David Levinsky writes for the Burlington County Times:
A proposal that likely will force New Jersey to make changes to its fishing regulations for summer flounder was advanced by a coastal fisheries management board Thursday despite strong opposition from state officials.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, a regional agency that helps set fishing quotas for the 15 East Coast states, voted 10-2 to adopt the controversial new flounder rule, called Addendum XXVIII, which would drastically reduce New Jersey and other coastal states' flounder catch limits.
The vote followed nearly three hours of debate among the coastal states' representatives and fishery managers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is responsible for federal fisheries management.
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New Jersey and Rhode Island were the only states to vote "no" on the proposal, which likely would force New Jersey to adopt its most stringent fishing regulations ever for anglers, such as a 19-inch minimum size limit, as well as a shortened season and reduced daily catch limit.
The exact changes likely won't be known until spring.
Last summer, the minimum size limit for flounder, also called fluke, was 18 inches in most parts of the state, with a limit of five "keepers" per day. The season ran from May 21 to Sept. 25, which coincided with the peak tourism season.
Proponents have argued that coastal states need to tighten their regulations to compensate for overfishing and keep the stock healthy for future generations.
But New Jersey officials question the science behind the proposed changes and say the stricter limits likely would make it impossible to catch flounder off the Jersey coast, a development that could cripple marinas, charter and party boat operators and bait-and-tackle shops, as well as other tourism-related businesses.