A proposed restriction on summer flounder would “effectively cripple” New Jersey’s fishing industry, state officials said.
The Gov. Christie administration has filed a formal request with the U.S. Department of Commerce to stop restrictions on recreational summer flounder fishing from going into effect. The department oversees fisheries management under the auspices of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Summer flounder, also known as fluke, is one of the state’s most popular sport fish.
The proposed NOAA quota calls for a reduction of summer flounder recreational and commercial limits by 30% in 2017 and 16% in 2018.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission had previously said summer flounder populations are not meeting projections, arguing that setting new quota limits could help protect the species from overfishing.
The commission proposed a limit of three summer flounders at least 19 inches long. In 2016, the limit was capped at five fish at least 18 inches long.
In a news release, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said the limits would have a devastating impact on the state.
“This action imposes a de facto moratorium on recreational summer flounder fishing in my state,” Commissioner Martin wrote in the request letter. “This action also is disproportionately damaging to New Jersey compared with other states.”
He added that the rules vary “too widely” yearly, causing uncertainty for fisheries managers and anglers. Also, according to Martin, the state has more than 30 years of fish trawl surveys that indicate a measurable increase in the summer flounder stock offshore.
Last month, New Jersey Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-6) and Frank LoBiondo (R-2) introduced a bill that would maintain the 2016 quota levels and require that (NOAA) conduct a new assessment before issuing new quotas.
LoBiondo slammed bureaucrats for producing what he says are severely flawed quotas.
“We are united with the state in fighting these draconian cuts to New Jersey fishermen which allow neighboring states to freely pillage our waters at more favorable limits,” the congressman said in a news release. “The use of questionable methodologies and outdated science by NOAA bureaucrats will cut our fishing industry off at the knees.”
Recreational fishing in New Jersey alone directly creates some 20,000 jobs and contributes $1.5 billion annually to the state’s economy, according to the DEP.