D.E.C. Grants Safe Harbor to Vessel Affected by Hurricane Jose

While in transit to North Carolina on Sunday, the fishing vessel Rianda S. requested safe harbor in New York from rough seas generated by Hurricane Jose. State Department of Environmental Conservation law enforcement and marine resources staff granted the request, and the boat arrived in Montauk at 4:30 p.m. The vessel was carrying fish caught in federal waters, including an estimated 6,000 pounds of fluke, and requested to land the fish in New York.

New York's commercial fluke fishery is currently closed, and the entire 6,000-pound landing would have had to be deducted from the state's remaining quota of 40,000 pounds.

State officials crafted an agreement with North Carolina to transfer a portion of its quota to New York, allowing the captain to sell half of his fish here. The D.E.C. is requiring the captain to donate the remaining 3,000 pounds of fluke to food pantries, including Hope for the Future Mission in Farmingdale and Lighthouse Mission in Bellport, to discourage questionable decisions to fish in advance of a hurricane, which necessitated the safe harbor request.

"New York will never turn a blind eye to ships in need during severe weather, but we take very seriously our responsibility to carefully manage our state's fishery and our commercial fishermen," Basil Seggos, the State D.E.C. commissioner, said in a statement. "We commend our counterparts in North Carolina for working with us on a plan to ensure these fish do not go to waste. We need to see the same level of cooperation from federal fisheries regulators to equitably distribute fluke quotas in the Atlantic."

New York's quota will be reduced by 3,000 pounds, despite the fish being donated rather than sold in the state. With the fishing season closed, state officials did not think it appropriate for this captain to profit at the expense of New York's commercial fishing industry. The only alternative was to allow 3,000 pounds of fluke to go to waste.

"If all southern New England and mid-Atlantic states were treated equally for fluke, this would be a non-story," Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, said in a statement. "If fluke was managed as a coastwide quota instead of a state-by-state system, the Rianda would have fished and then landed at home, instead of needing to steam south for two days. Jose had other plans, unfortunately, requiring them to take safe harbor. This federally regulated state-by-state quota system that created winners and losers, with New York always losing, needs fixing and must stop discrimination between residents of different states when assigning fish allocations and compromising the safety of New York fishermen."