BOSTON — New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang and Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk have filed notice of their intent to appeal United States District Court Judge Rya Zobel’s recent ruling rejecting their challenges to the United States Department of Commerce’s “Amendment 16,” which established “catch shares” in the form of “sector management” in New England.
Mayors Lang and Kirk are among 30 plaintiffs from the fishing community who claim the implementation of the current system violated the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
On appeal, the plaintiffs will continue to argue that, in drafting and implementing Amendment 16, NOAA improperly created a system that was in all but name a Limited Access Privilege Permit system, but that ignored the Magnuson-Stevens Act’s requirement of a referendum before the enactment of a quota system.
“We all know the saying ‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ from Shakespeare. That’s what NOAA and the Council did. They built a system that would have triggered a referendum if they had called it what it is. But the Council knew they couldn’t win a referendum. So they renamed it. Then the crafty NOAA lawyers wrote an interpretation of the law that tiptoed around the clear meaning of the Amendment Congressman Frank inserted requiring a referendum. That’s how we ended up with this system. But this system does not smell like roses,” said Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk
The cities argue that the Amendment 16 system not only violates both the letter and the intent of the law, but also has led to great economic hardship among the fishing communities of New England.
In addition, Amendment 16 allowed certain fishermen on Cape Cod in Massachusetts and in Maine to have their catch histories calculated using a different time frame than all other fishermen. The cities and the private sector plaintiffs argue that this unequal allocation was inherently unfair.
New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang said, “It is not enough for NOAA leadership to hold ‘listening sessions’ and attend meetings where they pretend to listen but then go back to Washington and take actions that make it clear they listen more intently to environmental groups than fishing groups.”
Many fishermen expressed the view that their voices were not heard during the Council rulemaking process, not only because the Council avoided a referendum, but also because Council meetings are often held at times and locations that are expensive and difficult to reach. Also, meetings often run so far behind the posted agenda that fishermen must take a full day off from work in order to be present when their issues are addressed.
“NOAA does not exist to create six-figure jobs for bureaucrats who impose the will of environmental NGOs on the taxpaying working families,” Mayor Lang continued. “It exists to protect our public resources, and to use good science to establish rules that balance the preservation of the fishing resources with the needs of citizens and communities.”
Mounting the legal challenge to the Amendment poses financial difficulties, as the cities did not and will not use municipal tax dollars in their effort to aid the fishing industry. Conversely, NOAA used taxpayer-funded federal lawyers to defend government actions that have destroyed jobs in coastal communities. Other organizations aligned with the federal government in this lawsuit, such as the Conservation Law Foundation, are funded through tax deductions.
The cities need to raise private funding for their appeal. Last year, the American Seafood Defense Fund was established to support legal actions to defend fishermen, and contributions were used to assist in pursuing this case. If you would like to contribute to the mayors’ efforts to appeal Judge Zobel’s decision, please make a contribution of any size at seafoodfund.org .
The appeal is not the only avenue the mayors are pursuing to seek redress and compensation for fishermen hurt by NOAA. They are also supporting bills filed by their representatives in Congress, Massachusetts Senators Kerry and Brown and Congressman Frank, that ask for an investigation of rulemaking by the Commerce Department Inspector General. They are also supporting a Government Accountability Office inquiry now underway that was requested by Senator Brown.
August 17, 2011