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Speak up to try to save winter flounder
7PM @Taylor Pavilion/Belmar BoardWalk Ocean Ave.between
5TH & 6Th Avenues

Published in the Asbury Park Press 1/05/05
by:John Geiser

New Jersey winter flounder fishermen will have their last chance tonight to speak out against the onerous regulations the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is proposing to put in place this year.
The public hearing, the last in a series held in various states, will be held at 7 p.m. in the Taylor Pavilion, Ocean Avenue, Belmar.

The ASMFC's winter flounder management board has two preferred options:

1) A 12-inch minimum size, six-fish possession limit and a closure in March and April.

2) A 12-inch minimum size, a two-fish possession limit, and a closure in January and February and from June 1 through Sept. 14.

The biologists have determined that the first option would result in a 45 percent reduction in New Jersey landings, and the second would result in more than a 60 percent reduction.

The board wants a 48 percent reduction in flounder landings along the whole coast. New Jersey lands 60 percent of the flounders along the coast, and New York lands 31 percent. The other 9 percent is landed by Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Bruce L. Freeman, research scientist with the state Division of Fish and Wildlife, pointed out last week that the big problem with Amendment I to the winter flounder plan and its preferred options is that it is based on coastal landings lumped together.

New Jersey has some of the best winter flounder data on the East Coast, and New Jersey's winter flounder landings have not plummeted as have New England's landings.

Paul Scarlett, the division's leading authority on winter flounders, studied the occurrence and movements of winter flounders in selected New Jersey estuaries, including the Shark and Manasquan rivers, in the 1980s, and investigated the temporal and spatial distribution of the fish that culminated in a paper issued in 1991.

New Jersey landed 1,012,734 winter flounders in 1981 and 1,056,144 in 2000. Massachusetts, by comparison, landed 5,643,405 flounders in 1981 and 71,653 in 2000.

Since New Jersey data reveal there is virtually no mixing of the New Jersey and Massachusetts winter flounder sub-stocks, why lump New Jersey and Massachusetts together, and claim the stocks as a whole are in trouble?

Tony Bogan, a spokesman for the United Boatmen and member of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, answers that question: "The data do not fit with their (management's) preconceived ideas."

In other words, the winter flounder board decided to lump all of the states' landings, and ignore New Jersey's valuable stock data in much the same cavalier fashion as the National Marine Fisheries Service did with New Jersey's comprehensive yellowfin tuna landings data a few years ago.

The ASMFC board went even further by averaging landings data for five years to reach a recreational landings figure of 20 percent of all winter flounders landed, recreational and commercial, when the recreational landings have been doing steadily downhill.

New Jersey harvested 44 percent of the winter flounders caught in the 1980s, and last year the harvest was down to 8 percent, not 20 percent. The commercial sector landed 56 percent of the fish in the 1980s, and 92 percent of the coastal catch last year.

If either of the ASMFC board's preferred options are adopted, then New Jersey's winter flounder fishery will be virtually shut down. For what, an 8 percent savings?

This is the equivalent of trying to save fuel in the winter by stuffing cotton in the keyhole of the front door and leaving a window open.

Ed Cherry of the Jersey Coast Anglers Association put the problem in perspective: "The New England commercial fishery has driven the overall stock toward collapse, and it, and it alone, must be held responsible.

"The JCAA is sure that if it were economically feasible for the New England commercial fishery to fish the New York-New Jersey Bight, they would have fished it to (near) extinction as well."

The JCAA, which is made up of 75 fishing clubs, as well as the United Boatmen, representing party and charter boatmen, and the Recreational Fishing Alliance, representing clubs and individuals, are agreed on the message they hope to convey to the ASMFC today: status quo, do nothing, leave the regulations the way they are in the New York Bight.

13,997 Posts

New Jersey has some of the best winter flounder data on the East Coast

Does anyone know how NJ came up with that data??
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