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Editorial: Deal on fluke a good first step

Dr. Bayman Anthony Sougstad unloads live fluke after

Dr. Bayman Anthony Sougstad unloads live fluke after a day of fishing aboard his workboat, the Finchaser. Credit: Charles Eckert, 2011

Long Island's fishing industry has reason to celebrate: Common sense finally prevailed in the battle over federal quotas on fluke.

This year, recreational fishers of fluke in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut will be subject to identical rules, ending an unfair system that for years put New Yorkers at a disadvantage compared to their counterparts from the other two states. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Sen. Charles Schumer are to be commended for their efforts in getting the regulations changed.

But the victory, while critically important, is but a first step toward solving the problem permanently. Our representatives need to keep the heat turned high so that New York once and for all is put on fair footing with its fellow states in an equitable fisheries management plan that uses quotas to rebuild stocks of overfished species.

The old system -- based on flawed and incomplete New York data from the 1980s -- left the state's recreational anglers with tighter limits on the number and size of fluke they were allowed to catch. Connecticut and New Jersey fishers, for example, could keep five fluke; New Yorkers were allowed only four. The new rules set identical tri-state limits -- four fish, none smaller than 18 inches. But the limits are for this year only and must be re-approved for 2015. There is nothing in the agreement regarding years beyond that. The new system also does not address commercial fishing, where other states' fleets are allowed catches that are double and triple what is permitted for New York.

So the fight for fishing fairness continues on these two fronts, each of which could achieve the state's goals. Cuomo's team is working with the fisheries commission that just approved the new regulations. Schumer is pushing legislation that would get rid of the old and inaccurate baseline data and permanently reset recreational and commercial quotas. It's time to reel in a final solution to this old dispute.


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