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Fluke cutback is far too severe

A file photo of fluke taken on Jan.

A file photo of fluke taken on Jan. 13, 2014. Credit: Chris Ware

Long Island fluke fishers have long struggled with unfair catch quotas. So they were justifiably upset at news that poor reproductive success recently might force a 43 percent reduction in next year's harvest in order to rebuild the stock.

No one wants a depleted fluke population, least of all fluke fishers. But there are less severe options, and they should be pursued, at least for now.

Since the initial report of the 43 percent figure -- which would affect the entire Atlantic coast fishery -- a key committee of one of the two bodies that regulate fishing in the Northeast recommended a reduction closer to 30 percent and a phase-in period. That's a sound idea. Fluke data are pretty good, but could be better. Regulators should do a more thorough study of the population while reductions are phased in, a call backed by Sen. Chuck Schumer and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. The new data would dictate whether the initial reduction needs tweaking.

It's time, once and for all, to correct the quota system that puts New York fishers at a severe disadvantage with their peers in other states. New York's commercial fleet, for example, is allowed 7.6 percent of the total Atlantic fluke catch; other states can harvest two to three times as much. Cutting that meager allotment severely will put people out of business.

Let's take a little time to get this right, for both the short and long term, so Long Island's fluke fishers don't end up grounded.