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Federal Judge Denies Dismissal of New York Fishermen's Claims against Regulators: Holds ASMFC Accountable As a "Quasi-Federal" Agency.

Brooklyn , New York - In a precedent-setting decision issued Monday (3/9), 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."

Capt. Dennis Kanyuk, President of UBNY, stated, "We're extremely pleased with the judge's ruling on this motion. As far as we are aware, this is the first time ASMFC will be held directly accountable in federal court for the damaging regulations it has consistently imposed with impunity on the anglers and fishing businesses of New York State ." John Mantione, spokesman for NYFTTA, added, "New York fishing businesses have been slowly choking to death over the last several years because of these state-by-state quotas, and we are thrilled that we will finally have an opportunity to try our grievances against ASMFC in a federal court."

Frank Crescitelli, President of FCA, agreed, stating, "We hope that this suit will result in more equitable and effective measures for conserving and rebuilding the fluke resource, for the benefit of today's fishermen and for future generations of anglers."

United Boatmen of New York (UBNY) is a trade organization representing the interests of "for-hire" party and charter fishing boat owners and operators throughout the marine coastal district of New York.

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