It’s the season for the blues. Bluefish, that is. And Long Island’s commercial fishers have been reeling them in. But it’s a sad song they’ll be singing if the federal government follows through on a proposed immediate shutdown of the state’s commercial bluefish fishery, a season that typically runs through November.
The closure is not justified and is based on bad data, a problem that has hurt New York fishers in many ways for years.
For starters, New York fares worse than other states because federal fish harvest allocations are based on flawed 30-year-old data that underreported fish caught by New York’s anglers. Compounding that, federal regulators now say the state’s recreational fishers caught so many bluefish last year that none remain from that quota to transfer to commercial fishers this year, as is customarily done. But the survey they used to determine that is notoriously problematic and differs wildly both from other data on last year’s recreational catch collected by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and from data on recent years’ catches. And because other states also are being restricted, they have no excess quota to transfer to New York, another regular occurrence.
Bottom line: Instead of harvesting the 700,000 pounds or so they have in recent years, Long Island’s commercial fishers might be stopped at this year’s quota of 343,486 pounds, which they’ve already reached. Slashing the harvest by half would be an economic hit.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, Rep. Lee Zeldin and DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos are trying to persuade the feds to reverse course or put the shutdown on hold and re-examine the faulty data. They should use every option to make sure Long Island’s commercial fishers are singing the right kind of blues. — The editorial board