STONINGTON--Connecticut’s congressional delegation is trying to level the playing field for New England's fisherman.
U.S. Representatives Joe Courtney, John Larson, Rosa DeLauro, Jim Himes and Elizabeth Esty, and U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy are calling on the federal government to ease up on certain fishing quotas for the region.
The issue stems from warming ocean temperatures, which have caused certain fish, like black sea bass and summer flounder, to migrate further north into New England waters. In turn, fishermen from further south are traveling to the Northeast to find their catch. The problem is that the mid-Atlantic fishermen have higher quotas because the populations of those fish have typically been higher down there, so they don't have to throw as much back even in our water.
“The mid-Atlantic fishermen operating in the same area can at times legally take more than 10 times the catch of the New England vessels,” a press release from the six leaders stated.
The group has written a letter, along with nine members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, calling on the U.S. Department of Commerce to intervene. The letter also asks for the Commerce Department to get the New England Fisheries Management Council and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council to meet and update what they believe are antiquated quotas.
Congressional leaders say these mid-Atlantic fisherman are coming further north, causing competition with New England boats in the Long Island Sound. And while these fish populations are increasing, New England fisherman still have lower quotas dating back to older population numbers for these species then the mid-Atlantic fisherman, where these fish were normally abundant.
FOX 61 was able to speak with Congressman Joe Courtney Tuesday from Washington. Courtney’s district, which includes Stonington, is especially affected by the quotas.
"We have North Carolina boats fishing as far east as the eastern end of Long Island Sound and Rhode Island for summer flounder,” said Courtney. “Because they have high quotas they can catch really large quantities of that species whereas Connecticut fisherman and Rhode Island fisherman and Massachusetts fisherman, when they catch summer flounder they have to throw it overboard."
Courtney said a lot of the quotas were established in the 1980s when these fish were situated in the mid-Atlantic region.