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NJ Files Formal Appeal for Fluke Quota Reductions

by John Toth
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association May 2017 Newsletter)

There has been so much news about the 19-inch fluke situation that recreational anglers are facing for their 2017 fishing season. While there has been little news about it lately, things have been happening behind the scenes!

On March 28th, New Jersey's representatives to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) have filed an appeal requesting this commission to reconsider its vote to significantly reduce NJ's recreational-fishing quota for summer flounder for this year. This reduction in our fluke quota is the reason for our 19-inch fluke problem.

NJ's DEP Commissioner, Bob Martin, announced that "We are appealing the ASMFC decision because of the numerous process, data, policy, and regulatory issues that will significantly impact New Jersey's having to throw more dead fish back into the water than they can keep to eat, and the fish that they can keep overwhelmingly will be productive females. This is not sound fishery management." Commissioner Martin not only testified before the ASMFC that our summer flounder quota should not be reduced, but he also recently sent a letter to U.S. Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, requesting that the 2016's fluke quotas remain in effect (5 fish, 18 inches, 125 days) until a new bench mark assessment of fluke is taken to better understand the status of fluke stocks. (This new Commerce Secretary in the Trump administration is pro-business and he is expected to not look favorably on the damage a 19-inch fluke would have on NJ's fishing business. He has the authority to stop the 19-inch fluke from being implemented).

We all know about the economic damage that the 19-inch fluke would have on NJ's fishing businesses. The ASMFC is really not that concerned about this issue! Its main focus is on the status of fluke stocks and the best argument to stop this 19-inch fish is that we would be reducing the stocks of this fish with ASMFC's new regulations since 19-inch fluke are almost all females. So why try to save this fish by killing more of them! It does not make sense and I also made testimony to this effect to an ASMFC meeting in Galloway Twp., NJ in January of this year and in Baltimore when ASMFC first introduced the new fluke regulations in December of last year.

So now the ball is in the ASMFC court and it is not expected to make a decision on NJ's appeal until sometime in May. What if the ASMFC denies NJ's appeal? If it does, NJ will be officially ruled out of compliance and ultimately the decision to decide if NJ will have a 19-inch fish or the 2016 fluke regulations will be made by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. He may prove to be our best ace up our sleeve!

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