Kirsten Gillibrand United States Senator for New York

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Gillibrand Pushes Feds to Update Years-Old Study on Summer Flounder Population

New Study Could Help Determine More Accurate Quotas on Summer Flounder, Assist Long Island Fishermen

May 9, 2012

Washington, DC –U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) today urged the U.S. Commerce Secretary to immediately update the years-old national study assessing the population of summer flounder, which could impact quotas for Long Island fishermen. With summer flounder season beginning, Senator Gillibrand pointed out that a new assessment is overdue and must include new scientific data to accurately determine the fish population and summer flounder quotas.  

Senator Gillibrand wrote in a letter to Commerce Secretary John Bryson, “I am writing to request that the summer flounder benchmark assessment be placed on the stock assessment workshop roster of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) at the earliest possible date... Summer flounder represents an extremely significant fishery on the east coast of the United States, and particularly in New York for the commercial, recreational and for-hire sectors… Science that regulates our fisheries should be both accurate and timely and further delay is simply unacceptable.” 

For Long Island fishermen, summer flounder or fluke, one of the mainstays of region’s fishing industry, are vital and help boost businesses, selling at $2.70 a pound in New York in 2009. The last study conducted by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) on summer flounder stock was in 2008. Typically, studies are renewed every three years. Both the fishing industry and academics have made requests since 2010 to begin a summer flounder benchmark assessment. Factoring in new peer-reviewed data on the species would improve both the reference points used to evaluate the stock and fishery and decrease the uncertainty levels on the overall estimate of stock population.  

Full text of Senator Gillibrand’s letter is below: 

Dear Secretary Bryson, 

I am writing to request that the summer flounder benchmark assessment be placed on the stock assessment workshop roster of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) at the earliest possible date. 

As you are aware, benchmark assessments for fisheries are to take place every three years.   The last summer flounder stock assessment workshop (SAW) was completed in 2008, and a new SAW was initially scheduled for spring of 2011.  However, it was removed from the roster in 2010 and never rescheduled.  Winter flounder, one of the New England groundfish species of fish, was evaluated by the NEFSC in place of summer flounder in the early 2011.

To date, a new summer flounder SAW has not been rescheduled for either 2012 or 2013 and as far as I am aware, no effort has been made by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to address re-scheduling, even though requests to do so have been made since 2010 by both industry and academia. 

Because the SAW was canceled, any new quotas for summer flounder have not been updated to include new peer-reviewed data from recent fisheries research on the species.  It is my understanding that the inclusion of this data would improve both the biological reference points used to evaluate the status of the stock and fishery, and decrease the uncertainty levels surrounding the overall estimate of stock biomass.  

Summer flounder represents an extremely significant fishery on the east coast of the United States, and particularly in New York for the commercial, recreational and for-hire sectors.  Any new peer-reviewed science brought to light that can improve the overall information and science of the stock and help to bring added benefits to all user groups should be included as swiftly as possible into the modeling formulas and stock assessment process.  Science that regulates our fisheries should be both accurate and timely and further delay is simply unacceptable.