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Mass. AG files lawsuit against NOAA to protect fishing industry

By Bryan Cohen | May 31, 2013

BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley filed a lawsuit Thursday against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for enforcing allegedly over-restrictive regulations against the state's fishing industry.

Coakley alleged the federal government's recently enacted regulations disregard the well-being of New England fisherman, use flawed science and ignore the devastating economic impact of the new regulations. The lawsuit is meant to block the new regulations from being further enforced or implemented and provide relief to mitigate the impact.

"These new regulations will be a death sentence for the Massachusetts fishing industry as we know it, devastating the fishing communities in our commonwealth," Coakley said. "The federal government has shown a callous disregard for the well-being of Massachusetts fishing families. The fishing industry has been part of our commonwealth's proud past, and we will continue to fight to ensure that is part of our vibrant future."

The NOAA oversees the Northeast Fishery Management Council, which is in charge of fishing industry regulations for Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine and Connecticut. The NEFMC recently adopted a 77 percent reduction of groundfish allotments across the region. Coakley's lawsuit alleges the criteria to assess the groundfish stock is based on unfounded, questionable and antiquated methods.

The lawsuit also alleges the NEFMC did not consider the economic impact the reduction would have on the fishing industry, as required by federal law, violated multiple provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and failed to take steps to mitigate the economic damage caused by the regulations.

Coakley alleges the reduction could result in an unsustainable fishing industry.

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