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Governor calls for changes in commercial fluke or state will sue

Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday told the U.S. Secretary of Commerce that the state will sue the Department of Commerce and fishery regulatory bodies if changes aren’t made to the fluke quota, which he says hurt New York’s economy and commercial fishing families.

The announcement, sent in a letter to Secretary Wilbur Ross, comes in advance of December meetings of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

If those meetings don’t result in a “dramatic increase in the commercial fluke allocation for New York, I will commence litigation and secure from the courts the rights of New York’s fishermen as a matter of law,” the governor wrote.

New York’s commercial fishermen were allocated 7.65 percent of a 5.66 million lbs. commercial limit on catching fluke, or summer flounder, for 2017, according to the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration. That quota is the result of “incomplete data from 1980-1980,” Mr. Cuomo wrote. Meanwhile other coastal states have allocations more than twice or three times that, he noted.

The limit causes an “inequitable distribution that injures the State’s economy and prevents fishermen from feeding their own families,” Mr. Cuomo wrote. “These outdated allocations have devastated fishermen, and will continue to impact the subsequent generations of New York’s commercial fishers.”

Mr. Cuomo said he had previously asked the Department of Commerce, fishery management council and ASMFC to take action, but they didn’t.

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who met with frustrated local commercial fishermen and fish dealers last month after the DEC set a temporary closure on fluke fishing, announced his support of the governor’s call for an equitable quota and legal action if that request is not met on Wednesday.

New York continually loses out to other states, Mr. Zeldin said in a statement. The current restrictions place unnecessary burdens on the local fishing industry and limit its growth, he said.

The congressman pointed to a set of requirements set in July that call for a one inch difference in the size limit for fluke between New York and New Jersey fishermen.

Using outdated data to set regulations “makes no sense,” he said.

“It is time our fishermen here on Long Island receive desperately needed reform and we stopped making decisions for our fisheries based off of old data and poor science,” Mr. Zeldin said. “It is imperative that we see this mission through, for all of our fishermen, and for all the businesses that rely upon our coastal economy. While there is still much more to be done to truly reinvigorate this cherished part of our heritage, this is an excellent step in the right direction.”

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File courtesy photo: Governor Andrew Cuomo