Massachusetts Fights New Codfish Limits With A Lawsuit

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The commonwealth of Massachusetts is suing the Obama administration over lowered catch limits for historic Northeast species such as cod. Commercial fishermen say the drastic reductions that just went into effect will put them out of business. The state attorney general alleges regulators violated federal law by failing to take the economic impact into account.


The state of Massachusetts is suing the Obama administration over fishing regulations. Ocean-going commercial fishermen say new limits on the amount of codfish they can catch will put them out of business.

Curt Nickisch reports from member station WBUR in Boston.

CURT NICKISCH, BYLINE: Generations of fishermen have hauled cod, halibut and flounder into the port of Gloucester, where today Joe Orlando runs a 65-foot trawler, the Padre Pio.

JOE ORLANDO: I've been fishing with this boat almost 38 years.

NICKISCH: He's afraid that long run is coming to an end. Earlier this month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, better known as NOAA, drastically reduced catch limits for the Northeast. For some kinds of fish, he's allowed to land only about a fifth of what he caught last year. Orlando says that's not enough to pay the bills.

ORLANDO: I've spent my whole life building a business with my son. Maybe mid-July we're done. It's all over.

MARTHA COAKLEY: NOAA's new regulations are essentially a death penalty on the fishing industry in Massachusetts as we know it.

NICKISCH: State Attorney General Martha Coakley went to the fish pier in Boston yesterday to argue regulators violated federal law by ignoring the economic impact.

The agency disagrees. NOAA's regional director, John Bullard, stood at the same pier a month ago to say it's time to reverse decades of overfishing.

JOHN BULLARD: We have to rebuild these stocks and get out of this situation where we're at historically low levels of codfish.

NICKISCH: Bullard admits it's painful. But he says until fisheries return to sustainable levels here, there's no future for the industry.

For NPR News, I'm Curt Nickisch in Boston.

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