April 10, 2014
NEW BEDFORD — A federal district court judge has ruled that NOAA fisheries regulators played word games to explain an illegal quota system in the current fishing year.
Judge James E. Boasberg of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. found that the practice of "rolling over" up to 10 percent of unused quota into the following fishing year went too far in the current fishing year, which ends this month.
The reason, he said, is that the added quota from the rollover brought the next year's total quota over the legal limit set by science advisers.
The judge wrote in his decision that NOAA tried to avoid accountability by naming the rolled over quota as something other than "annual catch limits," or ACLs.
The ACL added to the rollover is termed "total potential catch" by NOAA.
"That's right. According to the service, the statutory limits on its authority apply only when it says the magic words. Express limits set by Congress are, under the service's theory, mere verbiage, easily circumvented through clever use of a marine thesaurus," the judge wrote.