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New York right to angle for fairer fluke catch

Some fishers must buy fluke permits in North Carolina to catch fish off New York, then have to bring that catch to Carolina ports.

A commercial fisherman sorts fluke on Long Island

A commercial fisherman sorts fluke on Long Island Sound. Photo Credit: Newsday / Mark Harrington

The state’s pursuit of fair quotas for New York’s commercial fluke fishery has been its own white whale story.

The hunt has been futile, and it’s lasted for years. Thankfully, officials have not lost their passion for reeling in a sensible solution. We applaud Attorney General Letitia James and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for filing a lawsuit against the federal government demanding more equitable quotas. The evidence is entirely on New York’s side.

The quotas, set by federal regulators in 1993, were based on flawed and incomplete data that underreported the amount of fluke caught by New York’s commercial fishery in the 1980s. The quotas left New York fishers utterly unable to compete with their peers from other states. New York was allotted 7.6 percent of the entire Atlantic Coast fluke catch. Outrageously, Rhode Island was granted 15.7 percent, New Jersey 16.7 percent, Virginia 21.3 percent, and North Carolina 27.4 percent.

There is no logic to the distribution. Worse, the percentages have not changed despite good scientific evidence showing that fluke have increasingly migrated north into New York waters. So now some local fishers are forced to buy fluke permits in North Carolina to catch fish here, then have to bring that catch to North Carolina ports, which often end up trucking it back to New York.

Yes, this is as absurd as it sounds. We would have preferred that federal officials listened to logic and corrected this long-standing mistake. But they didn’t. Perhaps going to court will let the state finally land the big one. — The editorial board

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