At the ASMFC’s Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass Board meeting on 2/2 there was a three hour discussion on which fluke option to choose from Addendum XXVIII. The meeting began with DEP Commissioner Bob Martin speaking on behalf of New Jersey’s fishermen. He made it clear that none to the options in the addendum were acceptable to our state and urged the board to maintain status quo. He made it clear that our state will fight any of the other options with whatever means is necessary. The Commissioner was followed by a representative from Congressman Frank Pallone’s office who also spoke passionately on our behalf. We need to thank both of them for making the trip to Alexandria, Virginia and doing this. New Jersey representative Tom Baum then made a motion for status quo which I believe was seconded by Delaware. In addition to Tom, our other representatives, Adam Nowalsky and Chris Zemen presented our case very well but unfortunately the motion failed with only Delaware supporting us.
A lengthy discussion ensued but eventually it was option 5 that was approved by the board. This option was approved by the board despite the fact that it could be overruled by NOAA if it is determined that this option does not result in the mandated reduction. Option 5 seems to be the least restrictive of the five options in the addendum. Under this option, NJ would be faced with a 3 fluke bag limit with a 19″ size limit and a 128 day season.
Regardless, our state is rejecting this option and intends to leave our 2016 regulations in place for this year. Our State is working with the new Trump administration with hope that the cuts mandated by NOAA will be overruled. However, for now though, based on the ASMFC’s decision today, each state or region will now have approximately two months to develop regulations that would comply with option 5. Though NJ has already decided to go out of compliance, I don’t believe that we could actually be found out of compliance until the deadline to enact regulations has passed. Then, I believe at the ASMFC meeting in May, we could be found out of compliance and our state would probably be given a warning notice with 30 days to comply. If we fail to comply, it would then be sent to the Secretary of Commerce who would then have to find that our regulations were hurting the fishery and if so, the default measures would be enacted upon us. That would be 2 fish at 20″ with a season of 7/1 – 8/31. However, all this would take time and there is also a chance the Secretary of Commerce could give a favorable ruling. If it goes this route, a decision will probably not be made until mid-summer. This is a big risk we are taking but we have now drawn a line in the sand. As the Commissioner stated, “Enough is enough”. Please continue to contact your legislative representatives and ask for their support.
Therefore as of right now, our season is slated to begin on 5/21 and continue through 9/25 with a 5 fish limit at 18″ for most of the State. The only exceptions are for Delaware Bay where there is a 4 fish limit at 17″ and at Island Beach State Park where there is a two fish limit at 16″.
~ Paul Haertel, JCAA Past President
While we didn’t win the day for status quo or postponement the fight will continue. See below for a statement from Commissioner Bob Martin on today’s vote by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission in favor of Option 5 of the Summer Flounder Draft Addendum XXVIII for 2017 recreational measures for summer flounder:
We are outraged by the summer flounder quota reductions approved today by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and National Marine Fisheries Service. Today’s actions will disproportionately impact New Jersey more than any other state along the coast.
Combined with previous cuts to the commercial industry, today’s actions will result in extreme hardships to the thousands of small businesses up and down the coast – from party boat and bait-and-tackle shop operators, to hotel and restaurant owners – who have families to feed, bills to pay and employees who could lose their jobs with this option implemented.
We understand the long-term impacts of overfishing a species. But we also know for a fact that fluke are abundant and the population is stable off New Jersey.
We will use every legal and administrative tool available to stop these unfair cuts that will devastate our state’s fishing industry and have far-reaching impacts on the shore economy. We will work to ensure that sound science replaces the current outdated, whipsaw form of management that has harmed our fishing communities for far too long.
The State of New Jersey will also work with our Congressional delegation to make sorely needed changes to the Magnuson-Stevens Act that governs our marine fisheries to provide more flexibility and common sense in the decision-making process.
~NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife