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Commercial fishermen hit with two-week fluke closure

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO The Miss Nancy fishing boat moving through Greenport Harbor.
The Miss Nancy fishing boat moving through Greenport Harbor.

Commercial fisherman in New York are in the midst of a fluke fishing closure that will run until the end of the month.

The closure began Sunday, and when it reopens August 1, fishermen will be limited to a daily limit of 50 pounds of fluke.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation that enforces the federal quota restrictions notified fisherman of the closure via mail several days before, saying it was necessary to preserve fish for the fall.

Local commercial fisherman have long felt confined by the quotas while other states along the east coast have higher quotas. They’ve said the allocations are based on incomplete, incorrect and outdated data and put New York fishermen at a disadvantage.

Island bayman John Kotula, who noted that he wasn’t involved in fluke fishing this year, nevertheless said it was puzzling that, with the proposed limits so low, the state would call for a closure of the fishery. “You’d think they could figure it out without closing,” Mr. Kotula said.

State Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and State Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) called on the state to keep its previous promises to bring litigation that aimed to strike down the fluke quotas for New York commercial fishermen.

Governor Andrew Cuomo had visited Montauk in 2013 promising to do so, and issued a further warning to do so this spring, when the state attorney general’s office filed a petition with the federal government to establish a fair quota allocation for the state’s commercial harvest, the state legislators noted.

“Our commercial fishing industry is an essential element in the fabric of the East End,” Mr. LaValle said. “It is way past time that New York State steps up to support our local fishermen by immediately filing suit to obtain equitable quotas. We need the governor and the attorney general to file the lawsuits immediately. Too many of our fishing families are being harmed by the discriminatory quotas. This needs to stop now. Assemblyman Thiele and I will continue to fight for the industry in every manner possible.”