New Jersey is continuing its fight against reductions to this year’s summer flounder catch.
The state’s representatives to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission have filed a formal appeal of the commission’s decision to cut the flounder harvest by about 30 percent.
“We are appealing the ASFMC decision because of the numerous process, data, policy and regulatory issues that will significantly impact New Jersey’s fishing industry,” state Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said in a statement announcing the appeal.
An ASMFC decision in February would reduce recreational bag and size limits in New Jersey from five fish at 18 inches in the Atlantic Ocean in 2016 to three fish at 19 inches this year. In the Delaware Bay, limits would decrease from four fish at 17 inches to three at 18 inches.
The decision is based on federal fishery studies that indicate the flounder population is declining and has been experiencing overfishing since 2008.
New Jersey’s representatives to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted against the new restrictions. The state has three people on the commission: Division of Fish and Wildlife Director Larry Herrighty; Thomas P. Fote of the Jersey Coast Anglers Association, who was appointed by Gov. Chris Christie; and Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic.
The appeal letter states that the one-inch increase in the recreational size limit will lead to more fish being discarded by anglers — so much so that more fish will be killed from being released than being kept.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates about 10 percent of flounder released after being caught by recreational fishermen die.
“This will be the first time in New Jersey history that more summer flounder will die as a result of being discarded than will be harvested by anglers. This is not sound fishery management,” the state’s representatives wrote in the appeal letter.
Other concerns listed in the appeal document include the commission’s failure to consider the economic and social effects of the decision, the variability and timeliness of some fishery management data and the commission’s failure to consider public comment opposing the new restrictions.
Summer flounder is regulated jointly by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, NOAA Fisheries and the ASMFC.