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January 27, 2013

Regional NOAA administrator offers no relief to cod fishermen

(Continued)

NOAA, technically the Secretary of Commerce, makes executive decisions based on council recommendations, so unless Bullard changes his mind, the year of relief for the inshore cod boats will come to an end on April 30 and for the three years beginning May 1 there will be very little allocation of cod for distribution. Bullard also rejected a request for an interim action that would negate a reduction in landings of inshore haddock by more than two thirds.

Meanwhile, lawmakers representing the state’s fishing communities Friday urged Bullard to “seriously reconsider” his stand to reject the regional council’s request and 16-1 vote.

Joined by Congressmen William Keating and Edward J. Markey, Kerry, Warren and Tierney, whose House district includes all of Cape Ann, said they “strongly support actions to mitigate the impact of looming reductions to the projected allowable harvest of groundfish in New England waters for the 2013 fishing season ...”

“We believe that this specific proposal is pursuant to Magnuson Stevens ..., which Congress intended to help prevent the collapse of fisheries while councils prepare and implement new rebuilding plans for fish stocks,” the lawmakers wrote.

“The Department of Commerce has already taken the unprecedented step of declaring an economic disaster for the groundfish fishery before the season has even started,” they added. “This decision demonstrates how dire the situation has become for New England’s fishermen, and foreshadows severe economic hardship for coastal communities unless we act...”

The Northeast Seafood Coalition, the Gloucester-based industry group which first signaled the perceived authority within Magnuson to extend the interim measures, also responded with a statement Friday reiterating its belief that the legal interpretation behind Bullard’s position is wrong.

“The Northeast Seafood Coalition strongly disagrees with the Agency’s interpretation,” the nonprofit said in an email to the Times. “NSC sees Magnuson law quite clear on the allowance and timing of interim measures and how this relates to (Gulf o Maine) cod and haddock in 2013. Interim Measures for fishing year 2013, as permitted by Magnuson, were an opportunity for the agency to adopt mitigating measures to partially address a portion of the impacts caused by the drastic reductions proposed for the Gulf of Maine.”

Explaining his decision, Bullard cited a section of the Magnuson Act that allows for “a temporary exception to the overarching requirement of the Magnuson-Stevens Act to end overfishng immediately in certain narrow circumstances during the development or revision of rebuilding plan,” but he wrote that the exception cannot extend for more than 266 days.

Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3464, or at rgaines@gloucestertimes.com.

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