August 30, 2006
Wish This Fluke Issue Was A "Fluke"
As a lifetime Long Islander and a recreational fisherman and boater, I feel it is important to address this column to an issue that will eventually affect all of us on this narrow slip of land that we call home. Hopefully, you are aware of the current dilemma over our fluke stocks. The issue has now evolved into all aspects of the recreational and commercial fishing realms, questioning what will happen next season.
Historically, it is necessary to understand (as best one can, as I still am in the dark about so much of this story) what took place in the past to bring us to where we are today. To make it simple, most of the angling world and all the industries connected to it in the basic domino principle feel that some changes are needed in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which was amended in 1996.
This resulted in a decision calling for over-fished stocks to be rebuilt in 10 years. It appears that the fatal flaw in this bio/mathematical equation is that the supposed formula upon which it was developed (to be enacted in 2007) is based on research done in 1930.
I know that most readers of this column understand that 76 years later, our marine conditions don't match what they were more than three quarters of a century ago. Everyone I have spoken to regarding this is either shocked, angry or some combination of both emotions.
To continue, the Magnuson-Stevens Act expired in 1999 and in March of 2006, new legislation resulted in a House of Representatives decision that created a bill referred to as #5018. Sounds harmless so far? Wrong, because the bill was equipped with a two-year rider, it actually threatens all recreational fisheries by putting them at risk for total closure at some future date.
Since most individuals involved with our island's strong fishing/boating economy are upset about the possible negative results, it is probably time to appeal to those we voted into office to stand behind us on this elemental issue.
Consider the possibility that perhaps Representatives Jim Saxon (R-NJ) and Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) failed to see through a poorly written piece of legislation that was enacted in the late nineties. Were they just oblivious or thinking about other matters? Remember, at that time a ton of environmental groups each with their own ax to grind and cause to celebrate, were showing up daily at the doors of these legislators, lobbying for specific goals.
The point is that now we are faced with a 10-year rebuilding plan that can't possibly be achieved. So, it's time to raise our voices to a level that can be heard. According to a recent article in the August issue of The Fisherman, Jim Hutchinson Jr. states, "Summer flounder stocks are rebuilding and we shouldn't be punished for achieving success just because that success isn't up to some arbitrary 75-year-old mark. It's unrealistic, especially with the absence of sound science and the total neglect of socioeconomic data. Even zero fishing mortality on summer flounder (fluke) won't lead to reaching this unattainable and unsubstantial goal."
Just think about it, not only will our recreational fishermen and women, as well as commercial anglers suffer serious losses, but if fluke are removed from our fishing roster, all the fishing and related boating businesses will lose serious money. Keep in mind that our island-based economy is certainly geared to the tourist trade, which helps many people to remain here on Long Island.
Let Jim Saxon hear from you via a fax at (202) 225-0778. Do the same for Wayne Gilchrest at (202) 225-0254. Send them both a strong message that they must respect and address the feelings of their constituents by allowing greater flexibility in the 10-year rebuilding requirement. Urge them to eliminate any wording in the present bill that demands that over-fishing be ended in two short years. If we don't make a giant noise now, similar to that famous shot heard round the world, all our future vocalizations will fall on deaf ears.
In support of this action, Captains Desi and Neil of the Celtic Quest and Osprey out of Port Jefferson are embarking on a cruise aboard the Celtic Quest next Tuesday to raise funds for United Boatmen. U.B. is a strong voice that has promised to meet the challenges of this fluke issue and others like it.
The cruise leaves the dock at 4:30 p.m. and returns at 8:30 and fishing will center on the Middle Grounds with targets for stripers, blues, scup and sea bass. Admission is $45 for adults and $35 for youthful anglers. All fares will be donated to United Boatmen, and all crew members will donate their pay and tips for the day.
To tempt anglers, a special dock pool for the largest fish will be awarded along with a raffle of one of Capt. Neil's custom rods. To register, contact either captain at 331-4253 (the Osprey) or 928-3926 (Celtic Quest). Get involved in an issue that has an impact on so many.
Good Fishin' to all of you!