Photo by John McMurray.
Members of the Network are speaking out against the recent decision by the Commerce Department to allow New Jersey’s noncompliance with the 2017 regulations for summer flounder set by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). This marks the first time that the Commerce Department has overruled the decision of the ASMFC and the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council, which is made up of state representatives from the Atlantic coast.
Here’s what Network members had to say:
Robert C. Vandermark, executive director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network:
“The Commerce Department’s ruling dismisses the science-based management and conservation measures fundamental to the Magnuson-Stevens Act and best fishery management practices. In this case, the Commerce Department disregarded the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s position and authority by allowing one state to ignore regulations established by the Commission to properly manage and conserve the resource for all.”
Charles Witek, attorney, recreational angler and writer:
“The Commerce Department’s action has seriously undercut the authority of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which will no longer be able to credibly use the threat of a moratorium to encourage compliance with its interstate fishery management plans. New Jersey’s successful adoption of non-compliant regulations can only encourage other states to take similar action, and may have sounded the death knell for coordinated fishery management efforts on the East Coast.”
John McMurray, charter boat captain, member of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, and New York’s Legislative Proxy at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission:
“At ASMFC, states vote on and approve management decisions that affect the entire coast. This makes compliance with such decisions very difficult. This decision shows it’s now possible, and perhaps likely, that states could put together whatever questionable data they can scrounge up and appeal to Commerce. That sort of thing would negatively affect other fisheries, such as striped bass, up and down the entire coast. This sets a really bad precedent.”
Dave Monti, vice president of the RI Saltwater Anglers Association:
“The Magnuson-Stevens Act puts fish first in this nation to ensure that fish stocks are rebuilt. Having more than 40 fish stocks successfully rebuilt proves the fish first policy works. When decisions – such as the NOAA’s decision allowing New Jersey to make their own summer flounder regulations – are allowed, they put the interests of individual states first. This is a recipe for disaster. States are subject to local political pressure to put local interests first, and the fish will take a back seat. The big concern with this decision is that other states will decide to fish the way they want to regardless of what’s best for the fish, and we end up with total chaos.”