Neighborly Rules Get A Hearing

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This week the fisheries managers who decide how fluke will be divided up among anglers along the East Coast held public hearings on a proposal to create regional quotas, rather than dividing the pie state-by-state.For New York anglers the proposal is a long-awaited turn toward a more fair and equitable sharing of catch allowances, and representatives of Long Island’s charter and party boat captains and the tackle industry made their voices heard in chorus at the hearings.

Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, there were a number of objectors in attendance too, because any time you make something more fair for one group of people, it’s usually going to be less “fair” for another group who willfully chooses to ignore the definition of the word fair (just ask residents of the Tuckahoe and Springs school districts). Needless to say, we are not a neighborly bunch here in the Northeast.

Our neighboring anglers, primarily in New Jersey but also Connecticut and Rhode Island, see the adjustment to a regional quota as robbing them of fish. And, technically, it will.

But for more than a decade now, New York anglers have watched fluke stocks grow and grow while year after year being told they must catch fewer fluke. We have watched our minimum size limits stretched to as much as 22 inches and our bag limits cinched down to as few as two fish, while our neighbors in New Jersey and Rhode Island, often fishing literally right next to us in the same bays and sounds, were allowed to take home six or eight fish that only had to be 16 inches or 18 inches to keep.

The regional quota would set a firm size and bag limit for everybody, expected to be 18 inches and four fish per person per day. These limits would apply only to Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey. That decision somewhat shifts the issue of inequity south a bit. Now anglers in Cape May, New Jersey will be the ones looking longingly at the guys in the boat next to them with the DE on their registration, keeping fish 16 inches long, the minimum size in Deleware. So the Cape May anglers, and the New Jersey chapter of Recreational Fishing Alliance—apparently entirely misunderstanding what “alliance” is supposed to mean—are staking a position in opposition to the regional quotas. It’s the American way, I suppose.

Regardless, it seems almost incumbent upon the members of the Atlantic State Marine Fisheries Commission to approve this tweaking of the rules to do away with a gross inequity founded on flawed science from two decades ago.

If approved, a regional fluke quota would only be a test run in 2014. The new rules would apply for a single season, requiring another round of review, analysis and hearings before it could be made permanent. So we’re a long way from equity being the way of the water. But if logic and a sense of fairness wins out here maybe there will be a few more neighborly salutes between boats.

There will be no sea bass season re-opening this year, unfortunately, but the little weather window last weekend saw some nice catches of cod and ling come to the docks in Shinnecock and Montauk. A lot of duck hunters got a season reboot by the heavy rain Saturday, which opened up frozen ponds and creeks. Two weeks to go.

Catch ’em up. See you out there.

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