Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo threatened Tuesday to sue the federal government if two interstate fishery-management agencies meeting in December fail to reach an “equitable” redistribution of the coastwide quota for fluke.
In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross on Tuesday, Cuomo wrote it was “imperative” that the federal and interstate agencies take “immediate action” to “reallocate” the quota for fluke “in a fair and equitable manner or New York will be forced to take legal action to protect the interests of fishermen in this state.”
Cuomo gave the agencies until December to act. “If the December meetings do not result in a process for 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,” he wrote.
Newsday on Tuesday reported that dozens of fishermen, women and lawmakers met in East Hampton Town Hall last week to demand that Cuomo make good on his September 2013 promise to sue to change the coastal quota, which leaves New York with 7.6 percent of the catch while states such as Virginia and North Carolina get more than 20 percent each. “I’m begging for help,” Montauk fisherman Chuck Morici said at the meeting.
Cuomo’s letter to Ross noted the inequities. “Other states have access to as much as three times New York’s quota, causing an inequitable distribution that injures the state’s economy and prevents fishermen from feeding their own families,” he wrote. “These outdated allocations have devastated fishermen, and will continue to impact the subsequent generations of New York’s commercial fishers.”
Representatives at the Department of Commerce, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council were not immediately reachable for comment.
Cuomo in his letter noted that he’d previously called on the agencies to “fix the unfair fluke quotas,” but “no action has been taken.”
“I cannot allow self-interest to grind this process to a halt, while an entire industry suffers as a result,” he wrote. “Regulators cannot continue to manage this fishery in a manner devoid of equity and flexibility.”