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Unloading a trawl net. (Photo Credit: NOAA)

Attorney General sues NOAA over quota cuts

Click on the flag for more information about United States UNITED STATES
Friday, May 31, 2013, 23:50 (GMT + 9)

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has filed suit against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for ignoring the ruinous economic effects of the new enforcement and regulation of New England’s groundfish stock and allegedly using flawed science to over-restrict Massachusetts’s fishing industry. Her goal is to remove these new rules and to obtain other relief to mitigate the impact on regional fishers and keep the industry from dying off.

“These new regulations will be a death sentence for the Massachusetts fishing industry as we know it, devastating the fishing communities in our Commonwealth,” Coakley said. “The federal government has shown a callous disregard for the well-being of Massachusetts fishing families.”

According to the complaint filed in the US District Court in Boston, Massachusetts, after moving to “catch shares” in 2004, the Northeast Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) recently adopted a 77 per cent cut of groundfish allotments across the region starting on 1 May. The complaint seeks to keep the government from over-regulating the fishing industry by invalidating this latest regulation.

The complaint alleges that the NEFMC’s decision was based on antiquated and unfounded methods, not the latest scientific findings, relying on estimates using very questionable methods.

Further, the complaint claims that when creating the criteria to impose a 77 per cent reduction, the NEFMC did not sufficiently consider the economic impact it would have on the fishing industry, as required by federal law. The lawsuit also alleges that NOAA did not try to mitigate the harmful economic effects that resulted.

Moreover, it is alleged that the reduction will also destabilize shore side businesses and that the industry could potentially be rendered unsustainable.

Coakley’s lawsuit alleges that the federal government violated three national standards set forth by the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which regulates the fishing industry, including a failure to allow fishers to catch an “optimum yield,” a failure to use the best scientific data available and a failure to consider the economic impacts of a major quota reduction.

But Peter Shelley, senior counsel with the Conservation Law Foundation, thinks her efforts are misguided.

“The Attorney General is wrong on the law and she is wrong on the facts. Political interference like this action by Attorney General Coakley has been a leading cause of the destruction of these fisheries over the past twenty years, harassing fishery managers to ignore the best science available,” he stated, Cape Cod Today reports.

In contrast, members of the Massachusetts delegation Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Mo Cowan, Congressman Ed Markey, Congressman Steve Lynch and Congressman Joe Kennedy, III together released a statement expressing their appreciation for the Attorney General’s efforts.

“We will continue to pursue disaster relief and other federal assistance to help fishing communities. We are committed to working with Attorney General Coakley, our fishermen, fishing related businesses, and other Massachusetts officials to deliver short-term relief and long-term solutions that will support Massachusetts’ fishing industry,” they wrote.

Governor Deval Patrick and other legislators have also publicly thanked Coakley.

Related articles:

New England groundfish cuts go into effect
Cod industry will collapse due to new cuts: fishers

By Natalia Real


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