TRENTON – Senator Jeff Van Drew, Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak and Assemblyman Bruce Land today called for Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to reverse action to impose a dramatic reduction in the allowable catch of summer flounder in New Jersey, saying the decision is based on flawed methodology and would prove devastating to the economy.
The legislators (all D-Cape May, Cumberland and Atlantic) submitted a letter to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) regarding the proposed change, which calls for a 40 percent reduction in the amount of flounder that can be taken by recreational fishermen and a 30 percent reduction for commercial fishermen.
“A reduction as large as the ones being proposed … will simply be too devastating to the economy to be based off of uncertain science, especially when there is clearly minimal confidence that the solution will have a real effect on the supposed problem,” the legislators wrote. “No one wants to see these fish overfished. If the fish are gone, then so is the fishing. It is in everyone’s interest to see the stock be healthy, but it must be done based on accurate data, and drastic decisions cannot be taken lightly.”
The legislators asked that no new reductions be implemented for summer flounder until a new benchmark assessment can be conducted. Assemblyman Andrzejczak also serves as an ASMFC commissioner.
The public comment period on the proposal ends today. The legislators’ letter is below:
January 18, 2017
Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission
1050 North Highland Street
Arlington, VA 22201
RE: Draft Addendum XXVIII
Dear Mr. Rootes-Murdy,
We write today in reference to Draft Addendum XXVIII to the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass fishery management plan. We have serious concerns with the proposed actions contained within this draft addendum, and the potential impact that they will have on local economies, particularly given that there seems to be little consensus over the accuracy of the recent Stock Assessment Update. Even the addendum itself recognizes that the proposed actions may not address the issue of possible overfishing of these species. Section 2.1 of the Addendum states, “The Board recognizes the management options within this draft addendum will also have shortcomings with regards to addressing this problem, and thus intends the selected option to be an interim program while focusing on the development of a more comprehensive solution for the future.” There is too much uncertainty to impose such a devastating restriction.
As you are likely aware, there is widespread dispute over the accuracy of the science and methodology used by NOAA Fisheries in estimating the current populations of these fisheries, particularly that of summer flounder. As noted in a recent letter from US Senator Cory Booker (NJ) and Representative Frank Pallone (NJ), the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) estimated that recreational fisherman in New York and Connecticut significantly exceeded limits on summer flounder in 2016, in part due to an increase in the number of fishing trips in the summer of that year. However, according to the letter, in order for that estimate to be accurate, Connecticut would have had to have increased the number of fishing trips by 68%, and New York would have had to have seen an increase of 35% in fishing trips during the months of July and August. However, the letter states, “data from the Jersey Coast Anglers Association (JCAA) shows that the number of fishing trips along the Eastern Seaboard has been declining, with a drop of 8 million fishing trips from 2007 to 2014.” The numbers simply do not add up.
It is clear, from our perspective, that a new benchmark stock assessment must be completed before any further reductions can be implemented. There are over 250,000 registered saltwater fishing anglers in New Jersey, and 40% of all fishing trips are in pursuit of summer flounder. A reduction as large as the ones being proposed in this addendum will simply be too devastating to the economy to be based off of uncertain science, especially when there is clearly minimal confidence that the solution will have a real effect on the supposed problem. No one wants to see these fish overfished. If the fish are gone, then so is the fishing. It is in everyone’s interest to see the stock be healthy, but it must be done based on accurate data, and drastic decisions cannot be taken lightly.
As such, we would ask that no new reductions be implemented for summer flounder until a new benchmark assessment can be conducted.
Jeff Van Drew Bob Andrzejczak Bruce Land
State Senator, NJ-1 Assemblyman, NJ-1 Assemblyman, NJ-1
– ASMFC Commissioner