Group Says New England Is Overfished

WASHINGTON (CN) – An ocean advocacy group claims a federal Northeast fisheries plan contributes to overfishing by poorly monitoring bycatch and providing no incentives for fishermen to stay within catch limits. Virtually all New England groundfish stocks are depleted, and Atlantic halibut is so overfished it will take until 2055 to reach a sustainable level, Oceana says in its federal complaint.

     Washington, D.C.-based Oceana Inc. sued the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Marine Fisheries Service over an April amendment to the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan.
Oceana says that though the plan amendment forges a “bold new direction” by establishing annual catch limits, the amendment still falls short.
     The devil is in the details, the group says. Specifically, a rule intended to standardize reporting of bycatch, or netting of other species, fails to produce statistically reliable information.
     The amendment fails to hold fishermen accountable for staying within catch limits, as it places no controls on amounts they are allowed to catch or discard, according to the complaint.
     Nor does the amendment account for yellowtail flounder caught within the scallop fishery rubric, Oceana says.
     It claims the federal agencies are violating the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other environmental laws, and by failing to consider other alternatives or take a hard look at the amendment’s environmental impacts.
     Oceana claims it cited these concerns during the comment period, but the agencies summarily ignored them.
     Represented by Sara Zdeb with O’Melveny & Meyers, Oceana seeks declaratory judgment and other relief.

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