Pending approval by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), fluke fishermen will gain some relief next year from an increase of about 15% in the total allowable catch (TAL) for summer flounder. The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission agreed to a quota of 18.45 million pounds at a joint meeting in Philadelphia during early August. That is a considerable improvement over this year’s 15.77 million pounds that has led to economic hardship in the recreational fishing industry.
The public gets only 40% of the summer flounder quota, and that’s hardly enough to provide opportunities for recreational fishermen who historically (according to a NMFS document) used to catch seven times the commercial landings. The Scientific & Statistical Committee had agreed summer flounder are not overfished, and that overfishing isn’t occurring. They conservatively recommended a quota of 19.02 million pounds, but that was opposed by NMFS Northeast Director Pat Kurkul – who favored a range from 14 to 17 million pounds. The 18.45 million pounds represents a compromise. Whether the slightly increased TAL will help much won’t be known until the recreational survey numbers are reported. In the meantime, it’s still not certain that NMFS will approve the compromise quota as Kirkul abstained on the vote.
While there should be somewhat more fluke available, sea bass took a beating with about a 50% cut in quota that will probably lead to a resumption of seasons for that species.