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Federal Judge Denies Dismissal of New York Fishermen’s Claims against Regulators – Holds ASMFC Accountable As a “Quasi-Federal” Agency
Steve Byrne

Posted: 12:00 AM Tue, March 17, 2009

Brooklyn, New York – In a precedent-setting decision issued Monday, Senior Federal District Judge Charles P. Sifton has allowed a coalition of three recreational fishing groups to go forward with their claims against the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC).  The coalition consists of the United Boatmen of New York (UBNY), the New York Fishing Tackle Trade Association (NYFTTA) and the Fishermen’s Conservation Association (FCA).  They filed their federal action last July, challenging the “state-by-state” management system currently in place for the recreational summer flounder (or “fluke”) fishery, and asserting that regulatory agencies failed to use the “best scientific information available” in determining state-by-state allocations.  These violations by the agencies led to inequitable distribution of the fluke resource among anglers of different states, and are also a factor in failing to properly conserve the fluke stocks as mandated by federal law.

The suit was originally filed by New York State officials in June of 2008.  The recreational coalition intervened in the suit in order to join ASMFC as a defendant, due to concerns that the challenged regulations (technically referred to as “conservation equivalency”), could still be implemented in state waters even if New York State ultimately prevailed in its initiating action against National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).  “The fluke fishery is jointly managed by NMFS and ASMFC.  The NMFS’ jurisdiction over the fluke fishery only covers federal waters from 3 miles to 200 miles offshore, while ASMFC’s jurisdiction covers state waters from the beach to 3 miles offshore, where ninety percent of the recreational fishery takes place,” explained the coalition’s attorney, Philip Curcio of Melville, N.Y.  “A win against NMFS alone would be a hollow victory because ASMFC would still be free to implement state-by-state regulations in state waters unless they are included as co-defendants.”

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