Long Island Fishermen, Pol, Push New Rules

fishing boat
A fishing boat at sunset in the waters off Long Beach recently (Joseph Abate)
fishing boat
A fishing boat at sunset in the waters off Long Beach recently (Joseph Abate)

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) announced Monday congressional oversight hearings have been scheduled that will include testimony from Long Island fishermen concerned that federal fishing regulations are overly strict.

The senator joined local fishing industry advocates at the Freeport Boatmen’s Association to argue that summer fluke, or flounder—a fish that was big business off the shores of LI—has rebounded from prior overfishing that the regulations were meant to correct.

“Long Island fishing industry is the life-blood of communities,” Schumer said. “We must do everything we can to make sure federal fishing rules allow it to grow and thrive, not wither and die.”

The oversight hearings will come this fall once Congress considers the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act, which established fishing limits the senator and industry argue are based on flawed scientific data.

Schumer hopes to secure a provision in the law that would grant the summer flounder fishery a three-year extension on its rebuilding plan and allow regulators to strike a balance. The goal is to allow fisherman to continue fishing, but also limit the catch to a level that allows the population to rebuild.

“You can balance commerce and conservation,” said Jim Hutchinson, director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance. “Even though the fishery is healthy, we can’t get access to it, and that’s just wrong.”

Schumer also wants to obtain funding for scientific research to better understand the summer flounder population. Fishermen agreed some fish are not correctly represented by the current data-collection system.

“This hearing is a shot across the bow,” Schumer said.