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Rep. Zeldin pushes bill allowing striped bass fishing off Montauk

Some of the fishing fleet in Montauk Harbor

Some of the fishing fleet in Montauk Harbor is seen in August 2016. Credit: Newsday / Mark Harrington

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) has proposed a bill that would permit striped bass fishing in federal waters off the coast of Montauk.

The Local Fishing Access Act, introduced in the House on Feb. 16, would reverse restrictions on striped bass fishing in the Block Island Transit Zone between Montauk Point and Block Island. While other types of fishing are permitted in this zone, striped bass fishing has been prohibited since 1990 after a sharp decline in the stripers’ population.

In neighboring New York and Rhode Island waters, both commercial and recreational fishermen can catch a limited number of striped bass.

“The Local Fishing Access Act would eliminate the regulatory confusion hurting the hardworking, responsible men and women of the region’s struggling fishing communities, while freeing up Coast Guard and other law enforcement resources that are diverted from more critical missions, such as national security and vessel safety,” Zeldin said in a Feb. 21 news release.

A regional fisheries commission would determine which types of fishing gear are allowed, Zeldin spokeswoman Jennifer DiSiena said.

Charles Witek, a member of the New York Marine Resources Advisory Council, said increasing recreational fishing in the area would threaten the striped bass population, which is just higher than the threshold denoting overfishing.

“We shouldn’t be doing anything to put that stock at risk given its current state,” Witek said Thursday.

Witek agreed with a supporter of the bill that overfishing caused by commercial fishermen would likely be prevented by a highly regulated quota system that dictates the number of striped bass permitted to be caught.

“It’s not going to increase the commercial catch. It’s going to increase the territory,” said Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association in Montauk.

Zeldin proposed a similar bill to permit recreational striped bass fishing in the Block Island Transit Zone in July 2015. The proposed legislation passed in the House in April and was not voted on by the Senate.

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