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Pallone Testifies at Winter Flounder Hearing

Location: unknown

January 6, 2005

Says ASMFC's Management Plan Needs To Be Reworked

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), ranking Democrat on the House Fisheries, Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans Subcommittee, testified last night at an Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) hearing in Belmar on the federal commission's proposed Winter Flounder Management Plan.

"It's nice to see so many people here this evening. I think tonight's turnout not only reflects the strong opposition to the proposals, but also the incredible amount of dedication by all anglers to conservation and management so we can all fish in the future.

"Like many of you, I support the main goal of Amendment 1, which is to 'promote stock rebuilding and management of the winter flounder fishery in a manner that is biologically, economically, socially and ecologically sound.' However, I fail to see how the recreational fisheries management measures proposed in this draft are biologically, economically, socially, or ecologically sound.

"I have been following this issue closely over the past few months. In a letter I sent to Vince O'Shea, Executive Director of ASMFC, I expressed to him my concerns with the two proposals. These proposals would slash the recreational fishery by as much as 40 to 70 percent. This is unacceptable, and I can assure you that either of these options would end the winter flounder fishery in New Jersey and cause irreparable harm to the businesses that depend on it.

"Moreover, neither proposal offers a solution to the problem. In the end, these proposals will only hurt the people, not revitalize the fishery. My constituents tell me that the main problem here is that ASMFC does not have an idea of what the target is within the winter flounder fishery, and that ASMFC does not even know if this reduction in catch will even work.

"Why should recreational anglers reduce their catch even further? Recreational anglers have been reducing their catch over the last 10 years and it isn't working to restore the fishery. Furthermore, anglers are not getting any credit with their past reductions in catch. Obviously, this current system of punishing recreational anglers is not working, and we must find other options that actually work in order to make this fishery more productive.

"It's also unfortunate that New Jersey and several other states are disproportionately affected. For instance, the proposals in Massachusetts would only reduce catch by 2 percent, while in New Jersey we'd see a 70 percent reduction.

"For all of these reasons, I think we should maintain the status quo, and both the Technical Committee and the Winter Flounder Management Board need to go back to the drawing board, and come up with some other options that we can work with. I look forward to hearing what everyone else has to say, and I hope that ASMFC will work with us rather than against us to resolve this problem. Thank you."

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