A new state bill filed jointly in the House by Democratic Reps. Ann-Margaret Ferrante of Gloucester and William Straus of Mattapoisett may not seem to be an earth-shaking measure when it comes to providing new legislative or regulatory help for Gloucester’s and other Massachusetts fishermen.
But the truth is, the measure should open the door to far greater accountability when it comes to fishermen’s needs when it comes to transferring permits, licenses or other forms of registration. And it’s an idea that should stand as a model for needed changes on the federal level as well.
The legislation, filed late last month week, would expand the appeals process for anyone who’s looking to challenge a ruling by the state Division of Marine Fisheries on the transfer of a commercial fishing license, permit or certificate of registration.
Essentially, the bill would open the door to a judicial review for any DMF decision on proposed transfers — a step that seems very basic, yet a part of the process that is not in place today. That’s right, the state’s Division of Marine Fisheries — unlike most state permitting agencies — currently faces no obligation to submit its decisions to judicial review.
Gloucester-based maritime lawyer Stephen Ouellette says the bill represents a positive beginning to the process the DMF’s core decision-making process — something he refers to as an “unfettered grant of public authority” and an arbitrary process that has allowed DMF chief Paul Diodati to make rulings without ever explaining the basis for them.