Menendez Jersey Jobs Tour Stops at Jersey Shore Marina to Hear from Recreational Fishermen

Menendez Jersey Jobs Tour Stops at Jersey Shore Marina to Hear from Recreational Fishermen

Senator discusses critical issues facing a vital Jersey Shore industry that supports thousands of jobs

ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez visited the Atlantic Highlands Municipal Harbor where he met with local fishermen, charter boat captains and small business owners to discuss the challenges facing one of the state’s most important and storied industries.  Recreational saltwater fishing is a $63 billion industry nationwide, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), with New Jersey boasting the largest of any Mid-Atlantic state with 4.3 million trips supporting more than 16,000 jobs and generating over $785 million in incomes and nearly $2 million in sales. 

“New Jersey’s tourism and Shore economies depend on a robust, vibrant fishing industry and the small business owners who put our residents to work,” said Sen. Menendez.  “One of the goals of my Jersey Jobs Tour is to hear directly from folks, to understand their challenges, to get a clear sense of what works and what doesn’t, and to explore ways to create good-paying jobs and grow our state’s economy.  In listening to the fishermen’s concerns, it’s clear to me that we need policies in place that better reflect the reality on the ground that encourage, rather than stifle that growth.”



Sen. Menendez was joined by Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (N.J.-06), Atlantic Highlands Mayor Rhonda Le Grice, Harbor Master John Amici and Atlantic Highlands Environmental Commission Chairman Jim Krauss.  They walked the docks and spoke with several fishermen about the industry’s challenges.

“Regulations are probably our biggest problem,” said Tom Buban, who’s captained the Atlantic Star, a 73-foot-long, family-owned and operated charter service business since 1987.  “People ask me if I like my job, and I like it more when I can catch some fish.  Now, [the minimum catch rules] are at 18 inches, which is still a big fish in the area.  In this area, most of the fish are 16-17 inches.  It seems like for years the government wasn’t listening to us fishermen, and we’re here every day.  We’ve been fighting this a long time.  If less people come to fish, everybody feels the effects.  If this industry is slow, the young lady with the coffee shop has less people for breakfast and lunch, the guy at the gas station has less people to fill up, the bagel shop in town has less people stopping in.  This has a bigger ripple effect than most people realize.”

Sens. Menendez and Cory Booker and Rep. Pallone led the charge last month on behalf of New Jersey fishermen and successfully convinced Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to withdraw catch restrictions on this season’s summer flounder.  Local fishermen have long contended that the National Marine Fisheries Service methodology is flawed, resulting in artificially low catch limits. 


Sen. Menendez (center) speaks with Rep. Pallone (left) and Capt. Tom Buban (right) of the Atlantic Star



Fishery management is governed by federal law under the Magnuson Stevens Act (MSA), which hasn’t been updated in a decade and sets the parameters for the science, management, and innovative processes that ensure a sustainable but accessible marine fishing sector.  Under the MSA, fisheries are subject to periodic stock assessments, determinations if stocks are overfished, and the creation of annual catch limits to prevent the collapse of stocks through over-harvesting. 

“We need to look at the Magnuson Act to see if we can get the science back on track.  We obviously want to have a stock, because if not, there’s no business,” Sen. Menendez said.  “But at the same time, we need to get the science right, because it appears the science is a little dated in terms of its reality.”

In May, Sen. Menendez reintroduced the COAST Act with Rep. Pallone to ban offshore oil and gas drilling, and joined Sen. Booker on legislation to prohibit seismic airgun blasting, in the Atlantic.  Both drilling and blasting would harm the surrounding environment and put local fisheries at risk.

The senator walked through Fisherman’s Den North, a bait and tackle and boat rental shop on the Atlantic Highlands dock, where fishermen can buy the supplies they need before heading out to sea.

“It’s gonna be quite tough.  It’s a killer right now,” said John Oseback, manager of Fishermen’s Den North, referring to the catch limit regulations.  “We have rental and boat shops, too.  So, if you kill a season, you’re taking a lot of business from me.  To me, there’s plenty of fish around.  We want to stay compliant, but an 18-inch fish is hard to get.”

The Atlantic Highlands Municipal Harbor is billed as the largest municipally-owned marina on the East Coast, with slips to accommodate 600 boats, servicing eight deep-sea charter fishing boats, the Seastreak Ferry to Manhattan, two restaurants on the dock, and bait and tackle shops. 

The marina was severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy with all 12 piers and their supporting infrastructure destroyed and some 200 vessels carried away by the storm surge.  Sen. Menendez spearheaded the original $60 billion federal Sandy aid package through Congress in 2013.  It cost nearly $20 million to restore and fortify the marina, one of the ten largest projects funded by Federal Emergency Management (FEMA) Public Assistance grants, which covered 90 percent of the cost. 

Sen. Menendez plans to visit each of the state’s 21 counties in the coming weeks and months to meet with business owners, entrepreneurs, workers, students, and local leaders to discuss how to drive innovation, create greater economic opportunity, and deliver prosperity to the people of New Jersey.

Sen. Menendez’s Jersey Jobs Tour will include legislative initiatives, roundtable discussions, tours of local businesses, visits to new job training centers and other events focused on New Jersey’s diverse economy – from North Jersey’s bustling shipping industry and South Jersey’s cranberry bogs and blueberry fields to innovative sectors like healthcare, information technology, and the Jersey Shore’s thriving tourism, recreation, and fishing industries.

Throughout the senator’s travels across New Jersey, he’ll be keeping a Jersey Jobs Tour Travelblog with behind the scenes footage and photos, social media feeds of events, and full recaps of visits.