NEW BEDFORD — The "middle layer" of the NOAA bureaucracy is not the place to go to seek reforms of a dysfunctional fishery management agency, former Mayor Scott Lang told a meeting of the Center for Sustainable Fisheries Wednesday at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

The theme of the meeting was the worsening problems with NOAA survey trawls in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank. Fishermen and scientists from the UMass Dartmouth School for Marine Science and technology traded accounts of wildly different results from government-run survey trawls and those conducted by the fishing boats, including a collaboration with SMAST.

But although Bill Karp, director of the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole extended an olive branch, telling fishermen that "you are out on the water and we should listen to you more," Lang threw down a gauntlet.

"Don't argue with the bureaucrats. Don't argue with the scientists," he said. And forget about court, where federal judges will defer to the agencies' judgment, no matter how faulty, as the city learned when it sued to stop the change to sector management and catch shares in 2010.

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