In my last blog, I discussed the lawsuit filed against NOAA Fisheries over the Gulf of Mexico red snapper mess. I am afraid that I am a little stuck on current court decisions, cuz this week it’s another lawsuit filed in Massachusetts last May. It is Coakley (attorney general for Massachusetts) vs. Pritzker (secretary of commerce) and alleges that NOAA violated three of the 10 national standards in the Magnuson-Stevens Act, including failure to allow fishermen to catch an optimum yield, failure to use the best available science and failure to consider the economic impact of a major reduction in quota allocation.
It should be pointed out that this lawsuit was filed after the commonwealth had been soundly rejected in a previous lawsuit over amendment 16 to the groundfish plan, which included an appeal of the original decision. In other words, Massachusetts, under the guidance of Attorney General Coakley, had a count of 0 and 2 and, like Mighty Casey, Coakley stood grim-faced at the plate.
“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered “Fraud!”
But one scornful look from Coakley and the audience was awed.
They saw her face grow stern and cold, they saw her muscles strain,
And they knew that Coakley wouldn’t let that ball go by again.
The sneer is gone from Coakley’s lip, her teeth are clenched in hate,
She pounds with cruel violence her bat upon the plate;
And now the judge holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Coakley’s blow.
Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Boston – mighty Coakley has struck out.
My pardon to Ernest Lawrence Thayer, who wrote “Casey at the Bat.” But I could not resist the comparison. On announcing this lawsuit, which by the way is more political maneuvering than anything else, Coakley proclaimed, “NOAA’s regulations are essentially a death penalty on the fishing industry of Massachusetts as we know it.” Well maybe, but if one looks at the actual figures, the so-called draconian quotas were higher than the previous year’s landings for some species. What I can tell you is that a complete collapse of the major groundfish stocks will be the permanent end to the entire groundfish fleet, both recreational and commercial. If that happens, the same politicians will be back at the podium decrying NOAA’s mismanagement of the resource.
Now, I will be the first to admit that the process and the science to set federal fishing limits is not perfect. Some managers and most scientists will admit that, but it is one heck of a lot better than political posturing for the sake of getting elected or staying elected.
Essentially, we know what to do to move our resources toward a rebuilt status. However, the lack of political will and the resulting political interference leads us down the wrong path. Often we end up with courts making what should be management decisions when they should be made as a result of reasoned and the best available science.