Pallone STATEMENT AT RECREATIONAL FISHING ALLIANCE TOWN MEETING ON 2008 QUOTA PROCESS
U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) released the following statement today during the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) Town Meeting in Belmar. RFA is hosting the meeting to give the public a chance to discuss the 2008 recreational fishing quota process, which has not yet been finalized. Last year, the quota for summer flounder was reduced, and recreational fishermen may again see cutbacks for the 2008 season. Pallone opposes drastic cuts to the summer flounder quota.
"In August, 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 the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) 19.6 million pound recommendation of less then a year ago.
"This cut is unacceptable. The reason for the decrease in quota stems from the council's overestimation of increases in spawning stock biomass and an underestimation in mortality rates in 2006. These factors, along with others, were used in a retrospective analysis of the fluke quota leading to the substantial cut.
"At the August meeting, I asked the members of the ASMFC and the MAFMC to avoid making any drastic cuts to the 2007 summer flounder quota and recommended 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, but would eliminate the retrospective analysis.
"Since the current data is clearly unreliable, I have requested that the House Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans hold a hearing on the rebuilding targets and the science used to develop the yearly quotas.
"This hearing would give recreational and commercial fisherman a chance to testify before Congress and make their case that the current rebuilding targets are unattainable. It will also give members of Congress the opportunity to question NMFS about the "best available science" used in creating the yearly total allowable landing (TAL) limits.
"It is imperative that Congress ask whether the current rebuilding targets have taken in to account environmental factors such as over development and the degradation of our estuaries. We should also ask NMFS whether they believe the current ecosystem can sustain all species at the rebuilt levels with regard to predator/prey relationship.
"Prior to using formulas that will severely hamper coastal economies, we must be sure we have the most accurate data. That is why 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 that 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.
"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.
"Recreational fishing directed at summer flounder is a critical component of the state's economy. Anglers in New Jersey targeting summer flounder spend over $300 million in expenditures support 2,800 full time equivalent jobs and produce $18 million in sales tax income per year. Commercial and recreational fisherman throughout my district specifically target summer flounder and derive a significant portion of their income from this species. They are dependant upon sufficient summer flounder quota to remain active in this fishery.
"All involved -- managers, elected officials, and fishermen -- need to work together in the future to find ways to produce more consistent quota numbers so that fishermen are not on this roller coaster from year to year, wondering what their limits will be and if they can earn a living.
"I hope we can come away from this meaning with workable solutions that will help rebuild the stock without dramatic cut backs to recreational and commercial fishing."