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Post date: June 23 2008

Cuomo Sues Federal Government To Overturn Illegal Marine Fishing Regulations That Threaten Long Island's Recreational Fishing Industry

NEW YORK, NY (June 23, 2008) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a lawsuit against the federal Department of Commerce for violating federal law with its new limits on recreational catches of summer flounder along the east coast.  The suit charges that their regulations will harm New York’s anglers and the recreational fishing industry, without benefiting the long-term health of these popular sportfish. 

“The federal government, through its use of outdated and unfair data, has created a perfect storm for fishermen and recreational boaters across Long Island,” said Attorney General Cuomo.  “Long Island fishermen should not be at a disadvantage to anglers who come from a New Jersey port.  These arbitrary limits on fluke fishing are hurting our recreational fishing industry, yet are not properly protecting our fisheries.  My office is working to ensure that New Yorkers are no longer subject to these illegal regulations.”

Each year, the Department of Commerce, through the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), sets limits on size, daily catch, and fishing season length for recreational catches of summer flounder - commonly referred to as “fluke” - for the coastal waters stretching from North Carolina to Massachusetts.  The NMFS then chooses either to adopt one “coast wide” set of regulations for the entire coast or different regulations on a state-by-state basis.  If the NMFS chooses a state-by-state approach, federal law requires that all states are treated fairly and that the regulations are based on the best available scientific data.

In May 2008, the NMFS adopted state-by-state limits for regulating summer flounder catches for the current season.  In violation of the laws governing state-by-state regulations, the new regulations subject New York anglers to the strictest catch limits of any other state, including neighboring states.  For example, New Yorkers can keep four fewer fish per day than New Jersey anglers.  New Yorkers are also only allowed to keep fluke over 20.5 inches -- two and a half inches longer than those that can be kept by New Jersey anglers -- barring New Yorkers from keeping most of the fish they catch.  Furthermore, the NMFS based the new regulations on a one-year survey conducted almost 10 years ago; experts have severely criticized this survey as being scientifically invalid.  Finally, there is no evidence that the state-by-state regulations adopted by the NMFS properly conserves the population of fluke, which is the ultimate goal of these regulations.

The suit filed today seeks to invalidate the new federal regulations and to direct the NMFS to adopt the alternative “coast wide” approach for managing recreational east coast catches of summer flounder.  The lawsuit was filed in the United State District Court for the Eastern District of New York. 

The suit is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Gershon under the supervision of Special Deputy Attorney General for Environmental Protection Katherine Kennedy.