conservation, sustainable land use

Out to sea: the human toll of misguided environmental policy

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Sign at Coast Guard Station proclaiming the importance of weakfish to Fortescueians.

Unfortunately, weakfish are another victim of overharvest.Fortescue was once the self-proclaimed “Weakfish capital of the world”.  No more, even by the most optimistic reckoning.  This once vibrant town, perched precariously along NJ’s Delaware Bayshore, has suffered the twin blows of a state government that refuses to invest in the infrastructure of the Delaware Bayshore towns, and a fisheries management system that works for the fish industry and not the fishermen.

Miss Fortescue is one of the headboats carrying fishermen for 4 or 6 hour trips. Now that the weakfish have been overfished there’s not much left to support Fortescue’s  “head boat” or “party boat” fleet.  As it slowly adjusts downward to the diminished Delaware Bay fishery stocks all of the support businesses are fading away.    This is the real face of an incompetent environmental policy.   Where one should find prosperity born from a bountiful sea, you’ll find instead shuttered marinas and tackle shops, only one open restaurant, and enough houses for sale you’d think everyone was leaving town at once.

This town could attract people to its gorgeous Delaware Bay sunsets, diverse and abundant wildlife and yes, it’s rich and delicious marine life.  Unfortunately, it has no town water, no sewage system and its eroded beachfront doesn’t merit the generous subsidies we lavish on the seaside haunts of the wealthy on the Atlantic Coast.

The site of a marina and boat launch that closed its docks last year.

 

Fortescue is a true American original, as NJ as NJ gets, a seaside town devoted to working people, one of the few left on America’s Atlantic coasts.   Its decline is a self-inflicted wound of poor fishery management and short-sighted environmental policy that could be fixed.  This wound could be healed.

One of several tackle shops in Fortescue and nearby Newport, that went out of business in the last few years.