Reps. Pallone and LoBiondo Lead Letter to Federal Agencies Inquiring about Flounder/Fluke Management

Feb 25, 2014 Issues: Fisheries, New Jersey

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) and Frank LoBiondo (NJ-02) led a letter to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Fish and Wildlife Services (NFWS) asking the agencies to explain their votes earlier this month in favor of new regionalization measures for the 2014 fluke fishing season.  The letter was signed by six other members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation, including Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Representatives Bill Pascrell (NJ-09), Jon Runyan (NJ-03), Albio Sires (NJ-08), and Chris Smith (NJ-04).  

On February 4, 2014, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) voted for new regionalization measures that will require states to group their summer flounder quota together, with NOAA and NFWS representatives voting with the majority in favor of the new management system.  Under the current system, states are each given a separate allocation of summer flounder quota.  Regionalization, however, will make it mandatory for groups of states to combine their quota allocation.  Recreational fishing groups in New Jersey have complained that this would lead to an unfair result for New Jersey’s recreational fishermen. 

“…We are troubled that NFWS and NOAA would support the adoption of these new measures,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to Acting NOAA Administrator Sullivan and NFWS Director Ashe. “We request that both of your agencies provide our offices with the rationale for your support and explain what consideration your agency gave to the adverse impacts these measures would have on New Jersey’s anglers.”

The draft addendum proposing these new types of management measures for summer flounder was released in December 2013, only two months before a vote was scheduled on the proposal.  Many argued that the timeline did not allow for sufficient public input and that alternative management plans should also have been considered before regionalization was adopted.

Noting the public opposition in New Jersey, the members of Congress, in their joint letter, urged both agencies to evaluate the economic impacts of these new measures, which will now be in place for a period of one year.  The lawmakers also called on both the NFWS and NOAA to carefully review the best options for future management of fluke. 

Below is the full text of the letter:

 

February 25, 2014

Dr. Kathryn Sullivan

Acting NOAA Administrator

1401 Constitution Avenue, NW

Room 5128

Washington, DC 20230

Executive Director

 

Mr. Dan Ashe

Director

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

1849 C Street, NW

Washington, DC 20240

 

Dear Acting Administrator Sullivan and Director Ashe:

            We are writing to express our opposition to recently adopted measures that unfairly reduce the fishing quota for fluke in New Jersey. 

As you know, on February 4, 2014, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) voted for new regionalization measures for the 2014 fluke fishing season. We were disappointed in the 7-4 vote to oppose the current system, which included votes from representatives on the ASMFC from the National Fish and Wildlife Services (NFWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 

While we appreciate the ASMFC’s efforts to address fluke management, this measure replaces the current summer flounder management plan with a misguided approach that has the effect of suddenly reallocating some of New Jersey’s fluke quota to New York.   The ASMFC allegedly wanted to have similar size regulations between bordering states but all they did was shift the problem at the expense of New Jersey anglers, who are projected to lose approximately 20 percent of their fluke catch in 2014. 

Additionally, the ASMFC disregarded the input of the public and the tremendous opposition when considering this measure. A public comment period was held, along with a number of public hearings, and the vast majority of the input provided was in opposition to the regionalized plans.  Furthermore, there has not been enough time for constituent groups and interested parties to analyze the consequences of such a radical departure from current management measures or for voting members of the ASMFC to make fully informed decisions.

As such, we are troubled that NFWS and NOAA would support the adoption of these new measures.  We request that both of your agencies provide our offices with the rationale for your support and explain what consideration your agency gave to the adverse impacts these measures would have on New Jersey’s anglers.  In addition, we believe that the NFWS and the NOAA should take the lead and commit to a careful evaluation of the economic and management impacts of these new measures. During the course of this evaluation, your agencies should review the best options for future management of fluke within the jurisdiction of ASMFC.

In light of the concerns we have laid out above, we hope you give careful consideration and take appropriate action to ensure that further public input and evaluation of alternative management plans is carried out before any further action towards regionalization of the fluke quota is pursued.

Thank you for your attention to this matter and look forward to your response.

 

                                                                        Sincerely,

                           FRANK PALLONE, JR.                               FRANK LOBIONDO

                           Member of Congress                                 Member of Congress

 

               ROBERT MENENDEZ                 CORY BOOKER                    BILL PASCRELL, JR.

               United States Senator                 United States Senator          Member of Congress

 

                JON RUNYAN                             ALBIO SIRES                         CHRIS SMITH

                Member of Congress                Member of Congress           Member of Congress