New Jersey Files Formal Appeal of Summer Flounder Quota Reductions

State’s representatives argue ASMFC decision will cause adverse impacts to fishery and industry

New Jersey representatives to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission have filed an appeal requesting the commission reconsider its vote significantly reducing the state’s recreational-fishing quota for summer flounder this year, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin announced today.

The 34-percent quota reduction ASMFC approved in February will have a devastating impact on the state’s fishing industry and tourism economy while paradoxically harming the long-term health of the state’s summer flounder stocks, Commissioner Martin said.

“We are appealing the ASFMC decision because of the numerous process, data, policy and regulatory issues that will significantly impact New Jersey’s fishing industry,” Commissioner Martin said. “The ASFMC decision will actually result in anglers in New Jersey having to throw more dead fish back into the water than they can keep to eat, and the fish they can keep overwhelmingly will be reproductive females. This is not sound fishery management.”

Click here for a copy a copy of the appeal filed with ASFMC

Click here for a copy of Commissioner Martin’s letter to Commerce Secretary Ross

Recreational and commercial fishing employs 65,000 people and generates some $2.5 billion in annual economic benefits to the state. Summer flounder, also known as fluke, is one of the state’s most sought-after recreational fish species, prized for its delicate flavor and easily found close to beaches and in bays and creeks.

To achieve the 34-percent reduction, New Jersey faces increasing the minimum size limit for summer flounder from 18 inches in most state waters to 19 inches, making legally sized fish more difficult to keep. Additionally, the number of fish that could be kept under the new restrictions would be reduced from five to three.

The petition from New Jersey’s three representatives to ASMFC Chairman Douglas E. Grout cites technical, scientific and procedural flaws as reasons for reconsideration of the vote. The commission was formed by compact to manage nearshore fisheries from Maine to Florida.

A DEP analysis of the quota reduction determined that the number of undersized, or discarded, fish that die after being returned to the water will be greater than the number of fish that will be harvested. This would be the first-ever such imbalance for the state. Flounder, like all fish, are susceptible to mortality from hook wounds and stress.

“Discard mortality that exceeds harvest is not acceptable from a fishery management standpoint and will not be well received by the recreational fishing sector,” the state’s representatives wrote, adding that such waste would be inconsistent with goals established by federal law. New Jersey representatives to ASMFC are New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Director Larry Herrighty, Governor’s appointee Thomas P. Fote of the Jersey Coast Anglers Association, and Legislative Commissioner Assemblyman Bob Andrejczak (District 1).

They noted that summer flounder in New Jersey tend to be smaller than in states to the north due to the species’ biological needs and migration patterns. Moreover, more than 90 percent of summer flounder in New Jersey waters that are greater than 19 inches in length are females, meaning an increase in size limits would encourage higher harvests of reproductive fish, which would also be counterproductive to sound fishery management.

In their letter, the representatives argue that ASMFC did not properly consider comments made by the public opposing the reduction during a Jan. 5 hearing in Galloway Township, Atlantic County. They further state that ASFMC staff found numerous mathematical calculation errors after the hearing that resulted in substantive revisions to the draft quota-reduction plan and did not provide the public an opportunity to review the changes and provide additional comments.

In addition, ASMFC did not properly apply technical information gathered through the federal Marine Recreational Informational Program, which surveys anglers and members of the fishing industry to provide more complete assessments of the health of fisheries, the representatives wrote.

Commissioner Martin testified before ASMFC in opposition to the quota reduction and recently sent a letter to U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross requesting that 2016’s quotas remain in effect pending development of a benchmark stock assessment to better understand and manage the resource. Any quota reduction this year would be on top of a 27 percent quota reduction in 2016.

    • John S.

      Lots of OTHER remedies to this but being the recreational “weekend warrior” I have no hope to change anything.???… These decision are made while I am at work making money to spend the weekend fishing.


  1. Vince S

    The regulations in NY are no better. I have had to throw out dozens of great 14-16″ fish over the past 6 yrs since the regulations were “tightened”. Throwing away 15-20 fish an outing has added to the scarcity of keeper fish since reports show that many of these die off after release. Why am I thrashing great tasting keepers you ask? Because the people who claim to know what theyre doing are obviously idiots!.. Im going to keep anything over 14″ this year and throw back anything bigger than the states mininum. Im not killing off anymore fish than I have to because this council thinks they know better than the scientists who have done exhaustive work to provide the data. If the council refuses to review and take into account this work, than clearly they have other more sinister reasons for creating such ridiculous regs that have almost killed off these fish for reasons they will say are necessary due to “overfishing”! Whats happening is, were forced to cull thru and overkill to abide by the rules.
    It seems to me that if I catch 3-5 “undersize” fish and stop fishing because I have enough meat for the table it would be against all good practice to throw those out because Im supposed to catch larger fish that are mostly breeders??Pull me over on the water and thats what your gonna hear from me. I’ll gladly take the fine for my day in court.

    • Michael Sandelier

      Totally agree no doubt !!!, however I’d be a hypocrite in one ares, Fishing off the jetty doesn’t seem as straining to flounder, nor will the lactic acid build up fishing off 18/28 ft of water. Now that being said, fishing in deeper 60ft 75ft ,it’s definitely a huge Hazzard for nice 17inch 18inch flounder to survive such odds of fighting off the angler. It’s a damn shame if anyone really new how many flounder die off two three days later. Especially when the fish look completely fine tossing overboard! They should take in consideration where fishing and what type of gear/hooks anglers are using .. on top of a few other factors to reconsider on which the state tries to conserve great bottom fishing. The laws need to be a little more open on hold they can protect NJ waters from dying fish after being hooked up.

  2. Sean

    Yup put a couple eaters in the cooler and call it a trip. I’m done putting 16 inch bleeding fish back to feed the crabs.

  3. ray sill

    Anything over 19″ a give back. A 16-17-18 a nice size serving. Nice size fluke over 19″ a rarity anyway. When the fluke get scarce, fishermen will stop fishing. Don’t take my sport away!

  4. John ODonnell

    Fluke fishing is open year round (January 1 through Dec. 31) in both Delaware and Maryland, and the size limit is 17 inches.


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