Fluke Regs Still Problematic

The current two-week closure of the commercial fluke fishery has once again drawn the ire of State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, who issued a joint statement last week calling for New York State to keep its promise to its commercial fishermen and immediately bring litigation to strike down the inequitable fluke quotas that continue to put a severe crimp on the economic viability of the state’s commercial industry.

On July 15, New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation announced that the fluke fishery would be closed in state waters until the end of the month and would then reopen with a harvest limit of 50 pounds per day.

In late 2017, Governor Cuomo promised to sue the federal government over the state’s low share of the East Coast fluke fishery. This spring, instead of bringing litigation, the state filed a petition with the United States Department of Commerce protesting the quota. The state has yet to hear back.

“These state-by-state quotas created by the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council and the U.S. 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 a 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 non-discriminatory system. New York’s summer flounder quota was less than half of that allocated to Rhode Island, New Jersey, Virginia, and North Carolina.”

“This discriminatory quota system has resulted in unwarranted economic and job losses,” he added. “New York has promised to protect our fishing industry. That promise must be kept.”

“Our commercial fishing industry is an essential element in the fabric of the East End. It is way past time that New York State steps up to support our local fishermen by immediately filing suit to obtain equitable quotas,” Mr. LaValle said in the same release. “We need the governor and the attorney general to file the lawsuits immediately. Too many of our fishing families are being harmed by the discriminatory quotas. This needs to stop now.”

In January, Mr. Thiele and Mr. LaValle introduced two bills directing the state attorney general to bring legal actions against the National Marine Fisheries Services or any other federal or interstate agency challenging existing inequitable fishing quotas that discriminate against New York State commercial fishermen. No legislative action was taken because of the commitment from the executive branch to bring litigation. Mr. Thiele and Mr. LaValle plan to reintroduce the bills again in 2019 and pursue their passage if no action is taken.

“This midsummer closure is not right,” said John Rade, a Montauk commercial rod and reel fisherman. “The 50-pound limit is bad enough, but not  to be able to fish at all is not right.”