Feds threaten shutdown of N.J. fishery as showdown escalates
Updated on June 1, 2017 at 5:34 PMPosted on June 1, 2017 at 4:41 PM
BY MICHAEL SOL WARREN
NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
Call it the Great Flounder War of 2017.
A simmering battle between New Jersey recreational fisherman and the federal agency governing fishing along the Atlantic Coast has now escalated -- with potentially disastrous consequences for the fishermen.
In a teleconference on Thursday morning, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) officially found New Jersey to be out of compliance with federal regulations. The decision follows months of wrangling between the two sides, casting shadow over the opening of summer flounder (sometimes called fluke) fishing season.
The matter is now headed to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross for a final decision. If Ross agrees with the recommendation, both recreational and commercial fluke fishing could end up banned altogether in the Garden State.
The clash began in February, when the ASMFC announced stricter rules for fishing fluke coast-wide in order to address overfishing worries. The ASMFC called for a a 19-inch minimum on fishes caught, with a three fish limit per trip over a 128-day season.
New Jersey's Marine Fisheries Council immediately pushed back and created its own rules as a compromise: a shorter fishing season (104 days from May 25 to Sept. 5 -- 24 fewer days than were allowed in 2016), but an 18-inch minimum.