The New York State Senate passed a bill on Wednesday that would give East Hampton commercial fishermen what officials say is some much needed relief.
The bill would help commercial fishermen by allowing them to aggregate their
daily catch limits over a seven day period and conserve fuel passed the
Senate, with just one vote against it, according to New York State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, R-C-I, Port Jefferson, who sponsored the bill.
LaValle's office said his bill "allows fishermen, for example, to catch three times the daily catch limit on Monday and two times the limit on Wednesday and then stay off the water until the following Monday when a consecutive period of seven days is complete." According to the bill individuals with different fishing licenses would also be allowed to go out and catch each of their daily limits from the same boat, which is currently prohibited.
“Fuel for running a fishing boat is extremely costly, and significantly cuts into the already slim profits of fishermen," LaValle said in a statement on Wednesday. "This bill allows fishermen to conserve fuel since they would be allowed to aggregate their daily catch limits over a seven day period.”
Danny Lester, a bayman from Amagansett, said the bill will help commercial fishermen, from small outfits like him to the big draggers out of Montauk, save money. "This is going to be better for everybody," he said.
"Say if I have a limit, I'm allowed 100 pounds a day, at the end of the week it's 700 pounds. Who cares if you do it one day or seven days?," Lester said. "If a fishermen does it in say three days instead of seven days, he's goign to make more money doing that because he is going to burn less fuel."
"It's better for you, better for the environment," he said. It also helps commercial fishermen, like himself, with small boats, because when the weather doesn't cooperate, he can't go out. "If we miss three or four days, we take a hit."
Daniel G. Rodgers, a Riverhead attorney who is representing Lester and about a dozen other fishermen on the East End in legal battles against the State Department of Environmental Conservation, said he is thankful that "common sense has finally prevailed" in the fishing industry.
"Sen. LaValle's legislation saves energy, saves the environment and saves fish (by catch, fewer have to be thrown back)," Rodgers said on Thursday. "It is astonishing how practical this solution is. Unfortunately, it merely reflects just how dysfunctional our current laws are in relation to fishermen and women on Long Island. It's time for change."
The bill also has support from local government officials. "I want to thank Sen. LaValle for once again coming up with a practical solution to a business issue. This is a win-win for the commercial fisherman, for the fisheries and for the environment," East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson said. "Now that the Senate has passed this bill, I encourage the Assembly to support the leadership of Assemblyman Thiele and then on to the Governor."
The bill would sunset on Jan. 1, 2015, when the success of the bill would be re-evaluated. If necessary, the bill could be extended, LaValle's office said.
The bill will now move onto the New York State Assembly, where Assemblyman Fred Thiele is sponsoring it.