New York Assails Wasteful US Catch Limits for Flounder

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MANHATTAN (CN) – Vying for a bigger stake of a fish that swims in its own backyard, New York took aim Monday at the 1980s data used to set catch limits for summer flounder.

The National Marine Fisheries Service put the 2019 catch limits in place just last month, allocating to New York just 7.6 percent of the 7.7 million pounds of summer flounder that commercial fishermen can haul ashore this year.

North Carolina and Virginia will get the lion’s share, a combined 3.2 million pounds of the bottom-dwelling fish otherwise known as fluke.

But a federal complaint filed today by New York says these allocations ignore the fact that most fishing of summer flounder today occurs in the waters off Long Island — a shift it attributes in part to ocean warming and successful efforts to rebuild overfished stock.

But while North Carolina and Virginia vessels are traveling hundreds of miles back and forth to meet their quotas, New York fishermen are restricted to small daily trip limits as low as 50 pounds.

“This has made summer flounder fishing no longer an economically viable choice for many fishermen based in New York because the limited revenue generated by a low volume trip often cannot offset the costs, including fuel, time, and vessel wear-and-tear,” the complaint states.

New York also recounts how New York fishermen have resorted to buying North Carolina or Virginia licenses to eke out a living.

This means that they have to catch summer flounder on their doorsteps, “then sail hundreds of miles south to land their catch,” according to the complaint.

“Other New York fishermen do not have the capacity to travel long distances and fish off Long Island adjacent to southern boats, but are restricted to small daily trip limits as low as 50 pounds, while the larger southern vessels simultaneously enjoy multiday limits that allow them to catch several hundred — even thousands — of pounds of summer flounder per day,” the complaint continues.

Calling for a federal judge to make the allocation more equitable, New York paints the Southern states’ fishing trips as wasteful with respect to travel time, use of fuel and vessel wear and tear.”

“Additionally, many of these fish landed in southern ports are transported by trucks back to New York for sale in local markets adding further to the inefficiency of the fishery,” the complaint states.

Governor Andrew Cuomo emphasized in a statement Monday that attempts to adjust the quota with the Trump administration have bottomed out. 

“New York’s commercial fishing industry is a critical economic driver that for decades has been held back by outdated federal restrictions,” Cuomo said.

“After countless attempts to work with the federal government to adjust the quota, New York is taking action and demanding fair treatment of the hardworking men and women of this industry.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James criticized the quotas as well.

“This suit asks that the federal government use the best available science to allocate fluke fishing quotas, and to ensure that New York’s fishermen and women are no longer denied their fair share of the permitted catch,” she in a statement.

Representatives for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Department of Commerce have not returned requests for comment amid the partial government shutdown, which has affected all three agencies.

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