Ports Lose Bid in Its Attempt To Reverse Fish Law

Ports Lose Bid in Its Attempt To Reverse Fish Law



A federal judge has ruled in favor of the government and threw out the lawsuit brought about by Gloucester and New Bedford, the two largest ports in the state of Massachusetts, in a legal row over fishing industry sectors and catch shares.

Judge Rya Zobel rejected the lawsuit filed against Amendment 16, which ushered in the groundfishery regulatory regimen concerning semi-voluntary fishing cooperatives known as sectors and allotted tradeable catch shares.

The sweeping reformation of the industry was supported by the Conservation Law Foundation. The Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association, which initiated the sector system and reaped the benefit of a large allotment of groundfish to trade in the first year of the regimen, also supported the restructuring. However, it was opposed by a group of, but not all, fishing interests.

The lawsuit was filed by the cities of New Bedford and Gloucester for a broad coalition of fishing interests. It was thrown out partly because Judge Zobel found that the New England Fishery Management Council and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, managed to prevent creating a true limited access privilege program (LAPP) or individual fishing quota system (IFQ). This is despite the fact that the industry was authorized to work under a catch share principle with the opportunity to continue under a limited days-at-sea-system.

The distinction was described by Judge Zobel as a “close call,” but still sided with the government, which pointed out in a March hearing that the option to continue under the outdated days-at-sea system negated the requisite within the Magnuson-Stephens Act. This law mandates that any LAPP or IFQ regimen needs to be approved by a referendum among stakeholders in order for it to become legal.