New England ports challenge new rules on fishing

Thursday September 6, 2012

BOSTON (AP) -- New England’s largest fishing ports said Wednesday that regulators ignored congressional intent when they installed fishing rules the ports complain are crushing local fleets.

An attorney for the ports of Gloucester and New Bedford, along with lawyers for local fishermen and associations, told the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that regulators bypassed safeguards in fishery law aimed at protecting smaller fishing businesses from being swallowed by wealthier interests.

"One of the primary concerns is the preservation of the small business model that we’ve had for 375 years," said attorney Steve Ouellette, who represented the New Hampshire Com mercial Fishermen’s Assoc iation in a lawsuit seeking the safeguards.

The ports argued the court should order a lower court judge to oversee the implementation of the safeguards. That could effectively kill the overhaul because one of the measures requires fishermen to approve the rule changes by a two-thirds vote.

But Department of Justice attorney Joan Pepin, who represented federal fishing regulators, argued the 2010 rules were properly installed after months of public debate.

The fishing industry’s current struggles far predate the new rules, which are intended to help fishermen survive cuts in catch limits everyone knew were coming because key species are in poor shape, she said.

Fishermen absorbed big cuts this year and face huge cuts next year, including 70 percent reductions in the cod catch. Any court decision won’t affect those cuts.


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