Yesterday, I was working in the yard and something caught my eye down on the dock. An osprey landed on the gantry at the end of the dock with a very large flounder in its talons. I first thought that it was one heck of a big winter flounder and wondered if the local population was on the comeback. Maybe I should try fishing for them. I thought of running down the dock in hopes that the osprey would drop the fish and I’d find out for sure. No such luck. The bird shredded a few pieces of the fish and took off, fish in talons, for its nest in a nearby pine tree.
A short while later, I was reading an article, Uncivil War Breaks Out Over Fluke as Habitat Shifts North, from Scientific American (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/uncivil-war-breaks-out-over-fluke-as-habitat-shifts-north/) . The lead illustration was a picture of an osprey landing in its nest with a big summer flounder or fluke. Could it be that what I saw was a summer flounder not a winter flounder? They have been around to the north side of Cape Cod for a number of years, but I look out on Casco Bay almost the Mid Coast of Maine! Now I am very curious.
Back to the article, which chronicles the northward migration of summer flounder along the Atlantic Coast and the ongoing battles between states over quotas. The center of the population has moved from Virginia north to New Jersey and by all accounts will continue this kind of movement. From the commercial side, vessels with permits issued by individual states may catch their fish to the north of traditional grounds but still have to land their quota in that state’s new region or maybe the state where the permit was issued. For the recreational side, each state has individual regulations that comply with its region’s requirements. Right now, Maine has no regulations for summer flounder. I suppose that they would have to operate under the northern region’s regulations if folks start catching them here. Or, if that really was a fluke (pun intended), maybe I’ll be able to simply fill the boat! Just kidding.
To confuse the matter even more, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, is introducing legislation called “fluke fairness.” According to Schumer, this legislation will be included in the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and would, among other things, eliminate state-by-state quotas, which he is being told short-change New York’s fishermen. I am not really sure how that would work or if it can be implemented. Those states with a lot of quota are not going to want to give it up. Also, eliminating the state-by-state quotas may lead to a derby fishery or, worse, overfishing. The potential legislation also advocates for updating the allocation split between recreational and commercial, which is something that many in the recreational industry have pushed. However, addressing this has failed in the management process every time. If that change is the desired outcome, let the games begin! I am beginning to sense that MSA reauthorization is getting bogged down with a lot of add-ons.
National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy
As this is being written, National Fishing and Boating week is being celebrated in our nation’s capital. Unless you are involved in the recreational fishing or boating industries, this event is a big yawn. For the folks in the business, it is a time to showcase these two economically important industries. It is also a time to meet and greet congressional staffers and their bosses. All part of the process.
NOAA Fisheries took the opportunity with the beginning of National Fishing and Boating week to continue to promote the work it is doing with the recreational industry and constituents to develop a national saltwater recreational fisheries policy. There will be many opportunities for all of us to participate, either in person, on the phone or online. However it is done, NOAA needs to hear from us. I’m planning on attending the Portland, Maine, town hall meeting on 17 June. The complete list of town halls and all the other necessary information for your participation can be found online. http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/management/recreational/policy/index.html
The one thing that will ensure a poor outcome is lack of participation. I urge everyone to make an effort to be part of the process. It’s fairly painless, so just do it!