PALLONE URGES ASMFC TO SUPPORT 19.9 MILLION POUND SUMMER FLOUNDER QUOTA FOR 2007
U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), ranking Democrat on the House Fisheries and Oceans Subcommittee, testified before the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) today urging support for a 19.9 million pound quota for summer flounder for the upcoming year. The New Jersey congressman's statement follows.
"Thank you for allowing me to speak in advance of the Board's decision on the 2007 Total Allowable Landings for Summer Flounder.
"I am here to speak on behalf of anglers from my congressional district in New Jersey who have closely watched the entire management process for summer flounder with what can mildly be called frustration. Management officials at all levels have tossed around a variety of numbers for next year's quota -- even proposing one as low as 5.2 million pounds, a virtual shutdown -- and here we are in mid-December, still without a final decision.
"I think it was ill-advised that the Commission chose not to support a 19.9 million pound quota during its last meeting in October, and I was dismayed when Bill Hogarth, head of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), sent a letter to Chairman LaPointe basically threatening a shutdown of the summer flounder fishery in the EEZ if the ASMFC does not approve the same quota as NMFS proposed in their federal rule.
"The Commission should pay no heed to Dr. Hogarth's letter and move ahead with approval of a 19.9 million pound quota.
"As everyone here likely knows, we just passed the Magnsuon-Stevens reauthorization bill in Congress and those of us representing New Jersey were able to include legislative language that extends the rebuilding time frame for summer flounder to 2013. NMFS has told us that they will use this language and increase the federal 2007 TAL to 17.1 million pounds. While this is a tremendous increase from the 5.2 million pounds they were talking about earlier this year, it is still a drastic cut from last year and the lowest quota ever. The 17.1 million pound figure also represents continued efforts by NMFS to make up for their prior mistakes by cracking down on fishermen.
"The ASMFC can reject what NMFS is trying to do. You here at the Commission can approve a 19.9 million pound quota knowing that that level would still not allow overfishing. Once you do so, we should ensure that next year NMFS gets an independent peer-review of the science behind their summer flounder stock assessment, probably by the National Academy of Sciences. The fact of the matter is that the entire management of this fishery is dependent on a biomass target that we have never seen before in the ocean -- and we don't know for certain if we ever will, given pollution, loss of wetlands, and other environmental factors.
"I am glad to see so many recreational anglers here today, many of whom I know come from my congressional district. This isn't meant to be a show of force so much as a show of support -- to demonstrate to the Commission who would stand behind you if you are willing to stand up and adopt the 19.9 million pound figure.
"It's also a demonstration of how important summer flounder is to so many fishermen in the Mid-Atlantic. It's a huge commercial fishery and is one of the most popular recreational fisheries in the region. The Commission is deciding on this summer flounder quota just as you are also cracking down on quotas for other fish popular with recreational anglers, including weakfish and blackfish. Soon, recreational fishermen will find themselves with very few fishing opportunities, imperiling the other businesses that depend on fishermen.
"It's time for the Commission to stand up for fishermen and adopt the 19.9 million pound quota.
"Thank you for allowing me the time to speak."