In crisis mode, angry and worried, as many as 40 parties — fishing industry plaintiffs and their attorneys from North Carolina to Maine — are scheduled to participate in a conference call Friday to discuss whether to appeal a federal judge's decision upholding a radical reorganization of the groundfishery.
Although the action has been described as climaxing the final chapter in the 400-year history of traditional Atlantic groundfishing by a fleet of small owner- operated boats — and reflects what has been described as an extreme sense of deference by the judge to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — a decision to take an appeal is not considered a foregone conclusion.
"The standards of appeal are high," said New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang, a former prosecutor and leader of the city that, like Gloucester, was among the lawsuit's plaintiffs. "We'll air out the possible grounds for appeal from this tremendous injustice."
"Looking at the list of people involved in the call, it is so large as to be unwieldy," said Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk. "Our best bet may be to craft legislation.
"If we can get bipartisan support," she said, "if Sen. (John) Kerry (a Democrat) is working together with Sen. (Scott) Brown (a Republican) on a legislative solution, that might be our best bet. That's my take."
On a parallel track, Lang has asked Commerce Department Inspector General Todd Zinser to open an investigation into the rule-making process that produced Amendment 16, which houses the catch share regulatory scheme being blamed for devastating small, independent fishermen and their communities. Amendment 16 and its implementation was the focus of the lawsuit.
Lang has also asked both houses of Congress to call subcommittee hearings to put witnesses under oath to illuminate what he has asserted to be improper influence on the federal government by the non-government organizations, including the Environmental Defense Fund.