A federal fisheries council Tuesday approved a new approach to regulating recreational fluke fishing, combining New York, New Jersey and Connecticut into a single region with the same catch limits.
For New York anglers, the measure by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission means slightly looser rules on keeping fluke, with limits identical to neighboring states. The measure passed by a vote of 7-4.
Under the proposal, New York anglers would be able to keep four fluke of 18 inches and above during a 128-day season that starts early in May. In 2013, New Yorkers could keep four fluke of 19 inches and above, while New Jersey and Connecticut anglers in shared waters such as Raritan Bay and the Long Island Sound could take five fish at 17.5 inches. Rules for the coming season must be finalized.
The measure was pushed by New York representatives on the commission: Jim Gilmore, head of the state Department of Environmental Conservation's marine division, and Pat Augustine of Coram, a longtime New York fisheries regulator.
"We know the facts here: When are we going to own up to the facts?" Augustine said in a statement in support of the new approach. "The [current] system does not work."
The new measure would remain in place for a year but could be renewed in 2015.
Sen. Charles Schumer, who advocated for the new approach while pushing for federal "fluke fairness" legislation that would set a coastal quota for all Atlantic coastal states, applauded the commission's vote.
"This is great," Schumer said. "New York anglers have moved leaps and bounds closer to achieving our goal of fluke fairness."
Fishing boat captains applauded the measure.
"Anglers will have a better chance of catching their dinner," said Rick La Torre, owner and operator of the Captain Whitaker in the Captree boat basin.
"It's pretty frustrating when you fish next to a Jersey boat and you see them keeping . . . fish than you can just because of where you live," La Torre said.
"Sometimes the good guys win," said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, adding he pushed hard for the changes among voting states on the commission. Cuomo, who last year threatened to sue on behalf of New York anglers, said he doesn't expect them to revert back when the year is up.
Schumer said he'd been pushing hard for approval of the measure up until Monday night. He noted the endorsement of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration northeast regional administrator John Bullard, who spoke in favor of the measure before the vote.
"The fact that John Bullard voted with us was very significant," Schumer said.
Approval of the measure came despite some pushback by commission members from New Jersey, which saw New York's gain as its own loss. The Recreational Fishing Alliance, a New Jersey-based lobbying group, had called the regional measure a "shared recipe for disaster" and advocated instead for better data of fish populations to allow states a bigger share of rebuilt fish stocks.