Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) on Wednesday submitted a letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) expressing disappointment in the reduced 2012 quota limits for summer flounder stock in the recently released interim specifications. The Congressman requested that NMFS approve a quota that is less restrictive. The proposed 2012 quota represents an approximate 26 percent reduction from 2011, which would significantly impact the recreational and commercial fisherman whose livelihoods depend on a fair flounder quota.
For years, fishermen in New Jersey have sacrificed catch and complied with strict quotas approved by NMFS to rebuild the flounder stock. Recently, NMFS declared the summer flounder stock rebuilt, but fishermen will still face restrictive fish quotas rather than benefitting from years of limited access to fish stocks.
"New Jersey fishermen have abided by restrictive quotas long enough, waiting for the full flounder stock to be rebuilt," said Pallone. "Now that the stock is rebuilt, it is critical to approve a less drastic flounder quota for 2012 so fishermen and related businesses do not suffer economically and can continue to operate."
In the long term, in order to lift the burden on fishermen, Pallone has introduced the "Flexibility and Access in Rebuilding Americas Fisheries Act," which will give the Department of Commerce the necessary authority to ensure that the nation's fisheries are managed in a scientific way that protects fishermen and jobs.
"I hope the National Marine Fisheries Services will support my bill to create flexibility in managing fisheries so that both fishermen and fish are protected for the future," said Pallone.
The following is the text of Congressman Pallone's letter to NMFS:
February 16, 2012
NOAA Fisheries Service
1315 East West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Dear Acting Assistant Administrator Rauch:
As you are aware, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) recently released interim specifications for the summer flounder stock for 2012. While I realize these specifications are interim and based on recommendations from the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, I have concerns with the proposed reductions in quota.
The proposed specifications represent an approximately 26 percent reduction over last year's quota which will have a significant impact on the regions recreational and commercial fishermen and related businesses. Particularly during these difficult economic times with American families struggling, the National Marine Fisheries Service must consider the economic and social impact of such a drastic decision.
As you are aware, NMFS recently declared the summer flounder stock as rebuilt. This is not an accomplishment that has come without pain. Recreational and commercial fishermen have sacrificed catch and complied with strict quotas that were based on an arbitrary rebuilding timeline. Fortunately, in the case of summer flounder, a 3 year extension reduced the annual pain that was inflicted. Still, fishermen were promised that this rigid rebuilding timeline would yield greater fishing opportunities once a stock was rebuilt.
As indicated by this year's summer flounder quota reductions, it appears that fishermen are not benefiting as promised from these years of restrictive policies. This is in part due to the continued reliance on an overly precautious approach to management which unnecessarily places the burden on fishermen. I have proposed H.R. 3061, the Flexibility and Access in Rebuilding Americas Fisheries Act, which will provide the Department of Commerce with the necessary authority to ensure that our nation's fisheries are managed in a sound scientific way that also protects fishermen and their contributions to our economic vitality.
I believe that it is critical that NMFS support these efforts to create flexibility in managing fisheries so that both fishermen and fish are protected. I ask that NMFS further evaluate its options for the upcoming summer flounder fishing year and approve final specifications that are not as drastic as those currently proposed.
Thank you for considering this letter.
FRANK PALLONE, JR.
Member of Congress