APP News Article on Efforts to Protect Fluke Fishing'NJ's fluke season saved after US secretary approves regulations'
By Dan Radel, APP Staff Writer -
There will be no moratorium on New Jersey fluke's season after U.S. commerce secretary sided with the state on its fluke regulation battle with a regional fishery commission.
As the news made the rounds on the docks and VHF radios there was a sigh of relief from boat captains.
"There was a concern, yeah, that it might be shut down. I hoped not," said Captain Bob Bogan, of the Gambler party boat in Point Pleasant Beach.
The Gambler fishes daily for fluke, also known as summer flounder.
State Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin announced Tuesday that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration affirmed New Jersey’s summer flounder fishing size, bag limits and season,
That means the fluke rules adopted by the New Jersey Bureau of Marine Fisheries in May will remain in effect through early September, according to the DEP.
The DEP said the decision was approved by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, who found New Jersey in compliance for management of summer flounder.
It followed weeks of information-sharing between the DEP and NOAA about the expected impacts on New Jersey’s fluke fishery imposed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission earlier this year.
“We are very pleased that NOAA worked with us to understand our position that sound science and good long-term planning must drive decisions about the management of summer flounder, one of the state’s most important recreational and commercial fish species,” said Martin.
The decision means that the recreational fluke season, that began May 25 and runs through Sept. 5, remains unchanged. The minimum size remains 18 inches for fluke for most coastal waters, including the ocean, estuaries and creeks. Anglers in these areas may keep three legally sized fish per day.
Fishermen rally against flounder catch limits
A rally against the proposed cuts to the summer flounder harvest brought commercial and recreational fishermen together in Point Pleasant Beach. THOMAS P. COSTELLO
The size limit for Delaware Bay is 17 inches, with a three-fish per day limit. At Island Beach State Park the size limit for shore fishing is 16 inches, with a daily two-fish limit.
The fluke debate
On Feb. 2 the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission approved a 30-percent coastwide reduction of the fluke fishery and a 19-inch size limit for N.J.
NJ adopted its own summer flounder rules in May with a smaller 18-inch fish. In June the ASMFC made a recommendation to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to find New Jersey out of compliance with those rules.
Biologists with the DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife then provided NOAA information demonstrating that an 18-inch size limit would result in far fewer discard mortalities than the 19-inch limit.
The data also showed that few fish in New Jersey reach 19 inches due to the species’ biological needs and distribution pattern and the overwhelming majority of fish that would meet that “keeper” size limit would be reproductive females.
Jim Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance called N.J.'s regulations "common-sense" management of fluke because it will result in less mortality and keep people fishing.
"Let me say a big thank you to the commissioner of the DEP, Gov. Christie and their team, and big thank you to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. This is the first time in history I think the secretary has ruled against the ASMFC," Donofrio said.
Bogan said the 19-inch fish limit would have also hurt the party and charter boat businesses.
"It's a harder fish to catch. If people can't bring home something to eat they're not going to come out," said Bogan.
New Jersey's Legislatures speak
Several of N.J. lawmakers spoke in favor of Ross' decision.
"The Commerce Secretary and NOAA made the right decision by affirming New Jersey’s innovative summer flounder management plan.” said Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J.
Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J. called the management plan " balanced and reasonable," and said it will achieve the conservation standards.
“The decision to not institute a fishing moratorium, and instead accept New Jersey’s more balanced and reasonable summer catch standards, will sustain New Jersey’s summer flounder industries while upholding conservation standards.”