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Summer flounder fishing regulations will see little changes, if any

(Dec. 20, 2013) Little is likely to change in Maryland’s recreational summer flounder fishery regulations next year.

Assistant Director at the state’s Department of Natural Resources Mike Luisi recently returned from a four-day meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, where the major debate over flounder was whether the fishery should continue management on a state-by-state basis or adopt a regional approach to regulating the catch.

Either way, however, Maryland’s summer flounder regulations are already so liberal that, despite the state landing less than half of its 2013 summer flounder quota of 74,000 fish, they aren’t likely to loosen up.

“I’m not anticipating any change,” Luisi said, though “it’s really difficult to say with any certainty.”

The current state-by-state system for summer flounder came about after a uniform, coast-wide set of rules proved unfair to some states.

“States realize the significant differences between, lets say, New York and North Carolina,” Luisi said.

The state-by-state system now in practice — called the “conservation equivalency” — is meant to level the playing field across the East Coast states, but it, too, faces some challenges, Luisi said.

“It has to do with states that are side-by-side,” he said. “Whenever you have rules that differ [across states] and you have people fishing side-by-side… it just creates a problem.”

A regional approach to managing the flounder fishery could ameliorate that problem, lumping Maryland, Delaware and Virginia into one management area, for example.

Under a regional plan, states like Maryland that do not realize their full flounder quota could also help other, higher-catching states by ‘sharing’ quotas: Rather than setting more liberal regulations in Maryland, where the flounder size limit is already 16 inches and the season lasts through Dec. 31, the unused quota could help balance the catches of other states in the region.

“Instead of us going down to 15 inches or doing something different, we would just stay status quo and one of the regions could benefit a little bit,” Luisi said.

“It’s something that’s hard to tell fishermen… but as a coast, we work together to manage a lot of the fish that migrate,” he said. “At the end of the day, you just want your fishermen to have access to flounder.”

Ocean City anglers will have a chance to give their input at a public meeting, to be announced for a day in January, before the 2014 summer recreational flounder fishing regulations pass.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will meet after that to finalize the rules, which Luisi expects will come out in February.

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