, Salem, MA


June 3, 2013

Our view: Attorney general's suit hits at core of NOAA's wrongdoing

When state Attorney General Martha Coakley filed a federal court lawsuit last week seeking to block the enforcement and implementation of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s job- and industry-killing new fishing limits, she struck what should be an important blow for all of New England’s fisheries.

She also rightfully cast a fresh spotlight on the root of the problems that have plagued the industry for at least the last three-plus years under NOAA’s catch-share management system.

That’s the blatant disregard NOAA’s leadership has consistently shown for the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the law that governs America’s fisheries and lays out a suite of rules and guidelines that NOAA is charged with enforcing. Instead, the agency has been running roughshod over it, ignoring provisions that leaders like former administrator Jane Lubchenco and now general counsel Lois Schiffer simply don’t seem to like.

Coakley’s legal action, filed in U.S. District Court, first seeks an injunction that would block implementation and enforcement of the dire cod limit cuts of up to 78 percent thrust on the Northeast groundfishery at the start of this month by NOAA Northeast regional administrator John Bullard.

In the suit, Coakley argues that the new cuts — imposed despite the claims of Coakley and many others, including NOAA’s own New England Fishery Management Council, that Bullard and NOAA had an option to extend far lesser cuts into a second year — show “callous disregard for the well-being of New England fishermen,” and that the agency “used flawed science to over-restrict the Massachusetts fishing industry.” She’s right.

Coakley notes NOAA has — now and when putting Lubchenco’s job-killing catch share management system in place — wrongfully and we would argue willfully ignored key provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act itself by:

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