Albany -_Twenty party boat operators participating in a federal
program will be allowed to catch summer flounder (fluke) – even
during the midseason closure from June 16-July 3.
DEC officials said that in the wake of a successful appeal by
New York officials, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)
has agreed that summer flounder caught as part of a federal
research program will not count against the state’s quota.
As a result, the party boat operators taking part in the federal
Research Set-Aside (RSA) program will be allowed to catch fluke
throughout the year, DEC_Commissioner Pete Grannis said. Only those
boats participating in the RSA program are allowed to catch fluke
during the closure.
Earlier this year, NMFS indicated it could not guarantee that
fluke landed in the RSA program would not count against the state’s
annual quota for the species. But in response to requests from DEC
and Assemblyman Bob Sweeney, NMFS developed a procedure to
“earmark” party boats catches and exclude it from New York’s
“This is a victory for New York anglers,” Grannis said. “New
York faced the strong possibility of being unfairly penalized for
allowing our boat operators to participate in the federal research
program. That would have had drastic consequences for recreational
anglers and boat operators when next year’s quotas are established.
Sweeney, chairman of the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation
Committee, called the move, “a fair and reasonable decision that
will benefit recreational anglers and boat owners who have acted in
Under the RSA program, federal officials set aside 3 percent of
the coast-wide quota for a species to be auctioned off. Successful
bidders can land fish even during closed periods; their landings
are not intended to count against a state’s quota for a species.
Proceeds from the auction are used to fund independent fishing
Historically, only commercial operators participated in the
program. This year, for the first time, recreational boat operators
took part, with 20 New York party boat operators winning
allotments. New York faced the prospect of landings by those
operators being counted against the state’s recreational quota for
fluke – a quota that’s been steadily decreasing and is now the
subject of a DEC lawsuit against NMFS.
The action by NMFS now assures that RSA landings won’t be part
of the New York tally.
In March, DEC announced new limits for recreational fluke
fishing. To comply with federal mandates to reduce harvest in 2009,
DEC announced that the season would be open from May 15-June 15,
and from July 4-Aug. 17. Those dates will still apply to all
recreational anglers not participating in the RSA program.
New York last year filed a federal lawsuit challenging the
methods and data used to manage coastal fluke populations. The
lawsuit contends that NMFS violated federal law by using outdated
and scientifically unreliable statistics to establish fluke harvest
limits along the Atlantic Coast, resulting in inequitable treatment
of New York anglers.
For example, in 2008 an angler on the New York side of Raritan
Bay could keep four fluke per day with a minimum size limit of
20.5. while anglers on the New Jersey side of the bay could keep
eight fluke with an 18-inch minimum size limit.
That lawsuit is still pending.