Fishing Limits Threaten Industry, Massachusetts Says

New U.S. fishing regulations threaten to drive New England’s industry into extinction, Massachusetts said in a lawsuit against federal agencies.

The state today sued the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Commerce Department, the National Marine Fisheries Service and officials who run them in a federal court action in Boston filed by Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Massachusetts claimed that new federal rules, called Frameworks 48 and 50, have reduced by 77 percent the amount of certain fish that can be caught by New England fishermen. The regulations are “threatening the extinction of an industry” and violate the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which governs fishing management, the state said.

“The devastating impact of the Frameworks on the families and small businesses that earn their living fishing groundfish, and on the communities where they reside, is beyond dispute,” the state said in court papers, referring to fish that live near the sea bottom.

The Magnuson-Stevens Act of 2006 was passed to prevent overfishing. Protected groundfish include cod and haddock.

“We know that the quota cuts this year for groundfish fishermen for several key stocks, including cod, are severe,” John Bullard, the Northeast Region Administrator for NOAA Fisheries, said in an e-mailed statement. “However, given the poor condition of these stocks and the phased approach we took to reducing fishing effort to help ease the economic impacts on fishermen in 2012, the cuts are necessary.”

Individuals Sued

Named as defendants were Rebecca Blank, acting secretary of commerce; Kathryn Sullivan, acting administrator of NOAA; and Samuel Rauch, acting assistant administrator of fisheries for the National Marine Fisheries Service.

“The federal government did not properly take into account economic and social data before implementing the cuts,” Jon Mitchell, the mayor of New Bedford, Massachusetts, said in an e-mail, “and the cuts were not based on the best available science.” New Bedford is “the number one fishing port in America,” it says on its website.

Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Blank, 13-cv-11301, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).

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