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Fishing quotas on black sea bass draw lawmakers’ ire

Elected officials and anglers urged Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to get involved in the dispute with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

New York lawmakers on Sunday pushed back against federal fishery quotas and regulations that reduce the amount of black sea bass that fishermen can catch in the upcoming season.

“New York State needs to take an immediate stand against the unfair black sea bass allocation coming out of the ASMFC [Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission] by issuing its own fair and equitable quota and going into what is formally known as noncompliance,” Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said Sunday at a news conference with fishermen in Patchogue. “Going into noncompliance is never the first option, but at this late hour it may be the only one.”

If the state opts for noncompliance, the matter likely would go before the U.S. secretary of commerce, officials said.

The commission has mandated a 12 percent reduction for catches of black sea bass in New York waters this year, which would mean a shorter season and fewer fish kept each day. Black sea bass are a particularly vital species for recreational boats, in part because the fish are so plentiful.

“The 2018 fishing season is about to begin and with serious concerns about unfair allocations and flawed regulations, that will hurt Long Island anglers,” Zeldin said before about 160 people at Patchogue’s dock and marina.

Assemb. Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue) urged Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to get involved, saying that because the governor spends weekends fishing on Long Island, “we’re calling on him now to help out the fisherman, to stand with us and push back and fight back.”

New York State plans to sue the federal government if it loses an appeal against the restrictions on the recreational fishery for black sea bass, state officials have said. Last year, the state of New Jersey successfully fought quota restrictions on fluke and won once going before the U.S. secretary of commerce.

Zeldin said all levels of New York government must work together in order to have a decision rendered in their favor.

Long Island fishermen said the current quota puts them at an unfair economic advantage because people looking to catch fish can travel to New Jersey.

“It’s hurting us, this is our lives,” said Corey Stella, 23, a fisherman with Celtic Group, a charterboat company based in Port Jefferson. “This is my first and only job. We live for this.”

Joe Tangel, captain and owner of the Center Moriches charterboat company King Cod, said his job is the only source of income supporting his family of four.

“We cannot stand around any longer,” he said. “No cuts or no compliance.”

If New York opts for noncompliance and the appeal is rejected at the federal level, it could lead to a shortened or eliminated season for next year if there is overfishing this year.

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