N.J. appeals summer flounder quota reduction

     NOAA image.

    NOAA image.

    The fish war continues. 

    New Jersey has filed a formal appeal to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission requesting a reconsideration of its vote that significantly reduces the state’s summer flounder recreational fishing quota for the upcoming summer. 

    Summer flounder, also known as fluke, is one of the state’s most popular sport fish. 

    The proposed quota calls for a reduction of summer flounder recreational and commercial limits by 34% in 2017. 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.

    “We are appealing the ASFMC decision because of the numerous process, data, policy and regulatory issues that will significantly impact New Jersey’s fishing industry,” state Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said. “The ASFMC decision will actually result in anglers in New Jersey having to throw more dead fish back into the water than they can keep to eat, and the fish they can keep overwhelmingly will be reproductive females. This is not sound fishery management.”

    The ASFMC, under the auspices of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has previously said summer flounder populations are not meeting projections, arguing that setting new quota limits could help protect the species from overfishing.

    But state officials says the quota would “effectively cripple” New Jersey’s fishing industry.

    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.

    Martin added that the rules vary “too widely” yearly, causing uncertainty for fisheries managers and anglers. Moreover, the state has more than 30 years of fish trawl surveys that indicate a measurable increase in the summer flounder stock offshore, he added. 

    In February, 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.”

    The summer flounder season opens on May 21. 

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