Fishermen critical of a recent deal to ease black-sea bass regulations demanded further state action at a fisheries meeting Tuesday, but officials said the interstate agreement was the best they could get this year.
Around a dozen angry party- and charter-boat captains attended a meeting of the Marine Resources Advisory Council in Setauket Tuesday night to raise objections to the deal, which effectively nixed a planned 12 percent reduction in the state’s recreational black sea bass quota this year. They and a supporting lawmaker cited a more lenient quota for competing New Jersey fishermen, saying anglers would favor the Garden State given its earlier season open and ability to keep more fish at a smaller size.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s original order would have pushed New York’s season opening to July, but a deal brokered by the state and led by Jim Gilmore, the commission’s chairman and head of the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s marine division, resulted in a season that will instead open on June 23 - four days earlier than last year.
New Jersey’s season for black sea bass opens in May, and anglers in that state can keep 10 fish daily of a minimum 12.5 inches through June 22. They can keep between 10 and 15 fish per day in the fall.
New York anglers can keep three fish at a minimum 15 inches through August, when the quota increases to seven fish.
“Nobody’s going to Montauk for seven fish,” said Jamie Quaresimo, a Montauk party boat captain.
But Gilmore defended the deal.
“The problem we ran into is that we couldn’t fix this all in one year,” he said, noting the agreement with the commission calls for a review of the 2019 fishing year and a white paper to examine changes in the black-sea bass fishery, which is thriving and rebuilt to around 240 percent of its target population.
“We’re working on step two,” Gilmore added. “We’re looking at ways to bring sanity back.”
There are no plans to file suit against the federal government, as was previously threatened.
Mark Woolley, an aide to U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), said the only solution was parity for New York with surrounding states such as New Jersey.
“We got a raw deal,” he said of the state’s agreement.
Montauk commercial fisherman Mark Cusumano said the restrictions were driving the average age of fishermen up becauser fewer young people are entering the business, and boat captains are being driven away from the business.
“No one’s going to be in this room three years from now,” he said.
Gilmore, however, noted that fewer people attended Tuesday’s meeting compared to one in March that drew hundreds of angry fishermen over the planned 12 percent reduction.
There are “three times the number of guys who are happy” with the reduction, in contrast with those who are not, he said. “They’re not here.”