Photo Courtesy Capt. Bob Fishing Fleet

Legislation proposed by Rep. Lee Zeldin and Sen. Chuck Schumer aims to correct the “inequitable treatment” of Long Island fluke fishermen.

The “Fluke Fairness Act” would reform the current system that governs fluke regulation by creating a regional approach that updates quotas and standards based on sound geographic, scientific and economic data, the legislators said yesterday.

The current system of federal regulations for fluke fishing has created a complicated patchwork of quotas and rules for each state in the region, according to a press release from Zeldin’s office.

Last year, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission enacted a reform permitting New York anglers to keep five fluke of 18 inches or below during the 128-day season that starts early May. Before that most recent change, New York anglers could only keep four fluke of 19 inches or below, while New Jersey and Connecticut anglers in shared waters, such as Raritan Bay and the Long Island Sound, could keep five fish at 17.5 inches — a confusing and unnecessary burden on anglers in the tristate area, Zeldin said. Without federal legislation, this issue will continue to arise year after year, he said.

“Recreational and commercial fishing is one of the many great things about life, industry and culture here on Long Island and fluke is the most popular fish for recreational anglers in the New York area,” Zeldin said.

“Unfair catch quotas are a left hook to so many Long Island anglers and that’s why it is crucial to pass the ‘Fluke Fairness Act,’ which will benefit anglers who have long been restricted by unfair regulations dictated by outdated data,” Schumer said. “The act will require federal regulators to design a fair fishery management plan based on the most up-to-date research. Using science and common sense, this legislation will permanently tackle the fluke problem that puts New York anglers at a serious disadvantage, and will level the playing field for anglers up and down the East Coast.”

According to New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation and other experts, the Council and Commission use flawed data sets from the fishing seasons 1980-1989 and 1998 to set the quota allocations for each state’s commercial and recreational fluke industries, respectively, Schumer said. These data sets do not consider recent and significant changes in the fluke population and fishing patterns.

“The …data collection system for commercial landings that was in place during the time period that established individual states’ percent allocation of the summer flounder annual commercial quota caused inherent inadequacies in New York’s allocation,”  Cornell Cooperative Extension fishing expert Emerson Hasbrouck testified at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing last summer, according to a press release from Schumer’s office. “The data collection system during the baseline period on which the state-by-state summer flounder allocation was based, put New York at a severe disadvantage compared to other states,” Hasbrouck said.

The result is that New York receives only a tiny fraction of this potential catch: approximately 7.6 percent for the commercial sector and 17 percent in the recreational sector, according to the senator. Compared to other neighboring states, these allocations are not commensurate with the size and participation of New York’s fishing sector, known as the amount of “fishing effort,” and the abundance of fluke in New York’s waters, Schumer said.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.