Courtney, Blumenthal, and Murphy Welcome Increase in Summer Flounder Quotas for Connecticut Commercial Fishermen
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), Senator Blumenthal, and Senator Murphy highlighted the announcement from last week’s Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) meeting that the MAFMC would be recommending changes to the Fishery Management Plan Summer Flounder that increase the quota for Connecticut commercial fishermen.
Before the meeting, Courtney, Blumenthal, and Murphy wrote a letter to the MAFMC and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) urging increased quotas be allocated to Connecticut fishermen.
“We believe that the MAFMC continues to shortchange New England states when it comes to commercial summer flounder quotas,” Courtney, Blumenthal, and Murphy argued in their letter. “New England fishermen—including many of our constituents who have spent their lives fishing in southern New England Waters—have consistently voiced their concerns regarding summer flounder quotas set by the MAFMC.”
Last week, the MAFMC and the ASMFC increased the annual commercial quota for summer flounder for 2019-2021 to 11.53 million pounds. The groups also set new state commercial allocations for quota that exceeds 9.55 million pounds. Rather than the inequitable allocation on quota up to 9.55 million pounds for New England fishermen, the new allocation of additional summer flounder quota is equally distributed among mid-Atlantic and southern New England states.
Warming ocean temperatures are causing some fish stocks that had formerly been more prevalent in the mid-Atlantic to migrate further north than they had before, including popular targets for fishermen such as summer flounder. The changing migration patterns of fish stocks mean that many fishermen from mid-Atlantic states, such as North Carolina, are now regularly venturing farther north from their traditional fishing grounds, bringing them into direct competition with New England vessels operating off the coasts of Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Fishing regulations for different fish stocks in U.S. waters are managed by a series of Regional Fishery Management Councils. Among the specific items that these councils regulate are the fishing quotas, or amount of a specific fish species that a fishing boat may catch. The mid-Atlantic fishermen, under the jurisdiction of MAFMC, can harvest substantially more summer flounder, black seabass, and scup than the northeast fisherman, who are a part of the New England Fisheries Management Council. While New England fishermen are catching more and more of these species in their nets, they are forced to continually throw many of these fish back into the water. The mid-Atlantic fishermen operating in the same area can at times legally take more than ten times the catch of the New England vessels. Courtney, Blumenthal, and Murphy, along with several colleagues from Connecticut and Massachusetts, first wrote to the U.S. Department of Commerce about these inequities in 2016.