Last November, Massachusetts’ Governor Deval Patrick submitted a request to federal officials for increased catch limits and financial assistance for fishermen in the Northeast groundfishery (fifteen species including cod, haddock and flounder), based on a report prepared by Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, Massachusetts School of Marine Science and Technology, and Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Institute, in consultation with the congressional delegation and the mayors of Gloucester and New Bedford.
Commerce Secretary Gary Locke has refused that request:
In a letter to the governor, Locke said that he needs new data, not a scientific reinterpretation of existing data, to justify overruling NOAA’s decisions about catch limits.
Locke also rejected the governor’s plea for emergency funds to give fishing families relief from their losses. The data don’t support the request, Locke said.
Conservation groups are hailing the action (or lack thereof).
With his decision to reject Gov. Patrick’s request to increase catch limits, Secretary Locke has rightly rejected the notion that the new fisheries management plan is contributing to an economic crisis in the Massachusetts fishery,” said CLF Senior Counsel Peter Shelley.
On the contrary, fishing industry revenues in Massachusetts are up 21.9 percent over 2009 in just the first seven months under the new catch shares management system. The governor’s demand for emergency action was more politics than economics.
- Peter Baker of the Pew Environment Group: “said Locke had showed ‘great determination’ in standing up to political pressure and backing the lengthy public process that set the catch at a level Baker believes is best to ensure the fishery’s future health.”
Meanwhile, condemnation is coming from Massachusetts legislators on both sides of the aisle.
- Massachusetts’ Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth):
Secretary Locke’s decision today to not raise the catch limits is disheartening and infuriating. Our fishing families are struggling to survive and hang on while the federal government insists on putting them out of business with antiquated and inaccurate technology to estimate fishing stock. This outdated science and unfair treatment by denying any aid is detrimental to our economy, our fishing families and our heritage.
The technology to get an accurate accounting of our fish stocks is available right here in Massachusetts through Northeastern University, and it should be used.
- Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass):
The refusal by the Commerce Department to use its authority represents a misinterpretation of the scientific data, which provides no evidence for the overly restrictive catch limits that have been set.
I strongly urge Secretary Locke to reverse his decision not to use the emergency authorities granted to him under the Magnuson Act, and I will continue to express the utmost urgency of policies which provide short-term help to struggling fishermen and substantial long-term increases in catch limits.
- And finally, U.S. Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass):
“I am deeply troubled by Secretary Locke’s refusal to raise catch limits, despite clear evidence that it is both economically and scientifically sound,” Brown said. “Our fishermen are struggling to keep their jobs and make a living. They deserve fair treatment from the federal government, instead of job-killing regulations that prevent them from putting food on the table for all of us. This blatant disregard for our fishing industry must stop immediately, and I strongly encourage Governor Patrick to appeal this ruling and request further meetings so the Commerce Department can fully explain their misguided decision.”