Fight for New Fluke Quota

For many years, commercial fishermen in New York have complained about the inequities they faced in the numbers­­­ of summer flounder they could land (as well as other popular species), when compared to other states along the East Coast. The fight has gone on for nearly 30 years and continues to this day.

In April, the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council approved a summer flounder commercial issues draft amendment that rejected a motion by New York representatives to add provisions that would more adequately address the state-by-state quota inequity in the fluke fishery. Once again, the council and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission solicited public comment on the draft amendment, which ended last week. While a decision has yet to be made, it’s very clear that frustration abounds concerning an imbalance between many on land and those who work on the water.

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. has called for two additional options in the summer flounder commercial issues draft amendment — to negotiate new state quota shares of summer flounder and to include a coast-wide quota and management of summer flounder. 

“The state-by-state quotas created by the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council and the Department of Commerce’s National Marine Fisheries Service, pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, are based upon faulty and incomplete collection data, which discriminate against commercial fishermen in the State of New York,” Mr. Thiele said in an Oct. 15 statement. “As a result of these discriminatory practices, New York’s quota for a number of species of black sea bass, bluefish, scup, and fluke are much lower than would be allocated under a fair nondiscriminatory system. New York’s summer flounder quota was less than half that allocated to Rhode Island, New Jersey, Virginia, and North Carolina. This inequitable and discriminatory quota system is crippling the economic viability of New York’s commercial industry and has resulted in unwarranted economic and job losses. An amendment of this kind is vital.”

Mr. Thiele added, “I have long opposed the inadequate quota system that has stunted the growth of New York’s commercial fishing industry by unfairly discriminating against New York fishermen to the benefit of other states. It is imperative for the federal government to correct this injustice that has plagued the New York State commercial fishing industry for far too long.”

In 2013, Governor Cuomo visited Montauk and promised to sue the federal government over the state’s low share of the East Coast fluke fishery. That promise was reiterated by the governor in late 2017. This spring, instead of litigation, the state filed a petition with the Department of Commerce protesting the quota. There has been no reported response.

“If favorable action is not taken by the federal government to amend the quota system and adequately adjust New York’s allocation by the end of the year, the state must keep its promise to protect our fishing industry, challenge these quotas, and bring litigation to fight for our fair share,” Mr. Thiele said.

Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, is equally frustrated by the inaction in getting New York on par with other states. “We totally support Mr. Thiele’s statement,” she said last week. “The petition that was filed by the D.E.C., the N.M.F.S. responded that we should work through the council process, as if New York hadn’t for the last 26 years since it was put into effect in 1992 by the M.A.F.M.C. It’s shameful. If I were the N.M.F.S., I’d be embarrassed by using that reason to deny New York’s petition for rule making.”