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Mar 14, 2017 11:13 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Melodrama Over Fluke Management

Mar 14, 2017 11:50 AM

Once again, hypocrisy and dishonesty are drowning out all rational consideration of wise fisheries management in the public realm.The fluke quota for the Northeast in 2017 is still at issue, and the screamers who previously were blaming politicians for being the sole force behind steep proposed cuts to the quota have now turned to politicians they perceive to be on “their side” to intervene. New Jersey is, as usual, leading the way in this thick-headed prevarication.

Smelling a more business-friendly atmosphere in Washington, D.C., the New Jersey governor’s office announced last week that it was asking new Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to intervene and stop appointed fisheries managers from cutting the quota, because doing so would “effectively cripple the state’s fishing industry and have far-reaching impacts on the shore tourism economy.”

I mean, come on.

Is anyone playing by rules that presume a certain amount of honesty anymore? “Cripple” the fishing industry? Because the feds want to cut the daily harvest down to three fish per person, per day?

This is nothing new. Every time fisheries scientists recommend a substantial quota reduction for commercial or recreational fishermen, this kind of crap comes along. Fishermen scream bloody murder about how it’s going to wreck their livelihoods and “destroy fishing communities,” and that fishermen everywhere will “lose their boats” and become destitute wanderers with broken souls.

Then the cuts are put in place by the rational people—and everyone just adjusts to it. People still go fishing and still buy bait and still put gas in their boats. Fishermen find other species to fill their coolers or fish holds. It turns out to be just fine.

Sure, the fact remains that the fisheries experts (I know a lot of you will snicker at the term “experts”) are managing for a fluke stock that is not at the absolute minimum that can sustain fishing pressure without collapsing, which seems to be where New Jersey fishermen want things to be. And, yes, the scientific data that their estimates are based on is foggy and a little erratic. But not being 100-percent sure of the stocks is no reason to abandon a careful approach—it’s reason to embrace it.

The baseline this time around is a 30-percent reduction, not even the 40 percent that was initially called for. The most likely impact would be a hike in the minimum size for fluke, from 18 inches to 19 inches, and a cut to the daily bag limit, from five to three fish per person. That is it.

This is “crippling” an industry? This is going to have wide-ranging impacts on an entire region’s economy? You want wide-ranging impacts on an entire maritime region’s economy? How about acid rain from coal plants.

Only a handful of years ago, we New Yorkers had a two-fish-per-day limit and a 21.5-inch minimum size. And nobody lost his boat. And nobody’s bait shop or gas station or marina went out of business (at least not anyone who wasn’t going out of business anyway).

So, when you hear, or read, about this vast injustice these stupid fisheries managers are trying to impose on you, as though you are living in the Soviet Union in 1968, try to impart an ounce of coolheadedness, and above all honesty, to the conversation before you jump on the bandwagon of bullshit.

Catch ’em up. See you out there.

Fisherman’s Flea, 
Duck Hunters Happy Hour

Just a reminder: The Sag Harbor Fire Department Dive Team will host its annual fishing and sporting flea market this Saturday at the Sag Harbor Firehouse on Brick Kiln Road (behind the gas station across from Otter Pond).

And next Wednesday, March 29, the Eastern Suffolk Chapter of Ducks Unlimited will host a “Happy Hour” gathering at the old Polish Hall in Southampton, now called 230 Elm. Great opportunity to get together with other hunters and swap stories about the past season. Cocktails and appetizers will be served. Check in with Mandy Sachtleben at to RSVP.

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