It’s not clear how much Wilbur L. Ross Jr. knows about fishing or the complex world of marine regulations.
But members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation hope Ross, who was sworn in as secretary of commerce Tuesday, will step into an intense fight over summer flounder catch guidelines.
The delegation wasted no time in appealing to Ross, who now oversees the agencies tasked with regulating the fishing industry. A bipartisan letter sent Tuesday and signed by 12 New Jersey lawmakers, including both U.S. senators and U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd, asked the former billionaire businessman to considering putting approved flounder reductions on hold.
Last month, a federal regulatory commission voted in favor of an option to cut fluke limits for recreational and commercial fishermen by 28 percent to 32 percent for 2017.
Example measures presented in the approved document suggest recreational limits for keepers could be set to three fish at 19 inches in the Atlantic Ocean and three at 18 inches in the Delaware Bay for a 128-day season.
That would represent a significant reduction from last year’s rules, when recreational anglers were allowed to keep five fish at 18 inches in the ocean and four at 17 inches in the bay.
“If implemented, a reduction of this magnitude will have harsh and immediate economic consequences for families and businesses along New Jersey’s 130 mile shoreline — many still struggling to fully recover from Superstorm Sandy,” the letter said.
The letter states the tightened regulations will hurt seaside communities, local businesses, the tourism industry and local governments in the form of lost revenue.
Federal experts say the flounder reductions are necessary to prevent depletion of the stock, which reports indicate is in “an overfishing situation.”
The letter expressed concerns about how the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration measures the flounder stock and asks Ross to order a review of the methodology of these measurements.
State data have shown the flounder stock has been stable since at least 1992, according to the letter.
The letter is the latest attempt by New Jersey lawmakers to thwart the regulations.
Last Thursday, LoBiondo and U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-6th, announced their intent to introduce a bill that would stop the cuts and maintain 2016 regulations for 2017.