Written by Adrianne Madden
Friday, 01 July 2011
In the words of the late Telly Savalas in his role as Lt. Theo Kojak, "Who loves ya, baby?" If this week's news is any indication, Northeast fishermen seeking to change federal fisheries management policy are getting more love from Congress than they are in court.
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The bad news: Judge Rya Zobel ruled against the cities of New Bedford and Gloucester, Mass., on all counts in their case challenging NOAA's implementation of Amendment 16 and the sector management system for groundfish. Zobel rejected the historic fishing ports' arguments that the sector management system is really an IFQ system, thus requiring, as stated in the Magnuson-Stevens Act, a fishermen's referendum approving IFQ system implementation.
Zobel, while stating it was "a close call," ruled Amendment 16 isn't skirting requirements for establishing an IFQ program in New England because it gives fishermen the option to work in the common pool for harvesters preferring to fish under the previous days-at-sea management system, thus negating the requirement for the fishermen's referendum.
"I know the fishing families and the community would disagree with the finding that this was a 'close call,'" said Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in a press statement following Thursday's ruling. "It's not a close call, it's a bad call when we're talking about the livelihoods that hang in the balance. The way regulations are interpreted and enforced have sent too many fishermen into bankruptcy and pushed even more to the brink."
The good news: The region's politicians are in their corner and are fighting on their behalf. Both Kerry and Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) announced this week they are filing bills that would address problems connected to Commerce Department investigations of NOAA's fisheries enforcement practices.
Kerry's bill proposes that the government reimburse fishermen for legal costs incurred while fighting, what he calls "unfair fines and retaliatory actions." Fishermen whose fines are remitted by the Commerce Department (based on recommendations of Special Master Charles Swartwood, who is reviewing cases) could be reimbursed for their legal expenses.
Brown's bill seeks to replace NOAA's Asset Forfeiture Fund. The Commerce Department Inspector General's office uncovered mismanagement and abuses of the fund in its investigation of enforcement practices.
Brown proposes replacing the Asset Forfeiture Fund with a new Fisheries Investment Fund that will be kept at the Treasury Department. Its monies could be used to help fishermen meet ever-growing regulatory compliance costs, such as at-sea observers and shoreside monitoring. His bill would also authorize the Secretary of Commerce to, based on Swartwood's recommendations, reimburse fishermen for legal costs.
NOAA recently published a proposed rule that would implement a traceability plan to help combat IUU fishing. The program would seek to trace the origins of imported seafood by setting up reporting and filing procedures for products entering the U.S.
The traceability program would collect data on harvest, landing, and chain of custody of fish and fish products that have been identified as particularly vulnerable to IUU fishing and fraud.Read more...
The following was released by the Maine Department of Marine Resources on Jan. 22:
The Maine Department of Marine Resources announced an emergency regulation that will support the continued rebuilding effort in Maine’s scallop fishery. The rule, effective January 23, 2016, will close the Muscle Ridge Area near South Thomaston and the Western Penobscot Bay Area.Read more...