Citing the importance of protecting and managing the marine fishery resources, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin filed an amicus brief in United Sates District Court in Massachusetts in support of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts lawsuit against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for failing to take into account the economic impact of new regulations on the fishing industry.
NOAA oversees the Northeast Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) that is in charge of regulating the fishing industry for Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.
The lawsuit seeks to reverse the NEFMC regulation imposing a 77 percent reduction of ground fish allotments across the region. The complaint alleges that NEFMC's decision was not based on the best science available and that the criteria used to assess the ground fish stock is based on antiquated and unfounded methods. The complaint further alleges that NEFMC did not consider the economic impact it would have on the fishing industry, as required by federal law and that NOAA failed to take the required steps to mitigate the economic damage caused by its regulations.
"As a state, we recognize the importance of protecting and managing the marine fishery resources. We also recognize that we must adopt principles and policies that will ensure the protection, preservation and enhancement of our natural resources so that present and future generations may enjoy them. Although, there are numerous provisions of state and federal rules and regulations in place to protect Rhode Island's broad interest in its fisheries, it is more important than ever for the federal government to craft regulations that balance the need to conserve fishery resources with the well being of the fishing communities that it will impact," said Attorney General Kilmartin.
The Attorney General, along with other state agencies, has a history of protecting Rhode Island fisheries, as they are one of the state's most valuable natural assets and an important part of the state's heritage, culture and economy. It appears, for now, that Rhode Island will most likely escape the devastating impact that Massachusetts is facing with the proposed regulations However, it is clear that if same draconian reductions were implemented on Rhode Island's top commercial landings, the impact would be devastating to the state's fishing community.
As noted in the brief filed with the Court, Rhode Island will continue to promote sound governance by encouraging collaboration with our federal partners to improve existing regulations while, at the same time, urging the development of new flexible regulations that will balance the uncertain scientific data and environmental factors with socio-economic considerations.