SUMMER FLOUNDER REGULATIONS
A chronology of events - March 7, 1995
By Gary Dickerson
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association March 1995 Newsletter)
The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council Monitoring Committee held a meeting to make recommendations to the Demersal Committee and Full Council. The monitoring committee listened to the staff analyze the 1994 recreational statistics and offered to the committee a recommendation for 1995 of a six fish bag limit, 14" size limit with no season. The reduction in the bag limit to 6 fish would bring about a 6.7% decrease in recreational landings (theoretically). The monitoring committee discussed several alternatives before taking a vote. The vote total was 6 in favor of the 6 fish bag limit 4 in favor of an 8 fish bag limit. The representative from N.J. fought hard for the 8 fish bag limit. I commend and appreciate the effort of our states representative on behalf of the recreational angler.March 14 -- The second meeting on Summer Flounder regulations with the MAFMC demersal committee and Atlantic States Marine Fisery Commission (ASMFC) Fluke board took place. The events of this meeting were beyond belief. The demersal committee and ASMFC board discussed and covered all possible scenarios from bag limits to seasons. I could sense a cavalier attitude by some of the state appointed council members (bureaucrats) which infuriated me. Their attitude was nonchalant as though the recreational angler was no more than a nuisance in their grand scheme of things. I listened to a very convincing argument by the Pennsylvania representative where he succinctly explained that the harvest difference between 6 fish and 8 fish is less than 3%. He pleaded with the council members emphasizing that this reduction on the recreational side coupled with the 3 million pound increase on the commercial side would severely damage the council's credibility. The floor was open to Public comment and the first to speak was a commercial representative endorsing the 8 fish bag limit. I had prepared a 2 page statement to read but my frustrations at what I was listening to got the better of me. I argued that if the council adopted a 6 fish bag limit not only would their credibility be destroyed but the voluntary cooperation of the recreational anglers would disappear. My perception of the council was DILLIGAF. I asked about the appeal of the commercial fishermans law suit and if it is successful would there be any penalties or quota reductions to get back any overages from the original quota. I understood their answer to be no consequences', reductions or penalties. When the public comment concluded the vote was 7 for 2 oppose. The demersal committee said let them eat fish cakes.The ASMFC Fluke board now had their turn to vote on the same proposal. A motion was made for 8 fish bag limit, 14" size limit with no season. The representative from N.Y. immediately made an amended motion to 6 fish. The vote on the amended motion failed 5 to 3. Not satisfied this individual made a motion to table the original motion of 8 fish. This also failed 5 to 3. The vote on the original motion passed 5 to 3. The ASMFC Fluke board disagreed with the MAFMC demersal committee. The significance is that most if not all Fluke are caught in state waters controlled by the ASMFC. The result of this vote was not so much a victory as it was a sign that some members of fishery
management are in touch. They can comprehend the charts and catch ratios provided in the recreational statistics.March 15 -- The full membership of the MAFMC convened to vote on the Summer Flounder regulations for 1995. I was not present to tally the vote but the 1995 season will be an 8 fish bag limit, 14 size limit with no season. The action of the ASMFC on the previous day left the council no choice but to accept the 8 fish bag limit. Any other vote would totally erode their dwindling credibility.I was upset by the actions of the MAFMC demersal committee but the total disregard of the management process by the recreational angler is far more disturbing. He does not involve himself with the management process. This very important meeting had an audience of about 15 people. I was one of three on the recreational side; the other 12 were commercial. Even though this meeting only involved recreational regulations the commercial fishermen tried to express their dissatisfaction with some of their regulations. How can millions of Summer Flounder anglers from New Hampshire to North Carolina pass over this kind of meeting without a care? One can understand the councils indifference if this is the attitude of the recreational angler.The Summer Flounder season will soon be here. Most anglers will have little knowledge or concern about the regulatory process that makes the rules. To those who read this tell Tom Fote thank you when you have the opportunity. It was Tom Fote once again speaking for and taking care of the recreational angler. Tom made the ASMFC motion for an 8 fish bag limit. Tom stood up for fairness that an 8 fish bag limit represents. He got us the 8 fish. Attending fishery management meeting, prodding the bureaucrats and persuing fair and equitable utilization of our public resource takes up most of his time. Tom is very fond of Summer Flounder table-fare so if you have one of those memorable days of great Fluke fishing share a few fillets with Tom. We owe him so very much.
Gary Dickerson is a member of Manasquan Fishing Club, a Past President of JCAA and is currently Chairman of the JCAA Fluke Committee.