In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, May 31

Vito Giacalone of the Northeast Seafood Coalition speaks at Attorney General Martha Coakley's press conference on the Boston Fish Pier yesterday.

  • Attorney General Martha Coakley and the state of Massachusetts filed a lawsuit against NMFS this week demanding higher catch limits for groundfish stocks. The suit alleges that NMFS did not properly consider economic impacts when setting this year’s catch limits and that a second year of higher, interim catch limits—which would result in overfishing—is legal and appropriate under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. At a press conference on the Boston Fish Pier, Coakley claimed the low catch limits for the fishing year that began May 1 are a “death sentence” for the industry. Some industry members have said the catch cuts will put them out of business. State Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante argued that NMFS’s regulations are intentionally unfair and vindictive, and are a vengeful response to the industry’s criticism of the agency. Environmental groups, meanwhile, noted that the catch limits have been cut due to severely depleted stocks and the legal requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. They argue that raising the catch limits will provide only short-term relief and will threaten the survival of an already collapsed fishery, and that the solution to overfishing is not to fish more. Coakley’s suit has attracted statements of support from Governor Patrick, the Northeast Seafood Coalition, and others.
  • Oceana also filed a lawsuit in response to the 2013 groundfish regulations this week. Their complaint argues that NMFS has failed to require sufficient observer coverage on New England’s groundfish vessels. They claim changes made to observing guidelines have resulted in the lowest required coverage rates since the implementation of the sector system in 2010, and that the levels are lower than those agreed upon in an earlier settlement between Oceana and the agency. Fishermen have complained that observers are expensive, and NMFS has indicated it is no longer able to cover the cost of the at-sea monitoring. Meanwhile, reported attacks against fisheries monitors have more than doubled between 2007 and 2011, according to a new report. In 2011, nearly one in five observers experiences some force of obstruction or harassment.
  • Maine’s elver fishing season ends today. The fishery has been highly controversial, with widespread reports of poaching and conflicts with wildlife officers. The ASMFC recently postponed a decision to further restrict fishing for the juvenile eels, which is currently allowed only in Maine and South Carolina.
  • Vice Magazine interviewed high-profile New Bedford fisherman Carlos Rafael. Rafael railed against regulation of the groundfish industry, and particularly against efforts to limit consolidation of the fleet. He noted that while his massive groundfish fleet loses money, his scallop boats have been profitable enough to keep his business afloat. He threatened to “fight to the death” against federal regulators.
  • Maine lawmakers are considering a bill that would eliminate penalties for Maine groundfish vessels that catch lobster in federal waters. The proposed bill follows the failure of a measure to allow groundfishermen to land and sell their lobster bycatch in the state’s ports. Maine is currently the only New England state that prohibits these landings and penalizes groundfishermen’s lobster catch, which may be driving some fishing vessels to ports in other states. Lobstermen adamantly oppose the proposed bill, but the Marine Resources Committee passed an amended version that would life the penalties for three years before a legislative review.

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