The top New Jersey environmental official has approved new summer flounder recreational fishing limits for the season that begins shortly.
The New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council met in an emergency session on Wednesday in Avalon to recommend the limits for the season that begins on May 25 and closes September 5.
Summer flounder, also known as fluke, is one of the state’s most popular sport fish.
On Thursday, Department of Environmental Protection Bob Martin approved the new measure, allowing an angler to keep three summer flounder with an 18-inch minimum size. In Island Beach State Park, anglers can keep two fish with a 16-inch minimum that are caught from a jetty, beach, marsh, or bank.
It’s a compromise as the commission had previously proposed a limit of three summer flounder at least 19 inches long. In 2016, the limit was capped at five fish at least 18 inches long.
That prompted New Jersey officials to file a formal appeal to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASFMC) earlier this year requesting a reconsideration.
The ASFMC, under the auspices of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, had 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, calling the rule methodology into question, said the quota proposed earlier this year 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.
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 “The use of questionable methodologies and outdated science by NOAA bureaucrats will cut our fishing industry off at the knees.”