Assessment review moves summer flounder closer to finish line

Posted on August 05, 2008

HOUSTON, TX - A recent peer review of the summer flounder assessment indicates that the stock appears to be responding well to recent reductions in total allowable catch and is on track to meet a rebuilding deadline set for 2013. The review is a welcome piece of news for the stock, which has been the subject of much scrutiny in recent years.

“As time goes on and the fishery recovers, we will learn things that allow us to further modify the assessment,” said Charles A. Witek, vice chairman of the CCA National Government Relations Committee. “The scientists working on the review should be commended. Their findings are an excellent example of the kind of research that allows fisheries managers the flexibility to adjust targets and expectations. We have always supported the use of the best available science to manage our nation’s fisheries, and this assessment is further proof that the current process works.”
While the peer review did find that summer flounder populations are expanding, it also recalculated the target size for a fully rebuilt stock to a significantly lower level than had been used in previous assessments.
“This is a little like being in the middle of a marathon and finding out the race has been shortened to 17 miles from 26,” said Richen Brame, CCA’s Atlantic States Fisheries Director “Nothing has changed, but suddenly you are much closer to the finish line than you expected. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Did you really achieve what you wanted to achieve? We don’t know yet.”
By substantially reducing the target size of a recovered population, the summer flounder stock will not be as productive as had been previously projected, meaning that harvests will always be much smaller and regulations will always be much tighter than they would have been if the stock could have achieved the higher target.
“Science isn’t static. We will keep learning critical things about summer flounder as the population expands and we may find that we are selling ourselves short,” said Witek. “Lowering the rebuilding target eases restrictions now, but could carry long-term consequences that we find out we don’t like too much in the future. Fortunately, we have a system that allows us to review and revise as we go along.”
CONTACT: Ted Venker, 1-800-201-FISH