Commercial bluefish season to remain open

The commercial season for Atlantic bluefish in New York State will remain open after it appeared the season would end about three months earlier than usual. Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) announced Thursday that the bluefish fishery will remain open.

“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,” Mr. Cuomo said in a press release on Thursday.

The bluefish fishing season was at risk of coming to an end when harvest data released by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration in June showed heavily inflated recreational bluefish landings from New York’s recreational vessels during May and June of 2015. This harvest data prompted the NOAA to declare that the transfer of pounds from the recreational sector to the commercial quota would be suspended in 2016, thus closing the commercial fishing season that had already hit its quota.

Immediately after this decision, New York State challenged the accuracy of the data and Mr. Schumer and Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos each sent separate letters to NOAA urging them to re-evaluate the data.

“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,” Mr. Seggos said in the release. “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.”

NOAA will release revised recreational landing data later this month, but has already adopted a federal rule that allows New York’s commercial fishermen to harvest bluefish at near-normal rates, according to the release.

Fishermen on the North Fork expressed that the bluefish fishing season coming to an abrupt end would have had a negative effect on businesses on the East End. Fishermen could typically count on the season lasting until November.  

Bonnie Brady of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association was worried about what kind of message it would send to local fishermen if the government closed the season. She said she is glad the season will remain open.

“Any time our representatives work in a bipartisan fashion to support the state’s oldest industry, it’s a good thing,” Ms. Brady said. “By doing so, they prove it’s not about the politics, it’s about doing what’s right for the people, and the coastal fishing communities of Long Island.”

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