Pallone Supports Potential Compromise on Summer Flounder Cuts

May 12, 2017

Washington, DC – This week, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) expressed support for a potential compromise between the State of New Jersey and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) on Summer Flounder Cuts. ASMFC agreed to consider a proposal by the State for conservationally-equivalent management measures for the 2017 summer flounder fishery, and is expected to reach a decision in the next two weeks. In exchange for a 104-day fishing season and the 3 bag limit, the size limit would be decreased to 18 inches. The Commission postponed a decision on that until the next meeting of the Interstate Fisheries Management Program in two weeks.

“I am encouraged by ASMFC and the State of New Jersey working towards a solution that avoids devastating cuts for New Jersey fishermen,” said Pallone. “We need to continue to reevaluate how we manage our recreational and commercial fisheries, and I will continue to work with all parties to protect New Jersey’s coastal communities.”

This week Congressman Pallone sent a letter in support of the State of New Jersey’s appeal of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) approval of cuts to the summer flounder recreational quotas  that would harm many coastal communities including those along the Jersey Shore that rely on the recreational and commercial fishing industries. Text of the letter can be found below.

In February the commission elected to finalize regulations that will result in a 34% cut in summer flounder quotas for the state. ASMFC approved regulations that included a 34-percent summer flounder recreational-fishing quota reduction for New Jersey. The bag limit was also decreased to 3 fish, and the minimum size increased one inch to 19 inches on the New Jersey coast and 18 inches in Delaware Bay.

Earlier this year, Pallone and a bipartisan group from the New Jersey Congressional delegation 

sent a letter to U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross regarding the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) vote to approve devastating restrictions on New Jersey’s fishing community. The Congressmen asked Ross to delay any reductions or changes in summer flounder fishing quotas until a new stock assessment can be completed and a new approach can be crafted.

 

Pallone has long been a supporter of fisheries and the economies of coastal communities. He Appeared appeared before the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council to reiterate his opposition to NOAA’s quota reductions because of the harm they would cause New Jersey coastal communities. Pallone and Senator Booker sent a letter to NOAA Fisheries about its proposal to reduce the ABC recreational and commercial quotas for summer flounder in 2017 and 2018. The New Jersey lawmakers requested that NOAA Fisheries postpone any decision on reducing summer flounder quotas until it conducts a new benchmark summer flounder assessment. 

 

May 9, 2017

 

 

Mr. Douglas E. Grout, Chair
Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission
1050 N. Highlands Street, Suite 200 A-N
Arlington, VA 22201

Dear Chairman Grout:

I write in support of the State of New Jersey’s appeal of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) approval of Addendum XXVIII, which will be considered at ASMFC’s Spring Meeting on May 11, 2017. I have opposed these cuts ever since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) first proposed them last year, both testifying before the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and offering a statement to ASMFC at its Winter Meeting.

In February 2017, ASMFC approved regulations that included a 34-percent summer flounder recreational-fishing quota reduction for New Jersey. The bag limit was also decreased to 3 fish, and the minimum size increased one inch to 19 inches on the New Jersey coast and 18 inches in Delaware Bay. These regulations will have a devastating impact on New Jersey’s fishing industry and tourism economy. According to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP), the recreational and commercial fishing industries employ 65,000 people and generate approximately $2.5 billion in annual economic benefits to the state

The issue of summer flounder quotas is very important to my constituents, and has consequences for the economies of the coastal communities in my District. All of us want a healthy fluke population, which benefits both our economy and our environment. However, members of the fishing industry have real concerns about the science and methodologies used to justify these deep cuts.

New Jersey’s appeal of ASMFC’s decision cited technical, scientific and procedural flaws as reasons for reconsideration of the reductions. Unfortunately, ASMFC rejected the technical and scientific grounds for appeal. Despite ASMFC’s decision, I believe that there are compelling technical and scientific reasons to question the decision to cut summer flounder quotas, and that ASMFC should consider them while weighing New Jersey’s appeal. In my past statements on the cuts, I have cited several of those reasons, including:

 

  • NOAA’s reliance on estimations of the fluke population instead of scientific surveys;
  • Regular studies by the State of New Jersey which demonstrate that the summer flounder population off the state’s shores has actually grown over the past decades;
  • Questions about the accuracy of the Marine Recreational Information Program’s estimation of the number of recreational fishing trips in 2016;
  • The size limit for fluke will cause females, which tend to be larger than males, to be disproportionately removed from the population, and result in fish smaller than 19 inches being killed nonetheless, since many smaller fish do not survive being caught and thrown back into the ocean.

New Jersey has made its view on these reductions clear. Many are frustrated and lack confidence in the data that NOAA uses to guide quota reductions. ASMFC has an opportunity to rebuild trust with anglers have sacrificed year after year, and have yet to see real benefits for their sacrifices. I respectfully request that ASMFC sustain the State of New Jersey’s appeal and reconsider Addendum XXVIII.

 

                                                                        Sincerely,

 

                                                                        FRANK PALLONE, JR.
                                                                        Member of Congress