Massachusetts Fishing Ports' Appeal Against NOAA Regs Is Heard in Federal Court
BOSTON (AP) — New England’s largest fishing ports said Wednesday that regulators ignored congressional intent when they installed fishing rules the ports complain are crushing local fleets.
An attorney for the ports of Gloucester and New Bedford, along with lawyers for local fishermen and associations, told the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that regulators bypassed safeguards in fishery law aimed at protecting smaller fishing businesses from being swallowed by wealthier interests.
‘‘One of the primary concerns is the preservation of the small business model that we've had for 375 years,’’ said attorney Steve Ouellette, who represented the New Hampshire Commercial Fishermen’s Association in a lawsuit seeking the safeguards.
The ports argued the court should order a lower court judge to oversee the implementation of the safeguards. That could effectively kill the overhaul because one of the measures requires fishermen to approve the rule changes by a two-thirds vote.
In June 2011, U.S. District Court Judge Rya Zobel rejected all of the plaintiffs’ arguments against the new sectors system.
On Wednesday, the attorney for the ports, James Kavanaugh, focused on an argument that the judge called a ‘‘close call’’ in her decision — whether the catch allotments given to fishermen amounted to an ‘‘individual fishing quota.’’ He said it was ‘‘unambiguous’’ that they were.
And under the law, he said, that type of quota can’t be installed without the various safeguards to prevent fleet consolidation, such as the fishermen’s referendum and steps to limit any costs.
But Pepin said the allotments aren’t individual fishing quotas because they didn’t give any fishermen an exclusive right to a certain amount of fish. They’re basically used so fishermen know how much catch they bring into a sector, she said.
‘‘It is not an individual quota,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s a piece of data.’’
The court gave no timeline for a decision.
Read the AP story by Jay Lindsay in the Boston Globe