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(TRENTON) – Legislation Assemblymen Nelson Albano and Matt Milam sponsored to better protect the commercial fishing docks and fish processing facilities so important to New Jersey’s economy and the Cape May region was released Thursday by an Assembly panel.

The bill (A-828) would establish a conflict resolution procedure – similar to the Right to Farm Act for farmers – for complaints against commercial fishing docks and fish processing facilities.

“New Jersey fishermen have benefited this state for more than 300 years and New Jersey boasts several major commercial fishing ports, including Cape May, that are crucial to a strong economy,” said Albano, who chairs the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee that released the bill. “New Jersey fishermen make these contributions while meeting tough environmental standards that protect our vital natural resources.”

“This bill would protect the rights of commercial fishermen and fish processors to operate their businesses in New Jersey,” Milam said. “These ports and facilities make a significant contribution to the state’s economy and heritage and need to be safeguarded. New Jersey must remain a desirable place for fish and seafood processing operations.”

New Jersey is ideally located to provide access to a wide variety of species, including black sea bass, flounder, swordfish, tuna, whiting, mackerel, porgies, butterfish, scallops, clams, oysters, crabs and lobsters.

Local product is shipped to some of the most discerning seafood markets in the world.

“Quite simply, the commercial fishing industry provides a unique service to the state and those providing it deserve protection from frivolous complaints against their lawful and reasonable operations,” Albano said.

“The creation of processing businesses and the development of business ventures tied to that industry are critical to New Jersey’s ability to compete more effectively in the rapidly expanding global market for fresh and processed fish and seafood products,” Milam said.

The bill would direct the Department of Agriculture to develop and adopt commercial fishing industry practices, and any commercial fishing dock or fish processing facility conforming to those practices would benefit from an irrefutable presumption that they do not constitute a public or private nuisance, nor do they invade or interfere with the use and enjoyment of any other land or property.

Any person aggrieved by the operation of a commercial fishing dock or fish processing facility would have to file a complaint with the applicable county agriculture development board – or the State Agriculture Development Committee in counties where no county board exists – before filing an action in court. Within 60 days after the receipt of the complaint, the board or committee would issue findings and recommendations.

Any person aggrieved by the decision of a county board would be permitted to appeal the decision to the committee within 10 days, with any decision of the committee binding and constituting a final administrative agency decision, subject to the right of appeal to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court.

The bill now goes to the Assembly Speaker, who decides if and when to post it for a floor vote.

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