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Scallop Fishermen Challenge Rule

CAMDEN, N.J. (CN) - Small-scale fishermen filed a class action against the National Marine Fisheries Service, fighting a rule they say will unfairly redistribute permits to larger businesses.

Lead plaintiff Fradell McCullough says that Amendment 11 to the Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery Management Plan, supposedly enacted to preserve scallop stocks, is not based on the best science, as the scallop fishery was at its "historical maximum" in 2005.

The class claims that the regulation, backdated to November 2004, revokes permits without due process.

The fishermen and -women say that they were not advised of their rights to "unknown" catch landings, or of known errors in a faulty database, which excluded previous owner vessel landing information.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Marine Fisheries Service "willingly and maliciously ignored the database flaws, then made career altering decisions about Plaintiffs' financial future," the small fishers claim.

They say the rule violates the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Act because it does not manage the scallop fishery as a single unit, and discriminates against fishers in the Mid-Atlantic region.

They also claim that the agencies have interfered with their requests for documents, such as being denied access to dealer and vessel trip reports.

The class seeks reissuance of their permits and a declaration that the rule violates numerous federal laws. A similar class action was filed in December 2009. Plaintiffs in both cases are represented by Patrick Flanigan of Swarthmore, Pa.

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