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Just hours after his official inauguration, President Trump announces an immediate freeze on new government regulations which could impact proposed fluke limits.
By Jim Hutchinson, Jr.  |  January 22, 2017
President Donald Trump takes the oath of office on January 20, 2017 beside his wife Melania. Hours later, his Chief of Staff announces a regulatory freeze which could impact 2017 summer flounder limits. Photo courtesy of the White House (Facebook).

Has the Trump administration already made fluke fishing great again?

On Friday, January 20, just hours after the official transition of presidential power, the White House ordered an immediate freeze of pending regulations until they can be reviewed by the new Trump administration.

In an inauguration day memo to federal departments and agencies, new White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said the freeze was designed to ensure that President Donald Trump's appointees or designees "have the opportunity to review any new or pending regulations."

Sent to the current heads of all executive departments and federal agencies, the memo from Priebus applies to any regulations not yet sent for final publication in the Federal Register and asks federal agencies to not send any regulation to the Federal Register until reviewed by the Trump administration. President Trump has tabbed New York businessman Wilbur Ross as the next Secretary of Commerce, the cabinet head with ultimate authority over NOAA Fisheries.

Ross, who previously served in President Bill Clinton’s administration, could be confirmed by the Senate before February 1, in time to make a decision before the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council convenes together from February 14-16, 2017 in Kitty Hawk, NC.

The regulatory freeze by President Trump is not entirely unique; the Obama administration did the very same thing in January 2009 freezing those regulations pending during the Bush administration. The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) believes this January 20 memo is different than the one issued 8 years ago however, and provides the incoming Commerce Secretary with override authority on proposed fluke regulation.

“We recognize that incoming presidents do this in any new Administration although I personally believe Mr. Trump’s motives are a bit more pure in terms of recognizing overregulation against a hostile administration,” said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. “One of the hallmarks of the Trump campaign of course was to put an end to the pattern of overregulation stifling small business and denying basic individual liberties and freedoms, like fishing for fluke, so we’re hopeful.”

While NOAA Fisheries already approved the lower 11.26-million pound allowable biological catch of fluke in 2016, Donofrio and the RFA believe the Trump regulatory freeze could certainly apply to the Summer Flounder Draft Addendum XXVII and the recreational management options for 2017 that are contained within the draft.

RFA staffers and attorneys will be looking into the ramifications of the presidential memo in the week ahead, with Donofiro saying he hopes to see status quo measures implemented to keep regulations the same in 2017 as they were in 2016 until a new summer flounder benchmark assessment is completed.