NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

December 20, 2013

Our view: Fed's regs leaves fishing council toothless

(Continued)

Bullard used his own executive privilege, so to speak, last spring by slashing New England’s Gulf of Maine cod landing limits by 78 percent and cutting limits for other stocks in the face of intense council opposition and a vote to endorse keeping the 2012 fishing year limits in place.

And NOAA last week disregarded an overwhelming 2012 vote by the New England council that would have reopened five areas in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank to commercial fishermen, decreeing instead that the areas remain closed.

To that end, Maggie Raymond of the Associated Fisheries of Maine rightfully called out — and called on — the council this week to stand up for what the council should represent.

“We were going to say we were disappointed, but we’re actually outraged,” Raymond told the council in a fairly blistering five minutes of testimony. “(NOAA) has taken you and us completely out of the process. Your vote was ignored, and you should be as outraged as we are,” she added, calling NOAA’s decision not only wrong, “terrible and mean-spirited.”

She’s right, of course. And none of this will change until council members join fishermen and industry backers in making clear to our federal lawmakers that enough is enough.

For all the reforms needed to Magnuson — new wording emphasizing the need to recognize regulations’ economic impact, a realistic timetable for rebuilding of stocks, and new mandates regarding verification of NOAA’s heavily flawed science and assessment studies — this may be the most important, yet most basic:

Any reauthorized Magnuson Stevens Act must include language that strips NOAA administrators of the power to overrule, ignore or simply scoff at decisions rendered by councils that are supposed to have meaningful input into the regulatory process.

Anything short of that will only perpetuated the cruel joke these councils have sadly become.

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