After 3-1/2 hours of discussion and debate, the Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) today effectively voted in favor of a 29% cut in the summer flounder quota for both the commercial and recreational sector starting in 2016.

A new ‘phased in’ reduction of harvest approved by the Council in 17 to 3 vote will reduce the recreational fishing quota to 5.42 million pounds of summer flounder in 2016, significantly down from the 2015 allowance of 7.38 million pounds in the recreational sector.

Given that the initial reduction amount originally recommended by science and statistical experts in early July was as high as 43%, fluke anglers and recreational industry representatives are trying their best to look at this news with some type of optimism.

Efforts by some advocates and Council members to go with a higher fluke quota of 18.06 million total pounds for both sectors starting in 2016 as opposed to the lower Annual Biological Catch (ABC) of 16.26 millions that was endorsed by the Scientific and Statistical Committee failed by a 12-5 vote with three abstentions.

As per the Council vote in New York City today, the recreational harvest limit for fluke will increase to 5.82 million pounds in 2017, while dropping back to just 5.26 million pounds as of 2018. Should such numbers stand, that would mean it’s nearly impossible to see an improved season, size and bag limit for fluke for the next three years unless management figures and statistical models are changed.

Both the Council and members of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) broke for lunch at approximately 12:40 this afternoon and will pick up again in the afternoon meetings in New York City today to discuss summer flounder, black sea bass and scup amendments.

According to the Council documentation, while the summer flounder (fluke) stock is not considered overfished, the most recent stock assessment update for summer flounder indicates that overfishing was occurring in 2014. These results appear to be largely driven by low recruitment as scientists say the stock experienced four below-average year classes in 2010-2013, although the 2014 year class appears to be on the average.

Fishery managers are required to set catch and landings limits that will prevent overfishing, and according to the Council’s “normal risk policy,” this would entail reducing commercial quotas and recreational harvest limits by about 43% in 2016 compared to 2015 levels. However, recognizing the severe social and economic impacts such drastic cuts would have on the coastal communities, the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) recommended the 29% reduction in commercial quotas and recreational harvest limits for summer flounder in 2016 compared to 2015.

In future meetings, members of both the Council and ASMFC will deliberate on what course of action will need to be taken within the recreational fishing community in order to adhere to such limits. What will this mean for 2016 season, size and bag limits? In a July 25th online article at based on a lower end 23% reduction scenario, we summarized how a cutback of a representative one-quarter of the length of season might look in 2016.

“So, if you’re in the ‘shared’ region that comprises Connecticut, New York and New Jersey as an example, you could possibly retain the five fish at 18-inch size limit, but the 127 allowable days of season you have enjoyed in 2015 will have be cut back by 23%; ballpark estimate, that means losing about 28 days of season, or roughly two weeks taken away from both the beginning and end of the current fluke season.”

While numbers and statistics still need to be accumulated and digested by fisheries managers, if these particular shared states as an example wanted to retain the same size and bag limit, you can expect to lose potentially 30 days of the season in 2016 as opposed to this year.

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