(Long Island, NY) Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) announced today that he has filed legislation asking the County Attorney to explore legal action against the Federal Government on behalf of Suffolk’s commercial fishermen. Suffolk County has the largest commercial fishing fleet in New York State. Current federally imposed quotas allow neighboring states to take double the amount of fish per vessel than New York’s fishermen. The quota system, says Schneiderman, is based on a faulty and arbitrary methodology that punishes New York’s fishermen for the record keeping practices of a generation ago.
Federal regulation of New York’s commercial fishing fleet began shortly after the Magnuson Stevens Act (MSA) was signed into law by Congress in 1976. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is the lead agency in regulating federal fisheries.
The state-by-state quota regulations are prejudicial against New York Fisherman because the regulations are based on a faulty data collection model. The data collection method used in New York is called the “box method.” The other states used a method referred to as the “weigh out” system. The box method led to a major undercount of the actual fish landings in New York State and in some cases credited other states with fish actually caught by New York fisherman. Basing the quota allocation on the box method’s historical data is a “discriminatory practice which,” according to Schneiderman, “has impacted the local economy placing our fisherman at a competitive disadvantage.” Commercial fishermen have long called on New York State to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service, but the state has thus far not taken legal action.
“The state-by-state quota allocation system needs to be challenged and revisited so that NY fishermen can receive an equitable portion of the overall quota,” said Emerson Hasbrouck of Cornell University Cooperative Extension. “The methodology used by NMFS to collect catch and landings data in NY during the baseline period was inadequate and thus prejudicial against NY fishermen. The NY fishing industry was discriminately treated in an unfair manner in the establishment of the state-by-state quota allocation.”
Legislator Schneiderman believes that since most of New York’s commercial fishing fleet is located in Suffolk County, the County may have a legal right to sue on behalf of the fisherman.