SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

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September 6, 2012

Lawyers argue city's case on fishery

(Continued)

Eldon Greenberg, a former chief counsel at NOAA who wrote the amicus brief for Reps. Barney Frank and John Tierney, supporting the plaintiffs, said a decision might be ready by December or January. He also advised that oral comments by the judges are not necessarily suggestive.

The effort noted by Pepin to prevent control of the fishery by concentrations of capital is not yet formally adopted, or even drafted. The project is on the to-do list of the New England Fishery Management Council.

An arm of NOAA, the council has introduced the idea of a new level of regulatory law that would define limits on the accumulation of catch shares and possibly institute rules to protect fleet diversity and keep historic fishing ports active. The effort is in “a stage of limbo for now,” according to a spokeswoman for the council, due to a tangle of crises involving confiscatory catch limits looming for the groundfishery in 2012 and high priority efforts to update the map of closed areas — opening up some and possibly creating others.

The council had carried the idea or an amendment on “fleet diversity, allocation and excessive shares” as low priority in 2012, and the problem is expected to be discussed at the end of the upcoming September council meeting when it sets its priorities for 2013.

The catch share system went live just as the groundfishery was made to operate at a dramatic reduction in the allowable catch, from the interaction of two congressional acts — putting distressed stocks on 10-year rebuilding schedules and the first hard catch limits.

The interaction of the catch share sector system with the new conservation law brought about what the states of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine have insisted is fishery failure.

NOAA has not responded to the filings which were made last November and this January, while New York joined the demand for a disaster declaration last month.

U.S. Sen. John Kerry, meanwhile, has instigated a letter for signatures by the senators and ocean district representatives for a $100 million bailout and $100 million loan for industry reimbursement to finance a buyback program — a proposal sparking fierce disagreement within the industry.

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

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