Effective today, July 30, 2004..., DEC has filed emergency regulations to raise the fluke size limit to 18 inches for the remainder of the 2004 fishing season.
The daily limit will remain at 3 and the open season will remain at May 15 to September 6.
A press release will be issued later today,and I will forward it to you when I receive it.
We expect that ASMFC will send a letter to the Secretary of Commerce today that states that NY is no longer in non-compliance with the fluke FMP. A press release to that effect is also expected, which I will also forward.
We have talked to many of you about this and understand the anxiety and concern you've experienced. Thank you for your patience and assistance.
East Setauket, NY
DEC ANNOUNCES REVISED RECREATIONAL CATCH LIMITS FOR FLUKE
Changes Will Bring New York Into Compliance with Federal Regulations
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Erin M. Crotty today announced the adoption of a revised emergency regulation on recreational fishing for summer flounder (fluke) needed to bring New York State into compliance with federal regulations. Effective today, Friday, July 30, 2004, and for the balance of the 2004 fishing season which ends on September 6, 2004, the minimum size limit is raised one inch to 18 inches. The possession limit remains at three fluke. This action is necessary to avoid a federally-imposed closure of New York's recreational and commercial fluke fisheries.
Fluke are managed through an Interstate Fishery Management Plan (IFMP) for Summer Flounder developed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). New York is a member of the ASMFC, along with the other Atlantic Coast states. Under provisions of the IFMP, ASMFC determined that New York must adopt regulations that reduce the projected 2004 fluke harvest by 48.5 percent from the estimated 2003 harvest level.
New York's fishery managers and fluke anglers objected to this level of reduction because the fluke harvest estimate relied on by ASMFC for 2003 was more than double the harvest estimates for the two preceding years. This estimated 2003 harvest was also inconsistent with the experience reported by New York anglers and fishing businesses.
The fluke harvest estimates are produced by the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS), an annual survey conducted nationwide since 1981 by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The MRFSS survey is designed to produce estimates of catch and effort that are statistically reliable on a regional or coast-wide basis, and to establish long-term trends.
New York fishery managers took the position that the 48.5 percent reduction requirement was an artifact of the inappropriate use of the MRFSS estimates to establish and manage state-specific quotas on an annual basis.
DEC proposed and implemented a more statistically valid alternative that averaged the MRFSS harvest estimates for the last three years and used that average to project the 2004 harvest rather than using only the 2003 harvest estimate, which DEC disputes. Using DEC's alternative, a 20 percent reduction would have been required, and to implement that reduction DEC adopted the most restrictive package of fluke regulations on the Atlantic coast: a three-fish daily limit; an open season from May 15 - September 6, 2004; and a 17-inch size limit.
On June 16, 2004, ASMFC notified New York State and the U.S. Secretary of Commerce that New York's regulations were non-compliant with the requirements of the IFMP, and required DEC to adopt more stringent regulations that met the 48.5 percent reduction target.
New York State appealed to the Secretary of Commerce through NMFS to reverse the ASMFC ruling, and to support DEC's position that the MRFSS estimates are not appropriate for managing an annual state-specific quota system and that DEC's 20 percent reduction strategy was more appropriate.
On July 19, 2004, the Director of NMFS notified New York State that the U.S. Department of Commerce had ruled that New York's regulation did not comply with the plan and that a 48.5 percent reduction is required for conservation of summer flounder. NMFS has ordered a moratorium, effective September 3, 2004, on all fishing for fluke in New York - both commercial and recreational - unless DEC adopts regulations that comply with the IFMP requirements.
To prevent the negative economic impact to New York's fisheries that a closure would trigger, DEC has adopted the new 18-inch size limit that will ensure meeting the 48.5 percent reduction and place the State in compliance with the IFMP. DEC continues to oppose the use of the annual state-specific MRFSS harvest estimates to manage fluke quotas and will pursue all available options to reform the fluke quota management process.
The number for Gordon Colvin at the DEC is 631-444-0436
205 Bellmead Rd.
East Setauket, NY 11733