A commercial fishing boat dockside in Mattituck in 2015. File photo: Peter Blasl.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is threatening new legal action against the federal government if federal regulators refuse to revise New York’s commercial fluke fishing quota.

“The commercial allocations for summer flounder are based upon incomplete data from 1980-1989. As a result, New York is only allocated 7.6-percent of the coastwide limit, while the neighboring states of Rhode Island and New Jersey received allocations more than twice the size,” Cuomo wrote in a letter to U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Tuesday.

“Other states have access to as much as three times New York’s quota, causing an inequitable distribution that injures the state’s economy and prevents fishermen from feeding their own families,” Cuomo wrote.

The impacts, Cuomo said, have been “devastating” to New York’s commercial fishermen.

Cuomo called for action from the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission during their meeting scheduled for Dec. 11-14. Noting that his previous calls for action have gone unheeded, he said if the upcoming meetings do not result in a “dramatic increase to the commercial fluke allocation for New York,” he will “commence litigation and secure from the courts the rights of New York’s fishermen as a matter of law.”

Rep. Lee Zeldin, whose First Congressional District includes the East End, said in a statement yesterday he supports the governor’s position, including his pledge to take legal action “if an equitable quota for New York’s fluke fishing is not reached” in the upcoming meetings of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

Zeldin said he has been calling for “reforming unfair restrictions on catch limits, allocations and quotas” that “hurt New York fishermen.”

“The current restrictions have placed unnecessary burdens on our local anglers and limited the growth of our fishing industry, which is vital to so many of our small businesses here in NY-1,” Zeldin said.

“Using flawed, outdated data to justify bad rules makes no sense, and it is long past due that New York representatives on regional councils did much more to fight for our fishermen,” the congressman said.

South Fork Assemblyman Fred Thiele also issued a statement in support of the governor’s position and litigation against the federal government if it fails to make the adjustments demanded by the state.

Thiele noted that he and State Sen. Ken LaValle sponsored bills in their respective chambers of the N.Y. State Legislature this year to authorize legal action “challenging existing inequitable fishing quotas that discriminate against New York state commercial fishermen.”

He said he and LaValle met with representatives of the East End commercial fishing industry last week to discuss an agenda for a Nov. 9 meeting with the State Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner.

“Litigation against these discriminatory quotas was at the top of the list for the fishermen,” Thiele said.

The Magnuson-Stevens Act was enacted by Congress in 1976 to restrict foreign fishing vessels in offshore waters from three to 200 miles off the U.S. coast, Thiele said. Magnuson-Stevens also sought to regulate fishing in federal waters by establishing various management tools such as a state by state quota allocation system for commercial fishermen, he said.

These state-by-state quotas created by the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service are based upon faulty and incomplete collection data which discriminate against commercial fishermen in the state of New York, Thiele said.

“As a result of these discriminatory practices, New York’s quota for black sea bass, bluefish, scup, and summer flounder are much lower than would be allocated under a fair non-discriminatory system. New York’s summer flounder quota was less than half of that allocated to Rhode Island, New Jersey, Virginia, and North Carolina,” Thiele said. “This discriminatory quota system has resulted in unwarranted economic and job losses.”

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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.