April 10, 2017 — With their rows of sharp buck teeth, their downturned mouths, and both eyes on one side of their curiously flat bodies, summer flounder might seem beautiful only to one another.
But this delicately flavored flatfish is the pinup girl, the heart’s desire, of thousands of New Jersey’s recreational fishermen — and has long been the source of many millions of dollars in tourism revenue each summer. For that reason the state has petitioned a federal commission to reverse its new restrictions on catching summer flounder in state waters in 2017.
“If you talk to any recreational angler they’ll tell you how important flounder is in New Jersey,” explained Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection. He said summer flounder, also called fluke, is one of the top draws to the state’s $1.5 billion recreational fishing industry.
Flounder’s popularity is no secret, however, to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission based in Arlington, Va. Its website describes the species as “highly prized in the recreational fishery” because they are easily caught with hook and line from beaches, piers, and boats.
The commission, a subsidiary of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration composed of three representatives from each state on the Atlantic coast, in February ordered a 34 percent reduction in catches for 2017, even after a 27 percent reduction in 2016.