Pallone, Booker Call on NOAA Fisheries to Reconsider Dramatically Reduced Summer Flounder Quotas

Dec 13, 2016

Washington, DC - Congressman Frank Pallone (NJ-06) and Senator Cory A. Booker have sent a letter to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries about its proposal to reduce the Acceptable Biological Catch (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 quotes until it conducts a new benchmark summer flounder assessment. These proposed reductions would harm many coastal communities along the Jersey Shore, especially those that rely on the recreational and commercial fishing industries.

“It is crucial that NOAA reconsider the quotas based on the most accurate information,” said Congressman Pallone. “Without a sufficient summer flounder quota, New Jersey’s economy faces a threat that jeopardizes the livelihoods of so many. I will continue to work with my New Jersey colleagues and press NOAA for more favorable catch limits in the future.”

“Jobs and businesses down the Jersey Shore are powered by the strength of our commercial and recreational fishing industries,” said Sen. Booker. “ Another reduction in the summer flounder quota could have damaging effects on our state and coastal economies. We will continue to urge NOAA implement quotas that are good for New Jerseyans and reflect the most up to date, accurate assessments.”

Pallone and Booker have long been strong supporters of fisheries and the economies of coastal communities. Earlier this year, Congressman Pallone sent a letter to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission calling for fair and less restrictive policies relating to summer flounder. Last year, the Congressman decried NOAA’s final rule on 2016 summer flounder catch limits. Under the rule, the summer flounder acceptable catch limit was reduced 30 percent, from 23 million pounds to 16 million pounds.

The text of the letter can be found below:

December 12, 2016

Eileen Sobeck
Assistant Administrator for Fisheries
NOAA Fisheries
1315 East-West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Dear Assistant Administrator Sobeck:

We write in regards to a proposal by NOAA Fisheries to reduce the Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC), recreational and commercial quotas for summer flounder in 2017 and 2018. Implementing this proposed rule will have a dramatic impact on the livelihoods of recreational and commercial fishermen, damaging the economies of coastal communities that depend on this important fishery. NOAA Fisheries should reconsider this proposal, specifically by maintaining existing quota levels until it conducts a new summer flounder benchmark assessment.

As you know, the last summer flounder benchmark assessment took place in 2013, and the agency has scheduled a new assessment to take place in 2017. The scale of these reductions is serious, for example, the summer flounder ABC would be reduced 29% in 2017 and a 16% in 2018. The recreational and commercial limits would both be reduced by approximately 30% in 2017 and 16% in 2018 respectively. NOAA Fisheries should make use of the best science available to ensure that it has updated numbers before making any decision of this level.

These proposed reductions would harm many coastal communities along the Jersey Shore, especially those that rely on the recreational and commercial fishing industries. These communities are already struggling. From 2007 to 2014 there was a loss of 2 million fishing trips in New Jersey, and 40% of fishing trips in New Jersey are in pursuit of summer flounder. The damage would not be limited to just fishermen, the tourism and boating industries along the Shore would be impacted as well.

That is why we are respectfully requesting that NOAA Fisheries postpone any decision on summer flounder quotas until it conducts a new benchmark summer flounder assessment. The agency should also maintain the current quotas until that assessment is conducted. NOAA Fisheries should use the best science and updated data before it makes any decision to implement these dramatic quota cuts.

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