Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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DelMonte resurrects ‘market fishing’ bill

Staff report

Albany — Legislation that would ban the practice of “market
fishing” in which recreational anglers sell their catch has been
reintroduced in the state Assembly.

A similar bill was approved by the Assembly last year but died
in the state Senate.

Western New York Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, D-Lewiston,
introduced the bill (A734), which would prohibit the sale of
certain species of fish taken recreationally.

The bill exempts fish taken from the St. Lawrence River, as well
as bullhead in Oneida, Madison and Oswego counties.

“Current law allows the unrestricted buying and selling of any
freshwater fish not subject to statewide minimum size limits or a
closed season,” DelMonte said in support of the bill. “This allows
hook-and-line anglers fishing under the privileges of a
sportfishing license to sell their catch of any ‘unprotected’ fish
and has resulted in conflicts between sport and commercial
fishermen and complaints about the overharvest of certain protected
fish. Most states do not allow fish taken (recreationally) to be
sold; this bill prohibits this practice in New York State.”

The legislation that stalled last year was also part of now
ex-Gov. George Pataki’s package of fish and wildlife-related bills.
While some sportsmen are in favor of the ban, many in parts of the
state where market fishing doesn’t occur were unaware of the
practice until the bill was introduced last year.

But in the North County, where ice fishing for perch and other
panfish is extremely popular, the legislation has been met with
stiff opposition from lawmakers, anglers and fish buyers.

Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, R-Willsboro, whose district
includes towns along Lake Champlain where market fishing is a
longstanding tradition, has said previously she wouldn’t support
the bill under any circumstances.

Rep. Dede Scozzafava, R-Gouverneur, joined Sayward in opposing
the bill last year when it passed by a 137-9 margin in the
Assembly. Most of the opposition came from North Country
lawmakers.

Given last year’s vote, it’s likely the bill will again pass the
Assembly and head to the state Senate, where it died last year.
Wally John, legislative liaison for the New York State Conservation
Council, said there “have always been some reservations in the
Senate” to the bill, but he predicted last year that the
legislation would be revived in 2007.

Many North Country residents use market fishing to supplement
their incomes during the typical winter economic downturn. They
catch perch and other fish and sell them to local buyers, who then
send them on to other states and even to Canada and Europe.

Advocates of market fishing contend it doesn’t negatively impact
fish populations, and in fact keeps fish numbers in check. Without
it, they say, waters like Lake Champlain would be overrun with
stunted fish.

DEC Fisheries Bureau Chief Doug Stang disputes that contention,
saying fishermen aren’t effective predators because they
‘high-size’ fish, taking the bigger fish and returning the smaller
fish to the water.

DEC would like to see market fishing abolished; Stang said fish
taken through that practice “are no longer available to true
recreational anglers.”

Market fishing opponents also claim the practice leads to
enforcement problems in the North Country. While there’s no catch
limit for perch on Lake Champlain, there is a 50-fish limit on Lake
George, another popular water just south of the big lake. Many
anglers feel some fishermen are taking more than the 50-fish limit
on Lake George and then selling them under the guise that they were
caught in Lake Champlain.

It’s also impossible to track whether the fish might have come
from waters with fish consumption advisories, opponents also
claim.

The bill has been sent on to the Assembly’s Environmental
Conservation Committee for review.

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