FLOUNDER QUOTAS FISHY
THE National Marine Fisheries Service already has put the knife in recreational anglers’ backs, now its wants to do a slow turn by looking to cut summer flounder quotas even more for 2008. This past week Congressman Jim Saxton (R-N.J.) called on the NMFS to explain why it plans to cut fluke quotas below reduced levels it itself helped set only last year.
“These are not good numbers to see, and they threaten our fishing industry,” Saxton said. “The people who rely on summer flounder for a living have already seen severe cuts from 2005 and 2006 levels. Only seven months ago, NMFS helped revise lower flounder quotas for 2008 though 2012, and now it plans to backtrack and recommend even lower catch quotas. How is it possible for the scientific recommendation to change so significantly in seven months? In December, NMFS estimated the 2008 quota would be 19.6 million pounds. Now they’re saying it could be 8 million pounds less than that. That’s more than 40 percent off the mark. It’s not fair to the fishermen.”
Saxton, who led successful efforts to raise quotas for 2007, fired off a letter Wednesday to the director of NMFS, Dr. William Hogarth, challenging NMFS’ new proposed 2008 quota of 11.6-15.77 million pounds.
A member of the Natural Resources Committee that in 2006 reauthorized the nation’s prime fisheries law, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, Saxton added key provisions to help the recreational flounder industry. The 2007 flounder quota was raised from 12.9 million pounds to 17.1 million pounds. NMFS also indicated the provisions would allow a 19.6-million-pound catch in 2008, 22.7 million pounds in 2009, and 29 million pounds in 2012 when the stock would be fully rebuilt.
According to 2005 data, there were nearly 6 million recreational fishing trips for summer flounder along the Atlantic coast, with anglers spending an estimated $324 million, and another $648 million in indirect economic impact. New York and New Jersey have the largest recreational summer flounder fisheries.
If the NMFS is allowed to get away with this, it would be time for recreational anglers to form a revolution.
By Ken Moran