you for bearing with us, and you may proceed.
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Mr. DECAMP. Thank you very much.
Mr. SAXTON. This is Willie DeCamp from the Save Barnegat Bay and the Izaak Walton League.
STATEMENT OF WILLIAM DECAMP, JR., PRESIDENT, SAVE BARNEGAT BAY, OCEAN COUNTY IZAAK WALTON LEAGUE
Mr. DECAMP. Which are the same thing. Save Barnegat Bay is the Ocean County Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America, and I thank you very much for inviting me to testify. Congressman Saxton and Congressman Pallone, hello.
Mr. PALLONE. Good to see you.
Mr. DECAMP. You've both been long-time vigorous supporters of the Forsythe Refuge, and of one of the main projects of Save Barnegat Bay, which has been to expand the Forsythe Refuge, and it's great to be here and participate with your continuing support.
Save Barnegatif I may, I have submitted my written testimony, and I would just like to summarize it verbally.
Mr. SAXTON. Please.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DECAMP. Save Barnegat Bay is a not-for-profit organization, and we're dedicated to land conservation in the Barnegat Bay Watershed as well as promoting water quality, two interrelated concepts, and we have worked hard to support the Forsythe Refuge and to promote acquisition in Barnegat Bay.
One of the important things, I think, that the refuge does, is it passes along natural habitat and all of ourthe nature values that we want to pass along to posterity in a more reliable form, I think, than the other vehicle, which is land use regulation, can do.
One of the concerns I have as I back off and look overall at the big picture is that land use regulation gets whittled away. The distinguished individual just speaking might not agree with that or might feel a little bit differently than I, but, you know, I see developments get approved that I thought when a wetlands law passed or when Cafer II passed were not going to be approved. And if this goes on over the course of decades, then I begin to see that land acquisition from willing sellers really is the most reliable method of guaranteeing to future generations that the habitat will be conserved.
Joan and I, I guess, offer the local perspective. We're not trying to advance our, you know, parochial interests, but we, perhaps we can supply examples of local instances of the problems in regard to management and maintenance of the Forsythe Refuge or of the national system.
One of the concerns that I have, as I tried to prepare for this hearing, is that I think that staffing is a big problem, and that may not be the focus of this hearing. You're looking at physical improvements and buildings and what not, which aredefinitely need remedial work and continued support. But a lot of the problems, I think, that the managers have, and maybe they're just being good sports and not saying it, is that they are just plain understaffed.
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Theyou take the Forsythe and the Cape May refuges, as one refuge, they stretch from Cape May all the way up to northern Ocean County to Brick Township, and they have something like a dozen employees or somewhere in that area. And they have only one person to police the refuge, and I don't know that they have a biologist on hand at the moment.
Mr. SAXTON. They're getting one.
Mr. DECAMP. They're getting one.
Mr. SAXTON. Yes.
Mr. DECAMP. Good. So justmy plea would be, through any mechanism possible, to see that the refuge gets properly staffed, gets more staffed, and I would concur that maintenance is a problem also. You see it in little ways, like as the refuge expands gates. We need gates to keep dumpers out; hopefully gates that people could walk around, but just there are many trails in the upland areas which do need to be conserved. And trails themselves, at Reedy Creek, a trail is appropriate and needed, and so, too, at Barnegat where they're working on one, but this takes staff and money. And kiosks and observation areas are also needed.
In the area of partnerships, just to take one area, you really see the impact of funding, I think, because partnerships do work, and they just have a way of creating momentum, but you get to the point where the Fish and Wildlife Service can't bring as much to the table as they should be able to, to make partnerships viable. Eventually you just reach the point where they're overstretched. If you have volunteers, like I think they want to use Americor volunteers, they need oversight. If we have a trash cleanup at Reedy Creek or if ALO has a trash cleanup on Bonnet Island, someone's got to show up from the Fish and Wildlife Service.
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So just to make the whole thing work, even when you have partnerships, you don't want to fall below a certain threshold, or it just doesn't work well.
In terms of public involvement, the Fish and Wildlife Service has been increasingly open, and they held, I think they call them scoping meetings in many townships around Cape May and Ocean County, also, to take public suggestions and to involve the public. But you need to be careful there, too, because if people come to a public hearing, and they raise some legitimate problem, and, you know, it's a good one, and then the Fish and Wildlife people are sort of stuck in the position, ''Well, we can't put a trail there, because we don't have the staff, or we can't do this or that.'' Then it can promote public cynicism.
And Ithe point that I'll just conclude with is to really echo your view, Congressman Saxton, that you expressed and that Congressman Pallone, I know you agree also, that public support is very important for the wildlife refuge andbecause that's the neighbor. And in order to have public support you can't just have sort of an iron curtain around the refuge, and I know we're movingwe never had that, but we're moving even farther away from that, and I believe that what is really needed is sort of a flexible boundary to the refuge. That's the expression that I use, where there are some places where you can just go and take a walk, and it doesn't even need to be an educational trail. Not every trail needs to be educational. Some places there are educational trails; other places you can fish, you can hunt, and in other places, because they're endangered species or maybe there's a habitat that could be damaged by trampling, like beachhead or something, that you justpeople have to stay out because it's appropriate, either seasonally or all the time to not be there.
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But it is so very important to allow people to be on the refuge, to see the refuge, so they can be reminded of the many things that it's doing for them.
And I wouldin summary, my views are a little more extensive in writing, and I thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. deCamp may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. SAXTON. Thank you very much. I appreciate your both bringing your perspectives to this.
On the subject of staffing, I know that you both agree on this subject. I know Joan agrees, because she's been involved with ALO in carrying out work which, perhaps, could be done by, if there were sufficient personnel at Forsythe to do the work and, Willie, I know that you agree with it, because you just said so, and I know that some of the staff at Forsythe who are here today agree, because some of them work 18 or 20 hours a day in the daytime managing the refuge, and at nighttime policing, and they don't have to do that. They do it because they're good people, and they do it because of their commitment, particularly in terms of the glass eel problem that we talked about with Commissioner Shinn, most recently, in going outin the middle of the night inat high tide, I guess, or whenever it is that glass eels are vulnerable, and trying to do what they can to enforce the law on the refuge.
So people are stretched a long way to try to accomplish what needs to be done at the Forsythe. We have authorized, incidentally, 34 positions for Forsythe, which are less than, I guess, a third are currently filled. We do hope that we will get an additional biologist, as I indicated to you during your testimony, Willie, and I hope that we also get two additional staffers next year. It looks like we may.
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So staffing is certainly a problem, and Frank and I have recognized this, as well.
Now, let me ask youlet me ask you both to respond to this question, because it is central to carrying out the public part of the program where we try to get as much public support for the program as we can.
The Fish and Wildlife Service is preparing a comprehensive management plan for Forsythe. And you both mentioned, I believe, that there are opportunities for input. Are your groups participating in this effort and what additional habitat protection and visitor access projects do your groups intend to propose and support for the new management plan?
Ms. KOONS. Well, ALO's interest, primarily, is Bonnet Island, because we do a great deal of school education, and we do a lot of eco tours. Primarily we're a barrier island group, but that causeway destination is just such a vital part of this, and we would really love to have a very unspoiled nature trail with a very simple platform.
I guess, the greatest thing we would ask for would maybe be at least one good quality binocular system that you could look over and see the developed lands on both sides of that causeway and just leave it as natural as possible, so you can experience the two worlds, the world that you're standing in, the natural world, and then looking over to see the developed areas that many of us live in.
And I really, the times that I have been in there since I testified last, one day I was there with a school, and there were 11 blue herons. I have never seen 11 blue herons on one spot, and they were sitting right around the salt marsh area near the new pond. And it wasyou didn't have to say another word to the whole 60 children, nothing. Nothing else was necessary.
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So that is what we would like to see in that particular area. We cannot also say enough about the staff, the Forsythe Refuge. The people are wonderful to work with, and our group would like to continue and go into the future as a vital part of this partnership.
Mr. SAXTON. Thank you. Willie?
Mr. DECAMP. I'd like to echo what Joan said about the staff of the refuge being great and friendly and hard-working under difficult circumstances. I've been doing outreach for the management plan of the refuge. We've been participating, and in a way we're not really asking for very much, and in a way we are.
Thewhat we want to see, and I think what's happening, is publicthe ability of people to take walks on the refuge, to hunt, to fish where appropriate. Walking trails are important. I think that when people have traditionally walked, you know, taken a walk in the woods in their neighborhood, and then suddenly it becomes part of the refuge, and if it's an area where you don't have critical habitat, it's amaybe a buffer area, appropriate buffer area, then just the ability to have the refuge boundary be permeable there, have someone take a walk there, really makes a difference. It can make the difference between the neighborhood really liking having the refuge as a part of their neighborhood, or the people feeling testy.
So that is something to be desired, and it interrelates with staff and with maintenance, because the Fish and Wildlife management, obviously, doesn't want the sense that the refuge is just running out of control. They want to be able to keep some kind of reasonable oversight. But I don't think it's that big a deal if a few people bring trash in, if more people than that are bringing trash out.
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You know, you have to sort of look at your garbage budget, if you will. And so, there are a lot of places where I think that you want the refuge to be pretty sort of open. Maybe not with a marked trail, but marked trails are good, too, and we favor observation decks. And the work on the impoundment is necessary. We also think in the area of that western impoundment isare places where there could be trails, if funds were available. And you know, one thing we are definitely not trying to do is to turn the refuge concept into a park concept. We appreciate that the resource is the important thing, and that you have to say no in substantial areas to public involvement, but you don't have to say no everywhere.
Mr. SAXTON. Thank you.
Mr. Pallone, do you have questions at this time?
Mr. PALLONE. I just wanted to askwell, first, let me commend the two of you, again. I worked with Willie for a long time when I represented the area where Reedy Creek is, and he was so much involved in organizing to add it to the refuge, and I want to say to Joan, I think I've met you at the office there in Beach Haven on occasion.
Ms. KOONS. Even bought a shirt.
Mr. PALLONE. Exactly, with my kids coming to story time. So I know how much all of you are involved.
My only question is, and it may be not possible, because of the nature of the organizations, but in terms of this partnership, you basically adopted the Forsythe Refuge in various ways. But in terms of actually enforcing, and making sure people don't go and dump garbage, the trails are maintained. Is it a regular program that you maintain? I mean, do you have people that just volunteer on a regular basis to work with thewith the Wildlife Service, or is it being involved like having a beach cleanup or a cleanup once in awhile?
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In other words, do you already actually do enforcement or cleanup in a systematized way with them, pursuant to a schedule? Is that something that's possible?
Mr. DECAMP. Well, you know, I don't want to sort of pretend to be, you know, more involved than I am, and our group has more supporters farther north on the bay. So up at Reedy Creek we've done more. And that's, you know, how it tends to work. Wherever most of your supporters are, that's sort of the neighborhood concept.
Mr. PALLONE. Right. Right.
Mr. DECAMP. We have cleanups once or twice a year.
Mr. PALLONE. Right.
Mr. DECAMP. And we get people together, and what I can say mainly is we're bringing it out faster than it's coming in.
Mr. PALLONE. But what I'm saying, Willie, is if there were more people working, let's say as Congressman Saxton said, that the staff was significantly increased. Would it be possible to systematize the volunteer organizations with them, you know, in terms of cleanup or enforcement, or we're just talking about once a year or twice a year or something like that?
Mr. DECAMP. It's possible to systematize to a degree. I mean, you can't squeeze too hard
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Mr. PALLONE. Right.
Mr. DECAMP. [continuing]any volunteer format. But one of the things that'll happen is just people in the neighborhood who care about the area will ring me or will ring Allison Banks or whomever. So it works that way, just with people driving by and seeing something.
Ms. KOONS. People tell you, when people are out there walking dogs, they tell you when somebody was selling balloons thatwhich was a double header for my group at the gate one time, and yes, I think the public will adopt it the same as we have. And I don't think that that would be an impossibility in the future. It's having the access to get in there without coming out with hundreds of ticks on you each time that's so vital.
And I don't want to take your time, but one thing I haven't heard discussed at all today, and it's certainly a concern to our group, and that's the liability problem, that in the future, if there was more partnering, where does the liability start and stop? At this point, I understand when we take educational access, then we take on the liability. And if you're going to have open house to the public, I think that's something that should be very carefully examined.
Mr. PALLONE. OK, well, thanks a lot. I appreciate it.
Mr. SAXTON. Thank you. I have no other questions. I just have one observation, and that relates to, you were just discussing the volunteer effort that would be possible.
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I would just say that volunteers are wonderful, and when I was down at the refuge last Monday, the thought occurred to me that I could put a little blurb, and I know Frank could, too, in his newsletter, you know, ''Sign up to volunteer at the --'' however, volunteers have to be managed. And they have to be able to, you know, know what to do and when to do it and where to show up and where not to walk and all these kinds of things, and so I don't know whether it's possible or not, but maybe we can leverage a lot more labor out of the next one or two full-time employees, in terms of some kind of volunteer management.
I don't know whether that makes sense or not, but it's something that you and I, Frank, can discuss with Steve and Tracy at some point in the future.
Thank you very much, both of you, for being with us this morning and for your forbearance for Commissioner Shinn.
I would like to ask unanimous consent at this point that the statement of Frank Bittner, the President of the New Jersey Federation Sportsmen's Clubs, be included in the record.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Bittner may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. SAXTON. And at this point we will close this part of the hearing and move on to our next panel of witnesses to further discuss the bluefish, striped bass, forage fish issue.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC With us for this panel are Mr. Jack Dunnigan, who is the Director of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission; Dr. Ken Able, Director of the Rutgers University Marine Field Station; Mr. Charles Bergmann of Lund's Fishery, Inc. of Cape May; Mr. Tom Fote, Legislative Chairman of the New Jersey Coast Anglers Association; and Mr. Jim Donofrio, Executive Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance.
As you're all taking your seats, I'd like to welcome you here. Obviously, we all have a great deal in common in wanting to have adequate, healthy fisheries, and so our intent is to try to move toward that goal.
Let me just open this panel by saying this. As Chairman of the Subcommittee in the 104th Congress, which was two years ago, our committee was known as the Fisheries, Wildlife, and Ocean Subcommittee. This year we added a word to the title. It is now called the Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Ocean Subcommittee, and we did that because we want to have an opportunity for fish to be plentiful, for commercial fishermen to have access to them, and for recreational fishermen to have access to them. And to the extent that people like Ken Able can help us understand the science behind it, and the rest of you can help us understand the desires and helpfulness of the user groups, we will be able to move in that direction.
So let me ask Jack Dunnigan if he will begin. Jack is with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Jack, the floor is yours.
STATEMENT OF JOHN H. DUNNIGAN, DIRECTOR, ATLANTIC STATES MARINE FISHERIES COMMISSION
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DUNNIGAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. It is a pleasure to be able to be here today, and once again, let me thank the committee for the opportunity to spend a day outside of Washington, D.C. and near the coast of one of the finest coasts that we have along the Atlantic Ocean in New Jersey.
And at this time I think I would ask that my formal testimony be included for the record, and I'll just make a few comments that I think are pertinent.
Mr. SAXTON. It will be, without objection.
Mr. DUNNIGAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I recognize that this is the panel on forage fish, but I can't let the moment escape without saying something about the earlier discussion about refuges, because in reality these issues really are related to each other.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service provides important support to the Atlantic Coastal States as they go through their business of conserving and managing Atlantic coastal fisheries. And a lot of the discussion so far this morning has been about partnerships. And the service is a terrific partner working with the States. It's often a controversial agency, but frankly, the commission believes that it's a great agency, and it's one that's worthy of support.
And it's also very important to note, and I've talked to Director Rogers about this, about thenot just the support they give us in our management planning, working on committees and providing scientific advice, but also the fact that they have these refuges, these are a tremendous part of the coastal habitat all along the Atlantic coast that supports fisheries.
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And the proper support and management of this habitat is critical to the long-term productivity of all of these resources. So whatever you folks can do to help support their programs is going to be beneficial, not just for all of the wonderful things that have been talked about by the earlier panels, but also in helping to support the productivity and the conservation and management of our valuable Atlantic coastal fisheries.
Mr. Chairman, the hearing this morning on the interrelationship of striped bass and bluefish and lots of other species along the Atlantic coast follows up on a hearing that you held in Toms River last year. And so, I'd like to begin by highlighting a couple of things that have happened in the period since then.
Mr. SAXTON. That hearing, for the record, was based essentially on bluefish, where they are habitating today, why they're not as plentiful in shore areas.
Mr. DUNNIGAN. Right.
Mr. SAXTON. Proceed.
Mr. DUNNIGAN. Thank you.
The striped bass population along the Atlantic coast, Mr. Chairman, continues to grow, continues to show all of the signs that we've been watching for the last couple of years of a recovered species and continuing to grow and growing well into the future. We're now in a position of having extremely strong year classes in many years out of the last six, and as a result, we can look forward to having productive and viable striped bass fisheries well into the future, so long as we maintain a cautious and prudent management program. And the States that work through the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission are convinced that that's what they have underway.
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Bluefish continue to appear to be in trouble. There was a new stock assessment that's been done since last year. It generally tends to reaffirm all of the findings that we had had before, that the resource continues to suffer from a lack of availability, probably due, mainly, to a failure of recruitment on an ongoing basis over a number of years, and that we need tothe fishery is overfished. In a legal sense it's overfished, because the fishing mortality rate is higher than the rate contained in the Cooperative Fishery Management Plan that the commission and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council have. And so this is a species that we need to continue to be concerned about and to devote attention to.
On the question of interactions among species, what we have had since last year, really, is the beginnings of some good work that needs to be done to look into this issue, and I think that it's a direct result of the inquiries that the committee made last year.
Some funding was provided in the fiscal 1997 budget, as Mr. Schaefer testified earlier. That funding is making its way through the system and getting out to people like Ken Able and others, so that the important work can be done to continue to follow up on the concerns that you have, and, frankly, they're concerns that are reflected by all of the managers of these fisheries along the Atlantic coast.
Mr. Chairman, I guess part of the sad news is that the administration's proposed budget for fiscal 1998 didn't pick up on the leadership that Congress exerted last year in putting this funding into the budget for the National Marine Fishery Service, that $785,000 is not included in the President's request.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And we think that that's very important funding. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission supports that work, believes that it needs to be continued if we're going to ever get to the bottom of some of these very difficult and controversial issues about the interrelationship of species, and we would strongly encourage the Congress to continue its leadership in this regard and do what you can to try to get that funding back into the budget for fiscal 1998.
Mr. Chairman, with that, I think I'll let the time go to the other members of the panel. Again, it's a pleasure to be here, and thank you very much for inviting me.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Dunnigan may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. SAXTON. Thank you very much, Jack. Our next witness, Dr. Ken Able, is the Director of Rutgers University Marine Field Station, and at the current time is using some of those Federal moneys that Jack Dunnigan just talked about. We got the $785,000, I believe, is the correct number this year, and Jack is concerned about continuing that program next year, and Ken Able is the guy who is carrying out that program. So Ken, we are anxious to hear from you.
STATEMENT OF KENNETH ABLE, DIRECTOR, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY MARINE FIELD STATION
Mr. ABLE. Thank you very much for inviting me to this session this morning.
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I'll make my comments very brief. Many more details are provided on the written testimony.
One of the reasons we're here today is that fish life histories are very complex. They go through many more stages than mammals and birds and that kind of thing, and so they're very difficult tovery difficult to understand. Larvae act differently than the juveniles. The juveniles act differently than the adults. And so understanding their life history is of paramount importance, because they often act as different species.
Thus, understanding interactions have to cover all these life history stages. And that's why I've provided some information on the first year in the life of these two species in my written testimony.
I focused on the first year for this testimony, because, and I think most fisheries, biologists around the world, would probably agree that 99.99 percent of the mortality that occurs in the life of a fish, or in the population of a fish, occurs during that first year.
And that's probably a worldwide consensus on that kind of issue. And so, much of the emphasis should be placed on that first year. Unfortunately, we don't know much about that for many species, even those of economic importance, and that includes striped bass and bluefish, for example.
In addition, we have to realize that many of our populations in the mid-Atlantic, by including these two species, are highly migratory. So they're crossing State and Federal boundaries all the time, and that makes management a lot more of an issue.
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But again, they have complex life histories. And that simply is the reason why we don't understand everything that should be going on today. If it were simple, we'd have all the answers. We clearly do not. And the only way to arrive at those answers is much more attention.
As an example, bluefish spawn insouth of Cape Hatteras during the spring, and many of those larvae move up into estuaries like Barnegat Bay into the spring. They find their way up there through regular patterns, being carried up by the Gulf Stream and so on. The adults also move up and spawn off the Jersey coast, and those individuals come in. So we have two groups of bluefish, young bluefish, coming in every year, in the spring and the fall.
Some originate south of Hatteras off North Carolina, South Carolina; some originate off New Jersey. Again, which of those groups contributes most to recruitment? It varies from year to year. But again, an example of a level of complexity that we don't quite understand.
Striped bass migrate long distances to go up into freshwaters to spawn. What controls their movements, the migration of the adults and how those young survive is unknown. It is not easy to say what these answers are. And then if you talk about interactions between these two, it's very difficult.
If you talk about interactions between these two and their prey species, the question becomes even more difficult.
Is it impossible to arrive at some answers? Probably not, but it's going to require much more attention than we've given them in the past.
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As an example, if you just look at the life histories of the two species, as I provided in the written testimony, they seem to overlap, primarily in estuaries, during their first year and primarily in large estuaries. So that maybe if we are intent on looking at interactions, that's where the effort should focus, in the Hudson River, in Delaware Bay, in Chesapeake Bay.
Unfortunately, Chesapeake Bay, where we know most about many species, is not represented at Barnegat Bay. They're very different in their morphology, in the number of people that live around them and the pollutant levels and so on. So studying Chesapeake Bay intensively does not allow us to simply extrapolate to other systems, such as Barnegat Bay.
So there's a spacial component as well. We need to study many of these different estuaries. It's a daunting problem.
I think we could make some progress. There has been significant progress, such that now we know something about what controls striped bass survival, and we're doing a much better job, and therefore, there are more striped bass around. It would be nice if we could say we could do the same thing for bluefish.
I'll simply end my comments by saying there are complex life histories, there's much to be learned, we think we can make significant end roads, and we're willing to do anything we can to help in this goal.
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[The prepared statement of Mr. Able may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. SAXTON. Ken, thank you very much. I look forward to the question period.
I'd like to, at this time, introduce Charles Bergmann, with the Lund's Fisheries in Cape May. Obviously, a very important aspect of New Jersey life is the commercial fishery, and we welcome you here this morning, Mr. Bergmann.
STATEMENT OF CHARLES BERGMANN, LUND'S FISHERY, INC., CAPE MAY, NEW JERSEY
Mr. BERGMANN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Congressman Pallone.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify before you today. First of all, I need to make a disclaimer. I'm a member of the New Jersey Marine Fishery Council and, as you note on the card here, the Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council.
My testimony today may or may not be indicative of their feelings, but it's my own testimony and not theirs.
Striped bass spawn in the estuary systems along the Atlantic coast. As noted in the studies in the Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay, Little Egg Harbor, and the Hudson River estuaries, the diets vary within these systems but hold to the same pattern.
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The very young bass primarily feed on invertebrates, worms, shrimp, small fish, at age one. Striped bass feed on invertebrates during the firstfirst of the year and then gradually switch to invertebrates in the latter part of year one. The diet at this time varies according to which estuary is studied. The most common sources of forage include bay anchovies, Atlantic menhaden, weak fish, spot, herring, summer flounder, naked goby and bluefish.
After year two, their diets consist almost entirely of fin fish and sand eels.
Bluefish, on the other hand, spawn offshore, depend entirely on winds and tides to move the larvae into the estuaries. During this process the bluefish larvae must pass through large schools of Atlantic mackerel which are hungry predators of the young bluefish.
After surviving the feeding frenzy of the Atlantic mackerel, they must now avoid the increasing presence of age two striped bass. Like the striped bass, the bluefish diet consists primarily of bay anchovies, Atlantic silversides to year one. From year one through year two, the diet is mostly Atlantic menhaden. Years two and older bluefish prey upon spots, croakers and weak fish.
In a study done by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Fish, Game and Shellfishes, it was pointed out since two-thirds of the recreationally and commercially important fish species along the Atlantic coast are estuary-dependent at some life stage, the study of estuarine food webs has a number of management implications.
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Fluctuations in the abundance of estuarine forage organisms may have profound effects on the year to year abundance of harvestable fish. In spite of this, management and environmental protection actions have generally been geared to tolerance levels exhibited by target fish species, ignoring the possibility of higher sensitivity to forage fish to pollution and habitat loss.
This study was done in 1979, and with Mr. Saxton's clean water bills and the new requirements of the Essential Fish Habitat of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, this will surely help to answer some of these concerns.
Many have taken a position that the harvest of menhaden has increased to a point that there is not enough to hold striped bass and bluefish for recreational anglers.
One could answer this with facts. The harvest of menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay comprise 40 percent of the total coast harvest. And the harvest of striped bass by anglers in the same bay has risen from approximately 130,000 fish in 1990 to over 600,000 fish in 1996.
All this was done with 40 percent of the coastwide production of menhaden. Earlier this year, one group used the forage issues to stop an IWP in New Jersey. This group stated a concern that Atlantic mackerel is a forage for bluefish, but what has been pointed out, the reverse is true. Atlantic mackerel prey upon bluefish.
There have been numerous papers done on the feeding habits of both species, but little on what effect, if any, the predator/prey relationship has on the recruitment of each species.
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One study has been approved, but as yet, funding has not been appropriated. This research, as well as other projects related to water quality, need to be done.
Mr. Chairman, I wish to thank you for your recent meeting with Mr. Schmitten regarding the joint management of squids, another very important forage fish. And another important forage fish that needs to be addressed is the Atlantic herring. I would invite you, Mr. Chairman, and Congressman Pallone, to join Frank LoBiando in introducing or co-sponsoring a bill to protect these species.
Mr. Chairman, I again wish to thank you and assure you the Cape May Seafood Association is prepared to work with you and your staff on the predatory/prey issues in the future, as well as to participate in any discussion with other subjects of the commercial and recreational fishing industries.
I'd be pleased to try to answer questions at this time.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Bergmann may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. SAXTON. Thank you very much, Mr. Bergmann.
Mr. Tom Fote of the Jersey Coast Anglers Association.
STATEMENT OF THOMAS P. FOTE, LEGISLATIVE CHAIRMAN, NEW JERSEY COAST ANGLERS' ASSOCIATION
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Mr. FOTE. The Jersey Coast Anglers Association would like to thank Congressman James Saxton for holding this field hearing on this important subject in New Jersey and Congressman Frank Pallone for attending the hearing.
JCAA is aware that both congressmen understand the importance of ecosystem management to the citizens of New Jersey.
This is a subject near and dear to my heart. The more I learn about fisheries management, the more I realize that we cannot manage interrelated species one at a time. Ecosystem management is looking at the interrelationships of species and managing these species by their interdependency on each other and other environmental factors.
To me, this means that every time we take an action that impacts one species, we need to consider the effect on all the species. In the marine environment, every species is a support for the entire ecosystem. We might be able to overfish one species without causing a dramatic change in others; however, once we begin to decimate the food stocks for the species, like striped bass or bluefish, we cannot help having a serious negative effect on the species' total population.
Some species are more adaptable and can find alternative forage sources to augment their diet. Striped bass and bluefish, as juveniles, feed on similar prey. Striped bass, however, are opportunistic feeders. As adult they feed by sight, sound, and smell. They will eat almost anything that swims in the bays, oceans, and rivers.
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC When we impact their basic diet, we may not see a dramatic decrease in striped bass population, because they adapt by eating something else and have a more varied diet to choose from.
Bluefish, however, have very different feeding habits as adult fish. They are primarily sight feeders. They havewe have seen a faster change in the bluefish population than with striped bass due to the decline of menhaden, squid, sand eels, herring and butterfish.
When forage species were particularly prevalent in the 1970's, both predator species were eating the same abundant forage species, and both predator stocks were in abundance.
Even though striped bass appear more adaptable and able to maintain their numbers over a short haul, if we continue to destroy the forage base, we will eventually see the same result as we've seen with bluefish. The striped bass, because of their ability to adapt to a wider range of forage species, have a broader support system. Still, we can only remove so many of their supports before the fishery collapse.
The problem will not just be at the last action we take, but all the actions we have taken, cumulative over the years.
The species that play important roles in the historical diets of both striped bass and bluefish are menhaden, sand eels, squid, mackerel, shad and river herring. My written testimony contains the relevant statistical data.
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The point is that a historical staple dietary sources of striped bass and bluefish are under attack and will surely damage those and other key species' viability.
In the ocean, the study of ecosystem management is complex. When we overharvest menhaden, other species like squid, sand eels, mackerel, which have historically made up the difference in the diets of striped bass and bluefish, the stocks of these species have now declined and have left few alternatives to supplement the diet of striped bass and bluefish.
For the last 30 years NMFS has continued to declare some species, especially forage fish, as underutilized. With the collapse of historical fisheries, many commercial fishermen have begun to harvest these underutilized species. There has been a dramatic increase in the harvest of bunker, herring, squid, ling and whiting.
NMFS is not the only fisheries management regime at fault. For example, the menhaden board at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission consists of five States with the greatest vested interest in the commercial harvest and five members of the commercial harvest industry.
Can I expect them to practice ecosystem management? All boards need to include a balance of all user groups and members who are primarily interested in ecosystem management.
We are totally destroying the delicate ecological balance of nature by our unchecked overfishing, and this will result in a dramatic shift in all predator/prey relationships in our ocean.
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In looking at the available data and the natural history of bluefish and striped bass, clearly, there's a scarcity of data after 1980. Since the 1980's, we have spent and continue to spend millions of dollars on monitoring and modeling of striped bass. In comparison, only a small percentage of the money has been spent on collection of biological information.
After 1980, fisheries managements placed the emphasis on population analysis, a simple form of bean counting. Now with the reduction of available funds, scientists are directed toward using statistical modeling procedures as a cost saving method. They spend most of their time developing and maintaining these unproven population estimating techniques.
Fisheries biologists today receive more training in statistics than in biology. A growing number of economists, statisticians, and specialists in population dynamics are sitting on, technical, a committee. Frequently, the goal appears to be the development of statistics that look good on paper rather than reflecting what is occurring in the ecosystem.
This hearing emphasizes forage species and their interrelationships. However, when we look at ecosystem management we must consider many areas. We must consider habitat loss, chemical contamination, physical change, and water quality. Without all the pieces to the puzzle we cannot understand the problem and thus never solve the problem.
And when I'm looking at Barnegat Bay, and I sit on the policy committee of the Barnegat Bay Estuarine Program, which Congressman Saxton and Congressman Pallone helped get some funds for and get us going, we're looking at those ecosystem problems. We're looking at what's trying to happen there.
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I was listening to Ken Able's discussion, and basically looking at the young. We also need to look at the adults. In my written testimony I compare them to the lemmings. When they find their available food source is gone, they commit suicide, they basically march into the ocean.
Well, when they do that, then the adults stop producing. They stop producing young. They either abort their young, or they, basically, just don't have any. And they die off. So it also, when we impact the food source of the adult, we're going to have impact on the other future generations, because, basically, they'll cut back. They just won't reproduce.
And I see the red light is lit, so I'llone parting comment. If you want to learn more about the Barnegat Bay Estuarine program, as Congressman Saxton knows and Congressman Pallone, we're going to put on the Barnegat Bay Festival May 17th, and we've got like 24 different stations throughout the whole estuarine program to cover all those points, to show you what's going on.
And there's a lot of different things. You want to learn how to fly fish or just want to learn the vegetation in the pine barrens. So take a look at the list that's out there.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Fote may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. SAXTON. Thank you very much. Thank you, Tom, for your testimony, also.
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Mr. Jim Donofrio is the executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance.
STATEMENT OF JAMES A. DONOFRIO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, RECREATIONAL FISHING ALLIANCE
Mr. DONOFRIO. Good morning, Congressman Saxton, Congressman Pallone.
I want to thank you for your leadership in renaming the Subcommittee to conservation. Putting that word in there wasit just shows that the tone that you're setting, which needs to be setthe reason why I say that, because NMFS was once called the Office of Conservation and Management, and I don't thinkwe saw very little of either of those over the years, and now we have the Office of Sustainable Fisheries. And as we all know, anyone who's ever fished or any scientist will tell you, in order to have sustainable fisheries, we need to have sustainable forage.
So I want to thank you for holding these forage fish hearings. I think this is a step in the right direction of having sustainable fisheries and living up to the name on the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
It is the opinion of the RFA and our membership, at our board meeting we had in Miami, that there is a looming forage fish crisis across the country. Right now, the east coast, we have problems and also on the west coast with a huge squid fishery that has developed inside of State waters in California, a little bit outside. So it's a touchy problem with no management. But we see this as a national problem, and I think the 105th Congress can address this, and I believe with your leadership and Mr. Pallone working in this spirit of bipartisanship, we will achieve that.
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Recreational fishermen and commercial fishermen all agree that forage fish management is prerequisite for sustainable fisheries. Big fish eat little fish. And NMFS has never managed the fisheries of this nation with that consideration. It has been single species management, and, with that, we can never truly have sustainable fishery stocks.
The designation ''underutilized'' amounts to no more than a death sentence for species. With that type of one-dimensional thinking, as witnessed in the decline with the shark fishing. The finning operations for a foreign market, these fish were deemed underutilized, and now we have a stock decline that might take over 30 years or longer for a recovery. And that situation is not acceptable anymore.
The other comment I want to make here, and I'm just doing an overview, Mr. Chairman, if you don't mind. Fish are not manufactured goods, and they can't be viewed in the same marketing perspective as manufactured trade. And I hear commercial fishermen say to me, ''Well, Jim, you know, we trade Toyotas, we do this back and forth.''
We can't do that. This perspective needs to be stopped, and, in fact, if you wouldn't mind, I'd like to refer to a document here, which actually talks about that. It's a study, and it's done by the Institute for Environmental Negotiation at the University of Virginia, Richard Collins.
And I'd be glad to bring a copy to Sharon and send it down to her when I'm down there tomorrow.
Page 87 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SAXTON. Please do.
Mr. DONOFRIO. Yeah. Let me just read to you here about the market in here.
It says fishery issues present a classic case of market failure. As explained by resource economists and environmental theorists, a market failure exists when the conditions necessary for a free market to work effectively are absent. The fishermen's problem is a significant example of market failure toward commons problems. And we believe this is a tragedy of the commons. It's not so much the fishery you're talking about, it's the balance in the ecosystem. It's the balance that is the tragedy of the commons, and this is what we have here when we're addressing forage fish.
It also notes in here that fishing under this, what happens is that in this type of a market you fish beyond maximum sustainable yield.
Because these are not manufactured goods, they're not planted, these are wild fish stocks. So this perspective has to be changed, and I implore upon this Congress to do that.
Also, as far as NMFS goes, the United States National Research Council has made this observation. Fishery scientists and managers have given virtually no consideration to consequences of removing target species on the structure, dynamics, and productivity of the ecosystem, of which the target species are a component.
Page 88 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Another fishery scientist observes that part of the problem with fisheries management is the tendency to manage one species at a time. Marine communities are diverse, and their food chains are complex. In many instances, one fishery is targeted a predator, while another is targeted prey. Yet there is no management coordination between the two, and that backs up my statement in my original testimony there.
On the same note it's been observed that sustainable fish populations depend on biological integrity of the marine ecosystem, which is undermined by overfishing.
Coordinated multi-species management based on recognition of the interaction amongst fishers, sea birds, mammals, and their habitats should be developed and implemented.
I'd like to ask the Congress, and with your leadership, Mr. Saxton, to seek out the appropriations to fund the universities, the scientists that would do the multi-species management. I know it's a very expensive deal, it's very complex, but we have to look at our fisheries more seriously, and I don't think the Department of Commerce has done that. I don't think they recognize the value, the true value of our commercial and recreational fisheries sustainable for the long time.
And let me tell you the feeling I get from addressing clubs all over the country. I just got back from a trip in Florida. Mike Donovan, our development director, got back from a trip in Massachusetts, and the people on the street feel that the intent of the Magnuson has never been lived up to. And this is that tragedy of the commons. We felt that we got the foreigners out of here, but NMFS has encouraged foreign markets, so what have we accomplished?
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And I think what we need to do is address this multi-species management system, put America first, and if there are extras, truly extras, in the ecosystem then fine, develop these markets, but I think the markets were encouraged prior to having any realistic science on theseon this multi-species interaction. And I think that needs to be considered.
I want to thank you for the opportunity to testify today. Thank you, Mr. Pallone.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Donofrio may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. SAXTON. Thank you very much.
For any of you who are in the audience who think fisheries management is simple or easy or clear-cut, you have just heard testimony from five people who demonstrate that it is not.
Essentially, we're trying to arrive at Jack Dunnigan's point of view as one of the partners in the regulatory process, and Frank and I from being partners in the legislative process that relate to this issue. We try to sort through all this and come up with legislative and regulatory schemes that accomplish everybody's final goal, which is more of all species.
This morning it seems to me that there have been two notions that have been advanced, and I guess I would like to ask some questions about those two notions.
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One notion, which was originally introduced here this morning by Ken Able, I think is fascinating. And that is that, perhaps, of all the things that we ought to be looking at, perhaps the most important is the first year of life for, particularly I guess, the Atlantic bluefish species. And perhaps that's something that we don't know a whole lot about.
The other notion also, certainly, has a basis in fact, and that is that big fish have to have little fish to eat or they're not going to do well or they're not going to stick around the parts where the little fish don't live anymore.
So those are the two notions that I think I heard this morning, and I guess the first is, Ken, let me just pose this question to you, and then anybody else can jump in who wants to.
While your contention is, and obviously, we appropriated a significant amount of money for you to advance your notions, because you're the expert, if the notion is that the primary problem or one of the primary problems or a major problem exists with regard to environmental factors that affect the first year of life, then how do you put into perspective the environmental, including the food issue, fish food issue, for that period of life after the first year?
Mr. ABLE. Well, let me preface my comment by saying I feel much more comfortable with my boots on and a net in my hand than a microphone in front of me. So just bear with me a minute.
Page 91 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I clearly believe that there needs to be a focus on the first year in the life of fishes thatin order to understand some of these fishes. That does not mean that adults are not important. Clearly, they are. If they're not around there's no reproduction, and there will be no little fish.
I think many of the issues of the predator/prey interactions, some of the most important issues might actually be happening during the first year, as well, though.
From some of our studies, it becomes clear that if an animal grows slow during the summer, it may survive, but it'll grow more slowly. When it enters the winter we see increasing evidence of over-winter mortality, and these fish probably become prey or simply die due to cold temperatures during winter migrations, and they disappear. But we have no record of that mortality. But that mortality may have been initiated during the summer when they grewwhen they grew at a slower than normal rate.
So that the mortality may have occurred during the winter, but the cause of that mortality was actually slow growth in a given habitat during the summer. So that, again, commenting on the complexity of these interactions, but the likelihood that predator/prey interactions, i.e., big fish eat little fish, that also can happen during the first year, as well.
To pretend that I know specifically how to answer that question, I just won't do that.
Mr. SAXTON. Mr. Fote.
Page 92 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. FOTE. If we look to the environment off of New Jersey in the '80's and the '70's, we saw all kinds of sand eel population. When those bluefish and striped bass migrated down to the south, they would basically stay in this locale the whole month of November and December, just gorging themselves of the sand eels.
When they went down south they were fat fish. They had a lot of body fat, so they were able to endure the harsh winter, and they were able to winter over.
When the sand eel population started downdying in '89, you look to this huge crash and it started in the bluefish population. If you look at statistics, we went for catches in the early '80's to 175 million pounds, something like that, recreationally, down to about 34, and it's even getting less and less every year. Why?
Maybe, as we look at nature, we know that when an adult is under stress, when it basically cannot store body fat, when it cannot be in a healthy condition, it just does not produce young the following year. I mean, basically it takes over. Well, theya lot morea lot smarter about how to develop their environment than we seem to be. When they're under stress they don't reproduce, because they know their young will not survive.
And I think that plays. And Ken's right, if we don't study the ecosystem in the bays, and that's what we're doing in the Barnegat Bay Estuarine program, trying to get that information, we have no idea what the effect of power plants, the suction that's going on, I mean, with Oyster Creek over the years, how it affects the bay anchovies.
Same thing with Salem Nuclear Power Plant. We know we lose thousandshundreds of millions of bay anchovy every year, likesomething like 50 percent of the population. And especially in the larvae stage, 'cause that's when they get sucked in the power plant. So is that affecting the weak fish, it's defeated in that early stage. And that's the whole kind of interrelationship.
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It's like aCongressman Saxton knows I'm familiar with bicycle wheels. You can break one or two spokes and ride on the wheel, but as soon as you break a couple of more, that wheel collapses, and that's what we're doing with the whole system.
Mr. SAXTON. Any others?
All right. Let me turn, at this point, to Mr. Pallone for whatever questions he may have.
Mr. PALLONE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I appreciate all your testimony, but I have to say that, I guess, as Jim was saying earlier, I get, in many ways, more confused listening to the different views than even before you started. Let me just point out why I'm confused, and you tell me if it's because you disagree or it's because I'm just not understanding completely.
I notice that Mr. Dunnigan talked aboutwhen he was talking about interaction between bluefish and striped bass, he said thathe mentioned that, in the testimony, that a large portion of the bluefish diet consists of young striped bass, and that one study suggested that predation by bluefish was the greatest source of mortality for juvenile striped bass. And it is possible that the proportion of striped bass in their diet could increase the striped bassin abundance increase.
So if I understand that comment it seems to suggest that as the number of young striped bass increased, then the number of bluefish would also, because there'd be more for them to feed on.
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But then I'm listening to what Jim Donofrio said, which basically was that both species are feeding on forage fish, and that if the forage fish are overharvested, the bluefish, because theyI mean, the striped bass, because they seem to be more dominantwell, I guess, get more and the bluefish populations could decline, because there's not enough forage fish left for them.
And then I'm listening to Tom, and you seem to think, Tom, that, at leastunless, again, I'm just going by the testimony here, you mention this study by Dr. Lionel Walford at NMFS at Sandy Hook, who said, essentially, that his research didn't find any correlation between the abundance of bluefish and theof one species and the decline of the other.
I guess, assuming we're talking about striped bass and bluefish, as well as other species. So I'm totally confused, unlessit seems that you all disagree on what's happening.
Mr. FOTE. No, I think we all agree.
Mr. PALLONE. OK, well, then tell me how, because I'm confused.
Mr. FOTE. What we're saying here, that we can'tthe studies basically don't show if the stocks of bluefish are up high, will the stocks of striped bass be low? It doesn't show that.
Page 95 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PALLONE. OK.
Mr. FOTE. OK, so there's no absolute data out there. What we do see is when the stocks of forage fish are up and down, then some species react to that, as far as the drop in forage fish, faster, because they're less adaptable as adults.
If you look at bluefish and striped bass, they both feed similarly when they're small and juveniles. They feed on shrimp, grass shrimp, and everything else. As they get larger, they have a different kind of feeding habits, and one relies moreif you watch bluefish, it relies more on menhaden, mackerel, fish that swim.
If you look at a striped bass, certain times of the year it's eating nothing but crabs, certain times eating nothing but sand fleas, and certain times eating worms. It's more adaptable. So it has a greater foodI mean, a food base, like the panda. If you look atin the forest, when the bamboo all dies, they all die.
Mr. PALLONE. Right.
Mr. FOTE. And other species will basically survive, because they eat the panda that's dying, because they can mix their diet up, and that's more, I think, what we're
Mr. PALLONE. Well, Tom, when I was reading through the different testimony, to me, at least, it seemed that what you were quoting made the most sense, in the sense that you were suggesting that both feed on forage fish, and to the extent that those disappear, there's not sufficient supply, you know. It impacts both of them.
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But what I still don't understand if there's a direct relationship between the two species, or is it just that, you know, as the forage fish disappear there's not enough for both, and then we don't know who dominates or who ends up surviving?
Mr. FOTE. It's not a simple answer, 'cause as Dr. Able pointed out, striped bass form in bays and estuaries. It's a lot easier to affect the adult population by nets, recreational fishing and everything else. Bluefish run offshore, so they basically are less susceptible to that spawning targeting. So that can also affect asAble, I think, can talk for himself, but pointed out, it's a whole lot more complex than simple nuts and bolts. I mean, if we, basically, could give you all the answers of what the interrelationship is, I mean, I'd be worth a million dollars instead of what I'm worth.
Mr. PALLONE. Well, I'm not trying to put you on the spot. I mean, I guess my conclusion of all this, and I'd still like to hear from the others, Mr. Chairman, if that's possible, my conclusion is that we clearly need a lot more studies, because different people are coming to different conclusions, some of which may overlap, but clearly, there's a lot more that needs to be done.
Mr. SAXTON. Let's hear from Mr. Bergmann.
Mr. BERGMANN. Congressman Pallone, just for one issue on bluefish, we could stop fishing on bluefish entirely, recreationally and commercially, and just completely stop, and not necessarily have an effect on their abundance in the estuaries.
Page 97 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As has been noted, they spawn offshore, and they rely on the tides winds to bring them in, into the estuaries. If they don't make it into the estuary system, they die. And I think there needs to be more studies done on the effects of water temperature, salinity, and the clean water on these animals.
Mr. SAXTON. Mr. Donofrio.
Mr. DONOFRIO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Pallone, thank you. I want to answer Congressman Pallone's question regarding my testimony. As you know, I am not a fishery scientist. In my testimony I make note of my many thousands of days on the water. I still have my 100 ton operator's license. And my primary fishery, in my charter boat days, of course, during the summer months, was bluefishing. And then that would interface into striped bass late in the fall. And based on my on-water observations, as I started as a deck hand in the '60's, when we hadI believe we had a really truly recovered bass fishery, when we didn't have the truncation in the sizes, and we had tremendous bluefish, and especially one of our hot spots was the Shrewsbury rocks and the acid waters.
And there was tremendous amounts of schools of both. But at the time, we didn't have a squid fishery offshore that was developed for foreign markets. We didn't have a huge menhaden business off our coast. The menhaden industry, reduction industry, actually worked south and stayed in their own waters. They didn't have to venture this far.
So we had a lot of bunker, a lot of menhaden, we had sand eels, we had a multiple variety of bait and enormous amounts of them. And bluefish and striped bass are highly competitive; however, striped bass are such hogs that they will compete and push the bluefish out of an area.
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And I believe Michael Laptew from Laptew Productions sent the Chairman a video for the committee to look at. These are underwater shots he does with a snorkel as not to spook the bass. It shows striped bass and bluefish feeding, and you can clearly see here how the striped bass are the dominant feeder.
And you know, we knew that for years. You could see it on your recorders and all, but here's documented photos of these fish feeding.
Mr. PALLONE. But the main point, Jim and Tom, that both of you are making, the way I understand it is that it's the fact that a lot of the forage fish have disappeared that creates this competition and ultimately means that one or both stocks decline.
Mr. SAXTON. Let meFrank, can I break in? Let me just throw a little gas on the fire here.
Jack, I have a series of faxes here which have Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission on them, and in this group of papers there's what appears to be information that says that the menhaden population is extremely well off today. This is a chart, which you're familiar with, yes?
Mr. DUNNIGAN. Um-hum.
Mr. SAXTON. OK, this says that the worst time for menhaden looksappears to have been in 1975, and then the stock recovered, and then they got nearly in trouble again in 1985, and that by 1995 the stock of menhaden is bigger than it has been since anytime since 1965. Is that what this chart shows?
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Mr. DUNNIGAN. I don't actually have it in front of me, but I think that that's probably accurate. Certainly, if it reflects through the assessments through last year that wouldthat would be consistent.
Menhaden are a very short-lived species, very much dependent on recruitment. They're fished as age zeros and age one fish, so you'll see these sort of wilder fluctuations in that kind of a fish than you would in something like striped bass that lives a long time. And you can have more stability because of a larger number of age classes.
Mr. SAXTON. Is there some reason why nearshore fishermen continually come up to me unprompted and say the menhaden are gone?
Mr. DUNNIGAN. Well, I don't know. Your question, I think, to somebody on the earlier panel was, what would you tell a fisherman if that's what they said to you, and what I would tell them, not being a scientist, is that's very interesting. Let's go talk to the scientist and ask him what they're seeing.
The Commission's Atlantic Menhaden Advisory Committee met in Richmond last week, and under the current menhaden management plan, every year we look at six different triggers. And they're either, you know, on or off, like a binary system, and they determined that one of those was met this year, and the fact that that trigger was met, and the one that was met was recruitment to the age zero population. So it appears that there was low recruitment last year in the coastal fishery. I would assume then that the 1996 year class isn't going to be all that strong. So we may see some of this coming down.
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The other five triggers were not met, and so the management board now will have to sit down and decide what to do about that.
A similar thing happened a couple of years ago where that one trigger was met, and it was followed the following year by a very high recruitment.
So this is a species where they tend to go up and down, there tends to be local instances of a lack of availability of them, and I think it would just be incumbent on going to look at the data.
Mr. SAXTON. So you're saying that the spike on that chart that I see may just be an aberration of a count at one particular time in the history of the species, and that it may not be
Mr. DUNNIGAN. That's right, and it may have just been one very strong year class. When you have a population that's made up of only a very few year classes, and in this case we're looking at two or three, you know, one very strong year class will tend to have that kind of an effect, just as one very poor year class will have a very strong effect moving the spawning stock back down.
Mr. SAXTON. OK, so that data may be suspect in terms of the total biomass of
Mr. DUNNIGAN. And it may not reflect where the resource is today.
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Mr. SAXTON. OK. Frank, I'm sorry, I broke in on your
Mr. PALLONE. No, that's all right.
Mr. FOTE. If you look at the old data on menhaden, you also will see that there used to be a lot of six and seven and eight-year-old class around. We don't manage that species for longevity, not for the many year classes.
There arethey can grow to nine, ten years old. I mean, that's when they get the bigger bunker. They are longer living. What happens here, because we've been managing those species for reduction and for bait industry, is, basically, now truncated to small year classes, where it can be that function. There's not a lot of year classes left.
I mean, if you look at some of the old data, which I looked at, there's six, seven-year-olds and eight-year-olds that made part of the market. After '65 you don't see that anymore, because we basically
The same way, if you look in the Potomac River back in the 1830's, they could haul, say, 450 sixty-pound striped bass. Well, I don't think I've heard of 450 striped bass being on the whole east coast, I mean, in the last couple years. Because there was also 3 million300 million shad being caught and 300 million river herring. So that was different circumstances, and as we basically truncate the population, we truncate the size that we harvest out of there. It's going to make that much of a difference.
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Mr. SAXTON. Jack.
Mr. DUNNIGAN. Just, remember, Mr. Chairman, when you're going back and looking at fish from the 1830's, you're essentially looking at what today we would call a virgin population, an unfished resource. And you don't ever anticipate being able, over the long-term on a maximum sustainable yield basis, as the Magnuson-Stevens Act says, to be able to maintain that kind of a harvest.
In a relatively unfished population, you will get very high returns when you first go into it and start fishing.
So you know, looking at historical data, it's very interesting, and probably important for managers to consider, but it doesn't necessarily tell the whole story over the long-term.
Mr. FOTE. If you look at the Potomac River information, which was very historical, 'cause it basically kept, they kept good records during that period of time. There was a huge amount ofthey were in the Potomac River every five minutes with five-mile long nets. That's before we hadthat by the 1980's they had a collapsed fishery where they needed 18 hatcheries going on. So they did impact, it wasn't a virgin fishery, and there was a lot of pressure on those fisheries during this period of time.
Mr. SAXTON. OK, we're going to go to Mr. Donofrio and then back to Mr. Pallone.
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Mr. DONOFRIO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. To answer Mr. Pallone's question from before, I don't believe that thethis is my opinionthat the bluefish stocks are in decline. What I believe is that they're being displaced, and that's the point I was trying to make with the forage fish problem.
In order to sustain two populations near the coast, you need to have a big variety of bait and enormous amounts of it. And what I think is happening, as witnessed in the Azures this year, there was a lot of big bluefish in the Azures. So they're going somewhere else. They're a highly migratory pelagic fish, and they will go. And I believe the recovering striped bass fishery, because of their ferocious appetite, they will take over the area, and if there's not a variety of forage fish, and as we all know, the bass were called squid hounds, and I don't know the last time I saw squid along the beach. Years ago they used to spin them up and we caught them, but it's justthere's less and less forage fish, and I believe that's the problem there between the two fisheries, not that there's a decline, maybe, in the stock, but I think that the nature of the striped bass is just pushing them out of the area.
Mr. SAXTON. Mr. Pallone.
Mr. PALLONE. I just wanted to ask Tom Foteyou've mentioned this phenomena of using modeling, for example, and the statistical methods, if you will, as a cost saving device, as opposed to collection of biological information, and I know, Tom, you talk about that, not only in the context of various fisheries management plans, but also with dredging and environmental issues at different stages.
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And it concerns me. I'm not sure I fully understand. I just wanted you to comment on it a little more. I mean, what I see more and more with the EPA and withand I guess also with NMFSis just a statistical computer modeling without reference to actual data collection, fish samples, whatever.
Just comment on that a little more, I mean, how that's affecting what we do and why you think it's notor what do you think we should do to change it?, because obviously if the scientific data's not accurate, and the methods being used are not accurate, then we're going nowhere.
Mr. FOTE. When it was easy to do science and it was cheap to do science, that's what we did, we did a lot of biology. We took awhen Bruce Freeman and Ken Able and Tom McCloy went tothey did a lot of stomach samples to see what was going on with species.
Right now it becomes very expensive, and also, we're under such pressure to produce so much stock for each individual sector of the commercial and recreational fishery, that we've got to prove our figures. So they've gone to this modeling technique. And some of them are very good, but they should be used as a tool, not as the last word. And the problem is, when we look at statistical modeling, it's only as goodI mean, my expertise is not fisheries management, as far as education. It was marketing management. And I learned a long time ago, you can do whatever you want with statistics when you put thatwith the information you put in there. And you get whatever answer you want out of the statistics.
Page 105 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Modeling is a tool, but when it comes to the whereall, how we manage a fishery, summer flounder's that way, 'cause the model produces this way, we can allow the harvest, because the model does that.
It's only as good as the information that's put in there. Some of the information has not been peer reviewed. Some of the information has not gone out to scientific journals so they can be questioned by other scientists. I mean, when we basically useand we do pharmaceutical industry, you put it out in a magazine or the medical industry, and basically you get ripped apart by all your colleagues and made to feel inferior, because you didn't do this, this and that.
We don't do that in fisheries management. We don't publish a lot of what we use. So other scientists can come in and say, ''This is a problem here. You've missed a small piece.'' And we've corrected models going back. Every time I'm looking, we basically go back and say, ''Well, we left this out, now we've got to readjust the figures.'' We did that with recreational statistics. We had to go back 20 years and re-do everything. And who knows if the latest round of changes, basically really reflects the population.
We also don't spend enough money on these statistical models. I mean, to get a confidence level very small, you've got to spend millions and millions and millions of dollars. We're not going to do that. We only spend a small amount to do the whole marine recreational survey along the east coast. And we don't have that money available.
Mr. SAXTON. Can I ask Ken Able to just comment on the general notion of the accuracy of scientific data and peer review?
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Mr. ABLE. In the risk of threatening my own career, I could tell you that it's very difficult.
Mr. SAXTON. Frank and I do that every day, so
Mr. ABLE. Thank you, I appreciate that.
It's very difficult to sample populations of fish. They're very mobile, they move around tremendously, that's one of the problems that the National Marine Fishery Service has, and any agency that tries to sample them, academic scientists, whatever. So that the degree of confidence you have in your numbers is variable, and if the results are peer reviewed and published in the literature, you often state that we expect the numbers to be 100 pounds or whatever per given area, but plus or minus 50 pounds, perhaps. That says that the answer may be 50 or it may be 150. Best estimate is 100.
That kind of variability is inherent in studying fish populations. And that's one of the difficulties that we encounter all the time.
Obviously, if we put it in fishermen's terms, if they knew that they were going to go out and catch three trophy-size striped bass every time, they would go out and do it. They don't do that. Why? Because the fish are moving around, they're not feeding, they're doing a variety of things.
So they have trouble in their own way of sampling fish populations. Everyone else does the same thing, too.
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So it's convenient to, you know, comment negatively on the National Marine Fishery Service data values and other people's values. It's just very hard to do. There's extreme variability in these populations, and that's what makes it difficult.
If it was easy, we wouldn't be sitting here. We'd have all the answers. It's not easy. It's just not easy.
Mr. SAXTON. Let me ask you this, changing the subject slightly. We held a hearing a year ago on bluefish, and one of the notions was that bluefish have not diminished so much in biomass, they've just changed the location where we find them, and Mr. Donofrio just advanced that notion again, and that seems, from my point of view, to be a possibility. Do bluefish have an affinity for any particular geographic area of the ocean, or from a scientific point of view, are they fairly mobile?
Mr. ABLE. They're fairly mobile, but those occurring on the east coast undergo more or less regular migrations up and down the east coast. The likelihood that bluefish from the east coast shore showing up in the Azures is not very likely in my estimation.
They have regular migrations. The timing of those migrations are very, very, variable. They're often temperature-dependent, but there are other things going on that we don't quite understand, so that I'd say on the east coast we know with some reasonable confidence what the migrations of the adults are like. We don't know what the migrations of the larvae are like, and that's why I get back to the point that I think that's the most unknown period in theperiod that needs the most attention, the first year.
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Fishermen, both recreational and commercial, have a very obvious reason for focusing on the adults. That's what they want to catch, and that's where much of our fisheries management has focused in the past. It, in my opinion, needs to change, and we need to have increased focus on the early life history stages in order to understand what's going on.
Will that solve all the problems? No, but I think it'll help.
Mr. SAXTON. Well, thank you very much.
I have a lot of questions. I don't know that I have any questions further for this panel at this moment. I want to thank you for coming.
Mr. Pallone, do you have any further questions?
Mr. PALLONE. No, thank you very much, and thank all of them and you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. SAXTON. I just want to express the Subcommittee's appreciation for your being with us today, and I hope that we didn't ask any questions that made any of you uncomfortable, but if we did, that's normal in the fishery management business.
So thank you for being here today, and I look forward to working with you all as we move forward to try to answer some of the questions that have been asked today and to fashion legislation and regulatory policy that will be beneficial to all concerned.
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Thank you very much.
[Whereupon, at 12:50 p.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned; and the following was submitted for the record:]