N.J. environmental officials blasts limits on flounder fishing

NJ DEP Commissioner Bob Martin telling anglers in Point Pleasant Beach he opposes proposed limits on flounder catches. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

NJ DEP Commissioner Bob Martin telling anglers in Point Pleasant Beach he opposes proposed limits on flounder catches. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

New Jersey officials say they’ll do everything they can to stop proposed regulations they say could hurt the state’s fishing industry. 

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is considering increasing the minimum size and reducing the number of flounder that recreational fishermen in New Jersey can keep this summer. They’re weighing these options because flounder populations in the Atlantic are not meeting projections.  This could help prevent overfishing.

Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin told a crowd of fishermen in Point Pleasant Beach that the proposed new limits are based on unreliable data. He says he’ll fight to keep current regulations in place.

“We’ve been good stewards of the ocean in the state of New Jersey, and we’ve taken the necessary steps over the years to manage the fishing stocks, but now we’re being treated unfairly. Enough is enough,” Martin said.

Mount Laurel resident Rocky McGuigan is a recreational fisherman. He says if the proposed regulations aren’t changed, he’ll think twice about going out on the water.

“I have a boat and it’s going to be high and dry if they keep these limits like this and I won’t be spending the money that I usually do. To go out and catch two fluke at 19 inches, I’d rather stay home and save the money,” he said.

Party fishing boat Captain Jeff Gutman believes the new limits would cause at least a 50 percent drop in his business and could doom the recreational fishing industry.

“If people can’t even take a fish home for dinner, which is what will happen, they will find another activity to spend their hard-earned money on, and this will result in more boats going out of business, which is an ugly reality that we are seeing more and more of each year,” he said.

Jim Lovgren is a commercial fisherman and one of the owners of Fishermen’s Dock Cooperative in Point Pleasant Beach. He says the proposed regulations would hurt his business.

“I’m probably looking at a 15 to 20 percent reduction in my income this year that the boat is going to make this year. I don’t see any way of making it up. We may end up having to fish off of Nantucket this summer for squid as opposed to being home here,” Lovgren said.

DEP commissioner Martin says the state will fight what he calls a ridiculous proposal that could kill the recreational fluke fishing industry and destroy jobs in New Jersey.

“The shore-based businesses around the state will be devastated. Bait and tackle shops, marinas, party and charter boats, hotels, restaurants, yes, and even bars will be impacted,” said Martin.

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