State Seeks to Increase Fluke Quota

For many years, New York commercial fishermen who catch fluke, also known as summer flounder, have loudly complained that they have been working under unfair quota allocations when compared to nearby states. But that anger and frustration may change as New York’s top government officials have voiced their concerns and vow to see that the state’s fishermen can one day catch their fair share of the popular flatfish.

Late last week, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, announced that New York has filed a petition with the federal government to establish fair quota allocations for the state’s commercial harvest of fluke. The governor directed the State Department of Environmental Conservation to petition for revised allocations, which would put New York on more equitable footing with other East Coast states. New York’s petition, drafted by the D.E.C. and the attorney general’s office, is the first step in the legal process to bring equity to the state’s fluke quota. 

“Our federal government cannot rely on decades-old data to uphold these unreasonable fluke quotas, as they continue to put New York at a disadvantage to neighboring states, while ignoring the needs of communities across the state,” Governor Cuomo said in a release. “New York’s commercial fishing industry has been held back by archaic federal restrictions for too long, and by taking action to defend fair treatment of our fishers, we will help this valuable industry reach its full potential.” 

Specifically, New York State has filed a petition with the United States Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Ser­vice, and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council to demand that commercial fluke allocations be revised to provide New York’s fishers with equitable access to summer flounder. New York is also reviewing other species where there is an unfair allocation, including black sea bass and bluefish, and may pursue similar actions with regard to those, it said in its statement. 

State-by-state allocations for commercial fluke were set in the early 1990s using incomplete landings data from a period between 1980 and 1989. At that time, New York’s allocation was set at a region-low 7.6 percent of the coastwide quota, compared to 15.7 percent for Rhode Island and 16.7 percent for New Jersey. Virginia and North Carolina were allocated 21.3 percent and 27.4 percent. New York’s low percentage of allocation makes fishing for fluke a tough proposition. Daily trip limits were a measly 50 pounds in 2017 and 70 pounds in 2016.

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. has played an active role in trying to engage Albany to take action on the unbalanced fluke quota. “New York State action on unfair federal fishing quotas and commercial fishing licensing reform is long overdue,” he said on Saturday morning. “Quotas and antiquated licensing laws have unfairly prevented New York’s commercial fishing industry from competing with other states. The result is lost economic development opportunities and jobs for eastern Long Island and New York.”

“Late last year, I joined with Senator Ken LaValle to convene a meeting with the commercial fishing industry and the D.E.C. commissioner to address these issues,” he added. “The commissioner promised action. I am pleased that the governor is now taking the first step to revitalize New York’s commercial fishing industry.”  

Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, said she was encouraged to hear the news last week. “It’s the way it should be done procedurally,” she said. “The petition covered all of the key points and I’m glad New York State took this action, but it will likely take a long while before we see any possible changes to the allocation.”