VOTE TO TORPEDO RECREATIONAL FISHING COMMUNITY
COUNCIL & COMMISSION TURN DEAF EAR TO FLOUNDERING INDUSTRY
New Gretna, NJ - After 3-1/2 hours of discussion and debate on August 12th, the Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) voted in favor of a 29% reduction in the summer flounder quota for both the commercial and recreational sector starting in 2016.
Regrettably, a motion made by New Jersey Council representative Jeff Kaelin of Cape May that would've lessened the impact of the overall reduction was defeated when 12 members voted in opposition to a measure that would've led to a smaller, 20% overall reduction. Only five voting members supported the motion made by Kaelin, including all of the New Jersey representatives and one North Carolina representative.
"Kaelin's motion, which was consistent with RFA's position, to use the higher threshold Overfishing Limit (OFL) of 18.06 million pounds rather than the lower Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC) number of 16.26 million pounds was a sound, solid compromise, but the system failed the community," said Jim Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA). "The Council and Commission ignored the fishing community and cost anglers more than a million pounds of fluke next season and up to a month of fishing season."
Donofrio said New York anglers are going to be maddest of all to learn that all voting members from their state opposed the Kaelin amendment. Full-time Norcross Wildlife Foundation grants administrator John McMurray, along with New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) staffer Jim Gilmore both voted against the less restrictive measure, while fellow New York Council members Tony DiLernia and Laurie Nolan each refrained from voting on the amendment.
"These members just torpedoed the struggling recreational fishing industry, the socioeconomic pain in 2016 is going to be significant," Donofrio said. "It's frustrating to me to see Council members like Mr. McMurray who takes part-time work in the sportfishing industry writing for On the Water magazine, while influencing Congress against the very same industry as a board member for the Marine Fish Conservation Network. For our local fishing community, it's disheartening."
Donofrio said he's been inundated with phone calls from New York anglers and business owners asking why the NYDEC would vote against the less restrictive measure. "We thought Governor Cuomo and his staff was in tune to what's happening in our New York fishing community," Donofrio said, adding "what's really troubling is why Capt. Dilernia didn't step up and vote for the measure. I'm sure if he had really wanted to help the community, he and Councilor Nolan could've improved our chances greatly of getting the lesser cut by helping lead the charge."
The secondary motion for deeper, 29% cutbacks in the 2016 through 2018 seasons was approved by a vote of 17 to 3. The New York City vote last week will reduce the recreational fishing quota to 5.42 million pounds of summer flounder in 2016, significantly down from the 2015 allowance of 7.38 million pounds in the recreational sector. With this 'phased' reduction the 2017 recreational harvest limit will be set at 5.82 million pounds, and is expected to drop again in 2018 to just 5.26 million pounds.
Donofrio said debate and discussion will get especially heated in the coming months as ASMFC representatives and Council members alike begin to learn what these cutbacks will really mean in terms of season, size and bag limits for 2016 and beyond. "We're looking at losing weeks, perhaps even a month of fluke fishing season next year, on a rebuilt fish stock, go figure."