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Long Island Fishermen Worried Fluke Regulations Will Kill Industry

FREEPORT, N.Y,. (CBSNewYork) -- Fisherman up and down the East Coast are reeling over just-released fishing quotas designed to save the fluke population.

At Freeport's Nautical Mile, brisk sales at fish markets are little consolation with news that the federal quotas will cut the fluke catch by 30 percent, CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported.

"The new quotas on the fishermen is absolutely killing everybody, and the prices of the fish, because of the new quotas, is sky high," said Michael Masone, manager at Captain Ben's Fish Dock.

"It goes up and up and up," one woman said of the prices.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is calling for the new limits to the popular fish "to ensure sustainibility of summer flounder stocks for future generations of fishermen and consumers" because "overfishing continued through 2015," the most recent year of complete information.

But angry anglers say the data is outdated and the science is flawed.

"A lot of boats have been put out of business already and more to follow if these rules go into effect," said Ken Higgins, a captain who takes out boat loads of recreational fishermen daily.

Fluke season could now be cut nearly in half, and each person will only be allowed two fluke instead of five.

"Fluke are the bread and butter on Long Island, so we really can't take anymore restrictions," Higgins said.

Quotas have been a longtime thorn in the side of those of whom fluke fishihg is more than a hobby.

"It can't happen," said Fred Golofaro, publisher of The Fisherman magazine. "It'll cripple the industry, and it affects everybody in the industry. It affects all the tackle shops. It affects tourism."

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said current science casts doubt on the need for such draconian limits.

"The limits that are put in four or five years ago that have produced more fish now -- it's not taken into account that we have more fish now," he said. "So they can actually raise the limits. Instead, they've lowered them dramatically, and that's very, very bad."

Schumer plans to urge new leadership at the Department of Commerce, which oversees the NOAA, to take a fresh look before quotas aimed at saving fish end up killing an industry.

The lower quotas also affect New Jersey, Connecticut and several other Eastern Seaboard states.

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