For Immediate Release - October 14, 2010


NEW BEDFORD - Thursday, October 14, 2010 - Today, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke announced that he is prepared to issue an emergency regulation to revise catch limits when there is sufficient economic and scientific data available to support it. In addition, he indicated support for legislation that would address United States-Canada transboundary stock assessments, which would impact regulation of Georges Bank yellowtail flounder, a groundfish species of significance to the Massachusetts groundfishing fleet.

In an effort to continue the progress on stock assessments, Secretary Locke said NOAA will host a national fishery science workshop in January 2011 to consider priorities and strategies needed to support full implementation of the Magnuson-Stevens Act requirements. Finally, the Secretary announced that the Obama Administration, in its commitment to improving strong stock assessment and cooperative research capabilities, will be sending a transfer request to Congress requesting reallocation of $15 million of prior year funds for stock assessments and cooperative research projects nationwide.

In a series of letters, phone calls, and meetings with Secretary Locke and White House officials since May, Governor Deval Patrick has called for the Department of Commerce and its agencies, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), to address a growing crisis in the Massachusetts groundfishing industry. The Massachusetts groundfishing fleet is struggling with severe catch limits set by federal regulators at the same time it has to adjust to a new regulatory system of "catch shares," which is replacing the failed "Days At Sea" system.

Specifically, Governor Patrick has called for a new, collaborative approach to research on fish stocks, to restore fishing industry confidence in the science governing fisheries regulation, as well as action to raise catch limits within ranges scientifically established to prevent overfishing and encourage long-term recovery of fish stocks. In a meeting in Boston hosted by Governor Patrick and U.S. Representative Barney Frank on September 27, Secretary Locke heard directly from Massachusetts fishermen about the impact that unduly low catch limits are having on their livelihoods. And in a follow-up letter dated October 1, Governor Patrick reiterated his earlier requests, and called for Secretary Locke to act by October 15 to acknowledge his authority to take emergency action and move toward providing relief for the groundfishing industry.

In response to , Governor Patrick made the following statement:

"Today's announcement from Secretary Locke opens the door to relief for our fishing communities. Catch limits set unnecessarily low are making the transition to catch shares extraordinarily difficult and putting the viability of many members of our fishing fleet at risk. In recognizing his authority to take emergency action, the Secretary has laid a path toward greater flexibility for struggling fishing communities. My agencies are already hard at work with economists, fisheries scientists and legal experts to develop the economic and scientific analysis needed to support emergency action on catch limits.

"Conservation and a vibrant fishing economy must go hand in hand. I look forward to working with Secretary Locke, along with the local officials and members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation who fight so hard for our fishing communities, on adjusting catch limits to the highest levels that good stewardship will allow."