Hearings slated for the week of Jan. 14 – 18 in Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Council will allow public comment on Delaware’s artificial reefs. A proposed Special Management Zone (SMZ) designation would restrict the kinds of fishing gear used on the reefs, particularly for commercial catches. In basic terms, an approved SMZ status means that the reefs would be free of commercial gear.
The Delaware hearing starts at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 16, at DNREC’s facility at 901 Pilottown Road, Lewes, Delaware.
Delaware petitioned the Council to designate five ocean artificial reef sites as special management zones (SMZs) in June 2011. The petition was made to reduce gear conflicts between recreational fishermen and pot/trap gear placed at those sites by commercial fishermen.
The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Council cautions that if the gear conflicts continue, Delaware will likely lose its federal funding (Sport Fish Restoration Funds) for its artificial reef program in federal waters (beyond 3 miles from shore). Sport Fish Restoration funds are effectively Delaware’s only source of funding for the state’s artificial reef program managed by DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife.
The hearings in neighboring states about the SMZ designation for Delaware’s artificial reefs are:
- Maryland: Tuesday, Jan. 15, 7 p.m., Clarion Resort Fontainebleau Hotel, 10100 Coastal Highway Ocean City, MD 21842
- New Jersey: Thursday, Jan. 17, 7 p.m. Ocean County Administration Building, 101 Hooper Avenue, Public Hearing Room 119 Toms River, NJ 08754
The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Council has been evaluating Delaware’s SMZ request and developed a number of options to address thes issue. Options primarily consist of limiting the kinds of gear used on the SMZs, for all or parts of the year. The council is seeking public comment on the proposed options through this week’s series of public hearings.
If you would like a copy of the public hearing document and/or the report, please visit their website.