Pallone: Recommended Cuts to Summer Flounder Quota are "Unacceptable"
U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) issued the following statement today after the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council recommended a reduced 15.77 million pound summer flounder quota for 2008. The two organizations made the recommendation to the National Marine Fisheries Service today during their meeting to finalize summer flounder management measures for 2008.
"Today, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) recommended a 15.77 million pound summer flounder quota for 2008. This is a severe cut from the 2007 quota of 17.1, and a drastic decrease from National Marine Fisheries Service's (NMFS) 19.6 million pound recommendations of only 7 months ago.
"This cut is unacceptable. As we move forward, NMFS should recommend a quota of 17.5 million pounds. This number would represent a 50 percent probability standard that the summer flounder stock would be rebuilt by 2013.
"Do to the lack of consistent summer flounder data, I, along with Reps. Jim Saxton, Frank LoBiondo and Chris Smith, requested that the MAFMC activate their Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) to do an independent review of the NMFS assessment and consider whether current environmental conditions are preventing the stock from rebuilding.
"I was happy to hear in a letter dated July 30, 2007, the Chairman of the MAFMC Peter Jensen wrote that the SSC will be tasked to review the biomass target for summer flounder and will advise the Council on how best to achieve that target and maintain a balance between conservation and utilization of our fishery stocks.
"As I have said to the ASMFC, MAFMC and National Marine Fisheries Service in the past, we need to be refocusing on the summer flounder biomass target. All of the issues that we are dealing with derive from the changes in the stock estimation models and from management decisions that are based on rebuilding the fluke stock to a target spawning stock biomass of 197 million pounds by 2013. In my view this goal is unattainable.
"That is why I have asked that NMFS immediately request that the National Research Center of the National Academy of Science conduct an independent peer review of the summer flounder stock assessment, including targets and methodology.
"I recently met with the Director of NMFS, Dr. William Hogarth. He assured me that he shares our concerns regarding summer flounder and would consider requesting an independent peer review depending upon the SSC's findings.
"Prior to making cuts to the summer flounder quota that will severely hamper coastal economies, we must be sure we have the most accurate data. That is why it is imperative the SSC begin its independent review of the summer flounder biomass target, including environmental and ecological concerns.
"Summer flounder is one of the most important recreational fish to resident and non-resident anglers. On average, about one million recreational anglers take over 2.4 million fishing trips directed at summer flounder in New Jersey."