Northeastern red flounder: prices return, landings on track to beat 2020

The 2021 quota for winter flounder, or fluke, is 12.48 million pounds – up from last year. By the end of May, nearly 37 percent of the quota had been landed, according to NOAA. So far, since the start of the 2021 fishing year, landings are up compared to last year for the months of January to April. In general, state allocations vary each year, depending on the overall quota.

Unsurprisingly, 2020 has been defined by major market disruptions in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic. But in some ways, the pandemic may not have had such a big impact on winter flounder compared to other species, in part because it is a very well established staple in the world. many regions. Sometimes in 2020 the fishing effort may have declined, but some in the industry were fortunate enough to be able to turn to retail sales when the restaurant markets fell.

The average commercial non-ship price of the moat increased steadily from 2011 to 2017, peaking at $ 4.40 per pound, but then dropped in 2019. The total non-ship value in 2019 was $ 28.54 million. . The 2020 average price per pound was depressed compared to recent years – the average non-ship price along the coast was $ 2.58 per pound (while in 2016-19 it averaged around $ 3. $ 75 per pound.)

“2020 was definitely a weird year because of the covid,” says Kiley Dancy of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council. “We have seen a marked decrease in landings compared to 2019, starting in April of last year and for a few months.” But ultimately, Dancy adds, the landings returned to ‘normal’, compared to the 2019 trajectory. Ultimately, the commercial landings for 2020 turned out to be very close to 2019. “Preliminary data indicates that 9, 11 million pounds were landed in 2020, “says Dancy,” compared to 9.06 million pounds in 2019. “

A June 2020 study prepared for the Science Center for Marine Fisheries, as reported in NF, found that Fluke brings in approximately $ 151 million in total sales (for wholesalers, retailers and seafood restaurants) and supports more than 1,600 direct jobs. This year, some predict higher commercial landings than in 2020, while some say it is still too early to tell. “If the trends indicated in the current monitoring report continue ”, Dancy adds: “we would be on the right track to land more than the 9.11 million pounds landed in 2020. ”

In some places, prices have been significantly depressed this spring; what was usually $ 5 in early April was $ 2.50. James Lovgren, 64, a recently retired commercial fisherman from Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey, says that in his area, summer plaice prices fell by a third in April.

“But, right now, prices and markets are up where they should be, in the $ 4-5 range.” Lovgren adds that prices at one point last year fell to 50 cents a pound, mostly due to restaurant markets closing.

“I’ve been fishing for about 50 years, my family has been fishing the Jersey Shore for over 100 years,” Lovgren explains. And he has seen it all. “Last year was not the worst ever. In the 80s, it was bad. I remember the first time I piloted a boat … and 50 pounds an hour was good towing. Now 100 pounds an hour is a good tow. You can make a living with it.

This winter, Lovgren says, “you would have 1,000 pounds for a two hour tow.” Lovgren attributes this to what he thinks is a huge moat biomass: “It’s as healthy as it has been. “

Lovgren, also a member of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission summer plaice advisory committee, believes the catch caps are being targeted.

“I think the quotas are about right,” he says. “Twenty-five million [pounds] a year is about the right number at this stage. If they can do those prices in the summer, they’ll do fine. However, Lovgren believes that an annual quota reset is not ideal.

“They should leave it alone for five years, then review it, instead of being annual,” he adds.

If Lovgren had a magic wand, he would love to see “Chicago or Kansas City set up luck markets.” It’s more of an east coast fish, but only because central America doesn’t have access to it!

Although winter flounder is considered abundant and not overexploited, as with other species, environmental and climatic factors must be taken into account, including the effects of ocean surface temperature, ocean acidification, sea ​​level rise and air temperature. Some studies have found that recruitment of juvenile winter flounder to the fishery has been below average since about 2011. A 2021 habitat climate vulnerability assessment reported that habitats important to winter flounder “and vulnerability Very high and high climatic conditions of these habitats, respectively, show a potential critical link of climate vulnerability.

In addition, potential changes in commercial / recreational allocations and other management options and possible regulatory measures are being considered this year.

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