One of my New Year’s resolutions is to do everything possible to preserve jobs and to attract new ones for our local residents. As a local mayor, my direct influence over regional issues affecting our economy is necessarily limited. Nevertheless, I still have a voice and I need to raise it when I see something happening which may affect the opportunity for Absecon residents to earn a living.

One such concern came to my attention over this past week. I was contacted by one of our residents who operates a part-time fishing charter business. He told me about current efforts by the federal government to lower the quota on summer flounder fishing this coming summer. I had seen the report in the Atlantic City Press of a public hearing last week in Galloway Township where a host of fisherman, marina owners and equipment suppliers testified in opposition to this measure which would reduce the catch by as much as 40 percent over the next two years. Although everyone agrees that the flounder stock must not be depleted, almost everyone concerned about these new quotas believes that it is not based upon a reliable survey of the current flounder population.

As all of our Absecon residents are aware, our city and surrounding Atlantic County communities rely heavily upon our tourism economy, particularly the strength of our fishing industry. Therefore, in response to this threat, I have forwarded the following statement to the responsible authorities seeking reconsideration of this reduction in the summer flounder catch:

Statement in Opposition to Implementation of Summer Flounder Draft Addendum XXVIII

As the Mayor of the City of Absecon, Atlantic County, New Jersey, I write to voice my firm opposition to the regulations promulgated by NOAA Fisheries and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Fishery Management Council which would reduce the commercial quota and recreational harvest limits for summer flounder in 2017 and 2018. As I understand it, the recreation and commercial limits would be cut drastically by 30 percent in 2017 and 16 percent in 2018. Although no one should be opposed to scientifically-based efforts necessary to conserve fish population, I understand that there is a widely-held view that these reductions are not supported by accurate data and that there is a need to conduct a new benchmark summer flounder assessment before considering any changes in harvest quotas.

I am certainly not an expert in these matters, but I do know my city and I fully appreciate the role that commercial and recreational fishing plays in the life and economy of my community. Absecon is a mainland town just west of Atlantic City with considerable frontage along Absecon Creek leading into Absecon Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The City operates a municipal boat ramp for which we issued 445 seasonal permits last year. We also have four privately-operated marinas and numerous private docks along Absecon Creek which cater to hundreds of other boaters. The opportunity to catch summer flounder is the overwhelming attraction for people utilizing these public and private facilities.

Absecon’s circumstances are not appreciably different than all other coastal communities along the New Jersey coast. Seasonal fishing plays a vital role in our recreationally-based economy. I understand that there has already been reported a loss of 2 million fishing trips in New Jersey between 2007 and 2014, with 40 percent of those otherwise in pursuit of summer flounder. Any reduction in summer flounder quotas not mandated by a reliable survey will further ravage what is already a threatened industry. Anecdotally, I have already heard of a local marina operator deciding not to make his annual purchase of fishing supplies because of the anticipated loss of business resulting from this impending regulation.

I urge NOAA Fisheries and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Fishery Management Council to suspend any efforts to reduce summer flounder quotas and to conduct an accurate stock assessment to determine whether such action might be warranted in the future. Thank you.

January 9, 2017

Absecon Mayor John Armstrong

Final 2016 tax collection rate

In my last column before the New Year, I reported that, as of its writing, the City’s Tax Collector’s Office had been able to achieve a 97.75 percent tax collection rate in 2016. Our staff continued their efforts to collect delinquent payments through the end of the work year, and the final rate they reached is 98.22 percent which exceeds 2015’s rate of 97.53 percent. Tax Collector Jessica Snyder and her assistants Joy Lewkowski and Katie McCabe are justifiably proud of this accomplishment. It means $150,000 or more in additional revenue for the City last year. Thank you, ladies, on behalf of all of our taxpayers.

Contact R.J. Liberatore Jr. at rj.liberatore@catamaranmedia.com