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NY'S SCHUMER: FLUKE FAIRNESS IN SIGHT!

The ASMFC is considering regional fluke management that could bring New York anglers parity with neighboring states for the first time in years.
By Tom Schlichter  |  January 14, 2014
Tags: inshore, fisheries management
NY'S SCHUMER: FLUKE FAIRNESS IN SIGHT!
The ASMFC is considering regional fluke management that could bring New York anglers parity with neighboring states for the first time in years. If passed, NY, NJ and CT could all share an 18-inch minimum size and a four fish creel limit. Senator Charles Schumer announced his full support for the proposal during a press conference at Captree State Park on Tuesday, January 14, 2014.

While nothing is yet set in stone, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Tuesday, January 14, declared New York to be on the “verge of victory” when it comes to leveling the playing field in the regulatory sweepstakes that have become our state-by-state fluke allocations. The senator, speaking at a press event held at Captree State Park, said he and many others representing the recreational fishing community have pushed hard for new recreational fluke fishing regulations that would take a regional approach.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC,) responsible for setting the fluke management plan, is currently considering a shift from state-by-state regulation to a regional format. Under this scenario, each state in a regional grouping would have the same size and creel limits for summer flounder. The new regulations would be in effect for the 2014 season, but could lead to permanent change. The commission is scheduled to vote on the proposal next month.

“If this addendum passes,” noted Schumer, “New York anglers would have parity with their neighboring states for the first time in years, with a proposed size limit of 18 inches and a bag limit of 4 fish. Either of these regional options would be a historic breakthrough in the decades-long stalemate that has plagued New York’s recreational summer flounder industry.”

The specific regional groupings being considered for the new fluke quotas are:

1. Massachusetts; Rhode Island through New Jersey; Delaware through Virginia; and North Carolina

2. Massachusetts and Rhode Island; Connecticut through New Jersey; Delaware through Virginia; and North Carolina.

"This would be a major breakthrough, one that will bring the fairness New York's fluke anglers have long demanded." - Senator Charles Schumer
“I wholeheartedly urge the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to approve Addendum XXV, which would adopt regional management measures for the 2014 recreational summer flounder fishery,” stated Schumer. “If the Commission refuses to approve the Addendum and one of the region-based fluke quota options, then the only fair alternative is to go back to a coast-wide allocation system. Under no circumstances should the Commission allow summer flounder management to remain on the unfair and scientifically-flawed status quo state-by-state plan.”

For more than 15 years, New York’s recreational fluke fans have struggled with a larger minimum size and smaller creel limit for fluke than neighboring states with which they share saltwater borders. Last, year, for example, NY’s fluke regulations required a 19-inch minimum size and four fish possession limit. New Jersey and Connecticut anglers, by comparison, could keep five fluke with a minimum size limit of 17.5 inches, often while fishing in the same general areas as New York anglers.

Schumer has in the past called the restrictions on New York’s recreational fluke fishermen “unreasonable,” stating that the quotas are “outdated, inaccurate and based on flawed data developed over a decade ago.”

“This would be a major breakthrough,” he told me in a follow-up phone conversation on Tuesday evening, “one that will bring the fairness New York’s fluke anglers have long demanded. It’s taken years of pressure - and the introduction last year of my Fluke Fairness Act [of 2013] - to get this moving but we are finally seeing real progress.”

As noted, this isn’t all settled quite yet, and some New York anglers have taken a wait-and-see attitude. Currently, The New Jersey Chapter of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA-NJ,) along with several other organizations in that state, are supporting Option 2 within Draft Addendum XXV to the Summer Flounder, Scup, Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan for Public Comment. Rather than provide regional quotas, this option would specifically allow states to lend or give their underutilized quotas to other states in need of fish to offset an exceedance of the annual harvest target or to liberalize their regulations. It’s another possible approach that you can read about in the article "N.J. Fluke/Sea Bass Hearing".

When I asked the Senator if he was feeling any push-back on the issue from NY’s neighboring states he said that hadn’t been the case.

“I think the other states realize NY has gotten the short end of the stick with these [fluke] regulations for more than a decade and it’s time to set things right,” he responded. “One way or another, the playing field needs to be leveled and it looks like we are now headed in that direction.”

A copy of the Senator’s letter to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission follows:


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Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission
C/O Robert Beal, Executive Director
1050 N. Highland Street, Suite 200A-N
Arlington, VA 22201

RE: Draft Addendum XXV

Dear Representatives of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission,

Over the past decade, I have worked with the Commission, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and other stakeholders regarding the inequities plaguing the hardworking men and women of New York’s commercial and recreational summer flounder industry. Since my last correspondence dated February 19, 2013, I have arranged a congressional hearing in the U.S. Senate on this issue and introduced legislation, the Fluke Fairness Act of 2013, that would require the Commission and the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (MAFMC) to work together to amend the summer flounder management plan using the best science and data available. I have also worked with the Commission and Council leadership and our New York State representatives to enact changes through the Addendum process. Therefore, I am encouraged that the Commission is considering Draft Addendum XXV after many years of pressure from my office, colleagues and constituents.

For summer flounder, the Draft Addendum proposes options that allow for management measures by region, a cause I have long championed that will insert equity, fairness and good science back into summer flounder management. According to the Addendum, the specific regions being considered are (1) Massachusetts; Rhode Island through New Jersey; Delaware through Virginia; and North Carolina and (2) Massachusetts and Rhode Island; Connecticut through New Jersey; Delaware through Virginia; and North Carolina. Either of these regional options would be a historic breakthrough in the decades-long stalemate that has plagued New York’s recreational summer flounder industry. For the first time in years, New York fishermen would have parity with their neighboring states with a size limit of 18 inches and a bag limit of 4 fish. I strongly support these approaches and urge the Commission to approve one of them. If the Commission refuses to approve one of these options, then the only fair alternative is to go back to a full Coastwide allocation system. Under no circumstances should the Commission allow summer flounder management to remain on the status quo state-by-state plan.

According to the Commission, the Draft Addendum was “initiated to address a growing concern that current summer flounder management measures are not providing recreational fishermen along the coast with equitable harvest opportunities to the resource.” On behalf of hundreds of thousands of recreational fishermen and charter boat captains, I can tell you that the State of New York wholeheartedly agrees and urges you to adopt regional management measures for the 2014 recreational summer flounder fishery.

Please feel free to reach out to Gerry Petrella of my Washington staff at 202-224-6542 with any questions.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer
U.S. Senator

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