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Coast-Wide Quota Increases by Thirty-six Percent as Fishery Rebounds
When the fishing season for summer flounder opened Jan. 1, 2002, a 24.3 million pound quota went into effect on the Atlantic coast, announced the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries), an agency of the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The new quota, with 60 percent (14.58 million pounds) allocated to the commercial industry and 40 percent (9.72 million pounds) allocated to anglers, represents a 36 percent increase over the 2001 quota of 17.9 million pounds.
"Summer Flounder is a fishery management success story, as the fishery continues to thrive while stock abundance is growing. This outcome is what we strive for in every fishery and is what can be accomplished with sound management rebuilding programs," said William Hogarth, director of NOAA Fisheries. "The commercial and recreational fishermen, in partnership with state and federal fishery managers and environmental groups, should be applauded for their efforts in helping the summer flounder fishery rebound. The hard work by all involved has allowed us to increase catch limits for the coming year."
While the recreational allocation is coast-wide, each coastal state is given a percentage of the commercial quota. During 2001, commercial fishermen in both Maine and Delaware harvested more summer flounder than their share of the commercial quota. Therefore, commercial vessels may not land the species in these states during the 2002 calendar year.
Under the direction of Dr. William Hogarth who was recently appointed to lead the Fisheries Service, NOAA Fisheries has strengthened its efforts to set annual catch limits as close as possible to the opening of fishing seasons. This will allow fishermen time to plan their fishing activities and learn about the new rules before they begin fishing for summer flounder.
The summer flounder stock has been managed since 1989 and has been rebuilding under a quota system since 1993. Though fishery managers have been steadily rebuilding the fishery, it has encountered a bumpy road along the way. Lawsuits were filed right from the outset of quota management that challenged quota accuracy, late season adjustments and stock management targets.
"Lawsuits are no longer distracting us from our primary responsibility of managing the resource," Hogarth said. "Summer flounder is showing significant signs of recovery. I believe our management partnerships and current regulations will allow the stock to continue rebuilding."
One of the most important steps NOAA Fisheries has taken to reduce lawsuits is to improve its relationship with stakeholders in the fishery. During roundtable workshops last year, Hogarth listened to the concerns of stakeholders in the summer flounder fishery and began taking steps to improve the process of implementing regulations and communicating with fishermen, law enforcement and the environmental community. As part of Hogarth's initiative to improve constituent relations, NOAA Fisheries is publishing quotas for upcoming fishing seasons earlier than previous years and is working to improve summer flounder stock assessments so that everyone will have more faith in the status of the stock.
The breakdown by state of the 2002 summer flounder commercial quota (in pounds) is as follows: ME, 0; NH, 67; MA, 938,765; RI, 2,286,310; CT, 329,044; NY, 1,114,800; NJ, 2,438,217; DE, 0; MD, 297,266; VA, 3,107,619; NC, 4,001,133.
NOAA Fisheries, an agency of the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation's living marine resources through scientific research, management, enforcement, and the conservation of marine mammals and other protected marine species and their habitat. To learn more about NOAA Fisheries, please visit http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov.