SEABROOK — The state of New Hampshire has joined a lawsuit seeking to block federal fishing restrictions it believes would have a devastating effect on families and small businesses throughout New England and the Granite State.
A court has approved the state’s request to become an intervener in the lawsuit brought by Massachusetts against federal regulators in May, Gov. Maggie Hassan and Attorney General Joseph Foster announced this week. The two New England states are the only ones suing.
The rules, which took effect May 1, brought major cuts in catch limits for bottom-dwelling groundfish, a major portion of the fish landed by New Hampshire’s commercial fishing industry and the fleet at Seabrook’s Yankee Fisherman’s Co-operative. The most significant cut is a 78 percent year-to-year reduction in the catch of Gulf of Maine cod. However, fishermen have also absorbed huge reductions in key flounder and haddock species, so integral to the local fishing sector.
“The onerous restrictions and reduced catch limits put forth by the federal government could have a dire effect on the economic viability of New Hampshire’s fishermen, placing one of our state’s oldest and most treasured industries at grave risk and undermining an important sector of our economy,” Hassan said.
While visiting Searook on Tuesday, Hassan said while hesitant to speculate on the possible success of the joint lawsuit against the federal government, Hassan felt it was important for the state to enter the legal battle.
“I do think it’s important for us to fight for the fishermen and the industry that’s so much a part of our state,” she said.
In the months before the rules took effect, regulators took various steps to try to ease the blow, including increasing the quota on healthier species. But the Northeast’s top regulator, John Bullard, has repeatedly said the sharp cuts, though painful, are needed to help fish stocks rebound.