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Fishermen loading a catch. (Photo: Oceana/Jesus Renedo)

Oceana wins fish catch lawsuit against federal govt

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Friday, February 01, 2013, 00:50 (GMT + 9)

Oceana has announced a major litigation victory that will require stronger accountability through catch monitoring for the New England groundfish fishery. This win establishes the first full count, cap and control fishery in the Northeast and will help restore New England’s groundfish populations to healthy levels in future years.

The settlement reached this week promotes better transparency in monitoring catch levels in the groundfish fishery, including discards. It also requires an analysis to determine the level of monitoring needed and the publication of an annual summary of the fishery’s monitoring needs for the 2013-15 fishing years. This analysis will be critical in determining how to provide accurate, precise and timely catch reporting. 

“This agreement commits the government to fully account for the catch that it regulates,” said Eric Bilsky, senior litigator at Oceana. “Our government must strictly monitor and enforce science-based catch limits to prevent wasteful and unsustainable fishing practices.” 

In 2010, the historic New England groundfish fishery for cod, haddock and flounder transitioned to a new management program that divided the fishery into “sectors.” In order for the sector programme to work properly, improved catch monitoring is needed to allow sector managers to halt fishing activity when the number of landed and discarded fish reaches the limit set to prevent overfishing.   

Oceana won a victory in 2010 when a federal court ruled that the fishery must demonstrate that discards would be accurately counted, however it soon became clear the discards would not be adequately monitored to ensure accurate counts.  Oceana then brought this new legal challenge in 2012 seeking better monitoring.

The agreement reached this week with the federal government will require accurate monitoring to enforce scientifically-based catch limits and help preserve healthy and sustainable ocean ecosystems.



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