State Lawmakers Go To Bat Over Fisheries Cutbacks

Black Sea Bass
Black Sea Bass

The federal government is proposing a 12 percent reduction for the recreational black sea bass fishery in 2018,  despite the fact that scientists say the black sea bass fishery has been rebuilt to two-and-a-half times what regulators consider to be sustainable, and New York State is fighting back.

State Senator Ken LaValle and State Assemblyman Fred Thiele agree with DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos that “non-compliance is a legitimate remedy” for this cutback, stating that “this action discriminates against the State of New York. It would have a significant adverse effect on the Long Island economy” in a joint statement issued Monday.

“This has not been an isolated case of discrimination against New York State,” they added. “Unfortunately, this is part of a long history of federal action that has strangled the fishing industry in New York to the benefit of other states. DEC advocacy for our fishing industry is long overdue.”

New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut filed an appeal with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission over the catch reduction on March 16, and Mr. Seggos expects an answer by late April or early May. He has told the press he plans to litigate the matter if the state does not win the appeal.

“The State of New York should utilize every legal and administrative tool at its disposal to overturn this ill-considered federal proposal,” said Mr. Thiele and Mr. LaValle. “New York should not be at a disadvantage with other states on the East Coast. Again and again, we have seen politics replace science to the detriment of New York State fishermen, whether they are recreational anglers, charter boat captains, or commercial fishermen. When the federal government is arbitrary and capricious, the state must say “no.”

In late March, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced they had filed an appeal over commercial summer flounder (fluke) quotas set by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council of the National Marine Fisheries Service, and were also looking into taking action on New York’s quotas on black sea bass and bluefish.

For 2018, New York commercial fishing daily trip limits for fluke were set at 50 pounds. New York commercial fishermen are allowed to take just 7.6 percent of the fluke allocated among the mid-Atlantic states. These tight restrictions, compounded by monthly limits aimed at keeping the landings in check throughout the year, led to a closure of commercial fluke fishing here last fall.

“The announcement that the state is filing a petition with the federal government challenging the quotas is good news,” said Mr. Thiele. “However, it is important to recognize this is only a long overdue and very small first step toward the changes that are needed to revitalize the state’s commercial fishing industry. It is imperative that
the commercial fishing industry and our local governments, work together with state legislators to keep the DEC’s feet to the fire and insure that their commitment to changing federal quotas and reforming license regulations is not just temporary, but a long term commitment to revitalizing the industry.”

“The vast majority of Long Island fishing takes place in the Atlantic Ocean and Long Island Sound; waters shared with our neighboring states, New Jersey and Connecticut,” said East End Congressman Lee Zeldin. “Yet, New York fishermen are restricted by smaller fishing quotas than these two other states. That means when two boats are fishing next to each other, one is allowed to catch up to double the amount of the other because it is landing the fish in New Jersey or Connecticut instead of New York. This discrepancy is ridiculous and inequitable.”

“At the root of this inequity is the main law that governs recreational and commercial fishing in our nation, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act,” added Mr. Zeldin. “Enacted in 1976, this law has not been updated in a decade and is in desperate need of reform. Reforming the Magnuson-Stevens Act also presents the opportunity to fix New York’s issue regarding Fishery Management Councils and allow our anglers to receive the fair share they have long deserved. Also as part of Magnuson reform, there needs to be improvement in the data and science used to create federal fishery management plans, as well as an improved framework that makes quotas and regulations flexible to each region and species. Maintaining healthy fish stocks is incredibly important, and our fishermen understand this; however the horribly flawed data used to set allocations and quotas does not take into account the resurgence of fish populations. Without addressing this need, America’s fishermen will continue to suffer.”

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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