FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 20, 2009
SCHUMER: NEW YORK FISHERMEN ARE BEING UNFAIRLY REGULATED WITHOUT REPRESENTATION - SENATOR TO INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO GIVE NEW YORK A SEAT ON THE NEW ENGLAND FISHERY MANAGEMENT COUNCIL
Seat On The Council Would Give New York Fisherman A Stronger Voice When It Comes To Fishing Regulations That Directly Affect Their Livelihood
Schumer Raised Concerns Last Month Over Proposed Rule That Would End Groundfish Fishing in Waters Off of Long Island Up To Southern New England - New York Was Shut Out of Vote on Crucial Winter Flounder Proposal
Schumer: There Must Be No More Regulation Without Representation In The Fishing Industry
Today, United States Senator Charles E. Schumer introduced legislation that would amend the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to add New York to the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC). A seat on the NEFMC would provide New York fishermen a necessary voice in decisions that directly affect the rules and regulations governing New York fisheries. The Long Island fishing community strongly supports the legislation. Just last month, Schumer raised concerns over a recently approved National Marine Fisheries Service rule that will close off the economically crucial Long Island winter flounder fishing industry. The rule, as is, will seriously impair the Long Island fishing industry, which was not represented in the voting process on the NEFMC, the key advisory body to NMFS for fishing regulations. Schumer’s legislation would ensure that important votes involving the fishing industry would include New York representation going forward.
“It is absurd and unfair that a government body that sets the rules that the Long Island fishing industry must abide by does not have any representation for New York,” Schumer said. “When it comes to fishing regulations, I am saying loud and clear that there must be no regulation without representation.”
Earlier this year, in response to declining populations of some species, the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) voted 15 to 1 to curtail days at sea by 18%. Although this is a steep cut, the committee agreed almost unanimously to take these measures in order to protect the long-term health of the Atlantic’s ecosystems and the fishing community. This proposal was a compromise plan that would have kept the winter flounder fishery open in 2009. Though this compromise plan, which was rejected by NMFS, would have helped New York, the fishermen of Long Island had no voice in the decision-making process.
However, despite the nearly unanimous recommendation of the advisory council, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has implemented a complete shutdown, ending groundfish fishing in the southern portions of the fishery's range, including the waters off of Long Island. The ban shuts down fishing of winter flounder, a popular harvest for Long Island’s commercial fishermen. Boats are not permitted to keep winter flounder caught in federal waters stretching from south of Long Island to the tip of Cape Cod, the closest offshore waters for local fishing boats. In addition, each day fishing in that area will be counted as two days against a boat's total allotment of days at sea. This new rule was proposed and adopted without any official input from a New York representative. Senator Schumer’s legislation will change that dynamic by allowing for a New York seat on the New England Fishery management Council.
"While we are pleased that NMFS recognizes that conservation of stocks should not preclude the economic viability of fishing communities, for those of us in New York, the new interim ruling is still a double whammy,” said Bonnie Brady, Executive Director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association. “Winter flounder landings represented 80% of all groundfish landings on Long Island in 2008, that's close to a $1 million dollar hit to Long Island's fishing families in 2009. For all other groundfish, we now have a 2-for-1 DAS count. In the NOAA press release Ms. Lubchenko refers to a review of NMFS' budget to see how to mitigate costs to industry; I only hope follow through on that measure is also mandated to all states affected by this ruling, not only those with council seats. New York needs a seat on this Council to make this process fair."
Schumer encouraged NOAA not to implement the wholesale changes to fishing regulations for Atlantic multispecies groundfish, which were proposed by the NMFS, and instead follow the recommendations of the NEFMC.