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December 9, 2013

NOAA's draft rules on tuna draw fire

Congressman John Tierney, Massachusetts’ other U.S. House lawmakers, and U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey have all signed onto a letter urging NOAA’s acting chief fisheries administrator to “make key reforms” to its proposed new rule managing the harvesting of Atlantic bluefin tuna.

In their letter, sent Friday to Acting Administrator Samuel D. Rauch III, Tierney, the two senators and the state’s other delegation members — from South Shore and Southcoast representatives William Keating and Joseph P. Kennedy III to Lowell-based Nikki Tsongas and Western Mass. Congressman Richard Neal — all called for NOAA to make certain that any mandates ensure “equity among fishing participants from different regions, future fishing opportunities for Massachusetts’ traditional near-shore fishing industry, and the long-term sustainability of this unique fish.”

The letter comes as groundfishermen out of Gloucester and other New England ports continue to confront dire cuts of up to 78 percent in allowable landing limits for Gulf of Maine cod and other species in the current fishing year, which began May 1 and carries to next April 30. In the meantime, a growing number of fishermen have sought to bridge the gap by fishing for tuna out of ports including Gloucester, which is also the focal point of the acclaimed National Geographic reality TV series “Wicked Tuna.”

“Although we are generally encouraged by some of the provisions in this draft rule,” the federal lawmakers said of NOAA’s tuna management proposal, “we are concerned with several management options.”

that could threaten our Massachusetts fishing fleet.

“Over 1,000 traditional near-shore fishermen in Massachusetts depend on healthy Atlantic bluefin tuna populations and utilize selective fishing techniques,” reads the letter, also signed by Massachusetts U.S. Reps. James P. McGovern, Michael Capuano and Stephen F. Lynch. “The proposed rule, as currently drafted, could put these Massachusetts fishermen at a significant disadvantage.”

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