Federal Government Revises Management Plan after Pressure from Governor Cuomo, Senator Schumer and Congressman Zeldin
Reversal Benefits New York’s Commercial Fishermen by Extending Harvest for Remainder of Season
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Senator Charles E. Schumer and Congressman Lee Zeldin today announced that following pressure from New York State, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has abandoned its plan to close Long Island's bluefish fishery mid-season. A new federal rule will now allow important transfers of bluefish quotas from the coastwide recreational quota to the commercial quota and ensure the economically important fishery can continue to harvest bluefish for the remainder of the season.
"Commercial fishing is a vibrant and essential part of Long Island's economy, and I commend the federal government for abandoning its ill-conceived plan that would have dealt a devastating blow to this vital industry," Governor Cuomo said. "This administration and the members of our congressional delegation will continue to fight for equitable policies that do not put these hardworking New Yorkers at a competitive disadvantage."
"With this common sense, flexible decision by the NOAA, we have reeled in a major win for Long Island’s commercial fishing boats," said Senator Charles E. Schumer. "With the quota transfer, our Long Island fishing boats – who were facing a harsh and premature closing of the fishery -- can keep earning, employing others and harvesting their catch. The feds did the right thing by heeding the call and supporting an industry that has deep history on Long Island.”
"Since NOAA first released their plan, I have been working closely with NOAA and NYSDEC directly to reverse the misguided ruling and prevent the closure of the commercial bluefish fishery, even keeping in direct personal contact with DEC Commissioner Seggos along the way who did a phenomenal job with this effort," said Congressman Lee Zeldin. "It was unacceptable that several months into the 2016 fishing season, federal officials abruptly announced that New York went over its quota for 2015, a decision based off of old data and poor science. As a direct result of our advocacy, NOAA took a second look at the data that was outdated and wrong, and revised their plan allowing commercial blue fishing to continue. The fight to make sure all these decisions are based on up to date data and sound science will continue but this is a solid win."
New York State often relies upon the transfer of unused commercial quota from other states to extend the season of its commercial bluefish fishery and this new federal rule helps ensure that those fish are available and the fishery remains open. As a result, 1.58 million pounds from the recreational fishing sector will be transferred to the commercial quota and will ensure that New York’s commercial quota will remain at over a 500,000 pounds, which is consistent with previous year's harvest levels.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "New York State takes pride in ensuring the sustainable management of all fisheries in New York, but mid-season changes to management plans by the federal government undermines our science based management efforts. Through Governor Cuomo's leadership, we have once again fought back a poorly planned change that would have crippled our vital commercial fishery in New York, and I look forward to continuing to work with the Federal Government on sustainable management changes that enhance commercial fishing in New York."
Through the federal Bluefish Fishery Management Plan, the amount of the transfer from the recreational fishing sector to the commercial quota depends upon estimated recreational landings from the previous year. Harvest data released by NOAA in mid-June 2016 showed heavily inflated recreational bluefish landings from New York's for-hire recreational vessels during May and June of 2015. This harvest data prompted NOAA to declare that the transfer of pounds from the recreational sector to the commercial quota would be suspended in 2016. At that time, New York State had already harvested approximately 350,000 pounds of bluefish commercially and the suspension of the transfer would have shut down New York’s commercial fishery in June, a severe economic blow to commercial fishermen.
New York State immediately challenged both the accuracy of the recreational harvest data and the timing of the data release, presenting accurate data from all licensed charter vessels during May and June of 2015 to demonstrate the inaccuracy of federal projections. NOAA's recreational harvest data was released 2 months later than normal which precluded New York State from taking any reasonable management steps to slow down the rate of harvest by its commercial fisherman.
NOAA will release revised recreational landings data later this month but has already adopted a federal rule which will allow New York’s commercial fishermen to harvest bluefish at near-normal rates. New York State will continue to work with NOAA to improve management for Bluefish to ensure an equitable quota distribution and that such an issue will not occur in the future.
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