For Immediate Release - June 10, 2013

AG Coakley Supports Funding for New Fish Count

Supports Fishery Research Funding in House and Senate FY’14 Budget Proposals; AG Recently Sued NOAA to Block Regulations that Threaten Fishing Industry

BOSTON – With new scientific research critical to the future of the fishing industry in Massachusetts, Attorney General Martha Coakley is urging the legislature to keep proposed funding for fisheries research within the proposed Fiscal Year 2014 budget. In a letter sent today to the budget conference committee, AG Coakley explained that the research is critically needed because it would allow for sonar or other methods to determine an independent count of the number of groundfish in New England waters. 

Last month, AG Coakley filed suit against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for ignoring the devastating economic impact of new regulations and for allegedly using flawed science to over-restrict the Massachusetts fishing-industry. On May 1, NOAA began enforcing a 77% reduction of groundfish allotments across the region. The suit aims to block the new rules from being further enforced or implemented, as well as other relief to mitigate the impact.

“We are grateful to the House and Senate which in both Final Budget proposals include funding for innovative research to assess the biomass of groundfish,” AG Coakley said in the letter. “We have argued that if the federal government is going to take such a draconian step against our fishing industry, it should at least be based on the best possible science.”

The fishing industry has been part of the Commonwealth’s historic past, and must be part of its vibrant economic future, AG Coakley asserts in the letter, and the Legislature’s parallel effort to obtain updated and accurate science is critical to ensuring the best result for local fishing communities.

NOAA oversees the Northeast Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) that is in charge of regulating the fishing industry for Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.

The complaint alleges that the NEFMC’s new regulations were not based on the best science available and that the criteria used to assess the groundfish stock is based on antiquated and unfounded methods. Instead of using an appropriate method to determine the actual stock available in New England’s waters, NEFMC relied on estimates using deeply questioned methodology.

The complaint also alleges that when developing the criteria to impose a 77% reduction, the NEFMC did not meaningfully consider the economic impact it would have on the fishing industry, as required by federal law.

The letter and lawsuit are a continuation of the AG's ongoing efforts to advocate for Massachusetts fishermen. After a scathing report by the Inspector General that documented excessive and harmful enforcement actions, AG Coakley urged Congress to pass legislation that would reimburse local fisherman for legal fees incurred while appealing those penalties.  Congress has failed to pass this legislation.

In 2006, the AG’s Office successfully brought a lawsuit against the Secretary of Commerce arguing that the fisheries management plan in place at the time, Framework 42, did not properly consider the interests of fishermen and fishing communities. As a result of that effort, the Attorney General's Office was able to successfully force the modification of Framework 42. 

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