Ristori: Flounder fishermen seek aid from commission
Friday, February 11, 2005 BY AL RISTORI
The Division of Fish and Wildlife will attempt to modify proposed restrictions on the state's winter flounder fishermen in 2006 by submitting a proposal to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) for conservation equivalency.
Governor's appointee Tom Fote attended yesterday's ASMFC meeting, along with the Division's Marty McHugh and Bruce Freeman, where the opportunity for conservation equivalency was confirmed.
Since the official catch figures supplied in the ASMFC Management Plan show New Jersey anglers catching almost as many winter flounder in the fall as in the spring, a fall closure alone should account for the 43 percent cut required.
Of course, those figures from the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistics Survey are blatantly incorrect as the fall fishery probably never amounted to more than 10-to-20-percent of the recreational catch, even when winter flounder were abundant -- and it's safe to say 99 percent of our winter flounder the past few years have been taken from mid-March to mid-May.
Nevertheless, that survey has been used to impose ever harsher restrictions on the public in other fisheries, even when knowledgeable fishermen have insisted it was wrong. This time, the Division may be able to turn that "best scientific evidence" in our favor by seeking to eliminate both the 10-flounder bag limit and the increase from an 11-inch minimum to 12 inches.
The conservation equivalency proposal will be submitted at the next ASMFC meeting in May after first being reviewed by the Technical Committee.
Keep in mind the fact that the new winter flounder regulations won't be coming into effect until after July, so this spring season will be run just as last year with no bag limit and an 11-inch minimum from March 1 to May 31.
In addition to providing New Jersey with a reduction to a 9-inch minimum for scup, the ASMFC also opened up January and February in state waters to compliment the federal opening at that time. It's important to note that the 9-inch porgy minimum applies only to New Jersey waters when the season re-opens July 1. It remains 10 inches in federal waters which start at three miles.