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December 20, 2011

City stands by fishing suit appeal

The formal appeals from fishing industry plaintiffs seeking to overturn a federal judge's June ruling upholding the framework for the controversial catch share management system are due and expected Wednesday in the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals.

The hub port cities of Gloucester and New Bedford remain as lead plaintiffs, which also include boat- and shore-based businesses ranging along the East Coast from Maine to North Carolina.

In response to questions by the Times, Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk said Monday she recently considered dropping the city from the coalition appealing U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel's July dismissal of the lawsuit targeting the regulatory framework known as Amendment 16.

Kirk said she was moved to reconsider the city's involvement in the suit by a letter signed by 109 commercial fishermen, including about two dozen whose boats are based in Gloucester, that was emailed last month to members of the congressional delegation and the New England Fishery Management Council.

Advocating management stability, the letter writers warned that "a few voices calling for the overturn of the entire sector system have been amplified in the media, and we understand that our elected officials are trying to respond to their constituent concerns."

The letter went on to note that, while the Amendment 16 system has brought hardship for "some," it was unavoidable.

"The letter signed by 109 fisherman asking for management stability, profitability and flexibility for the fishery caused the administration to question whether or not we are acting in the city's best interests in pursuing the lawsuit," Kirk said in an email Monday.

"First and foremost," she said, "our job is to advance the best interests of the city, and we have concluded that at this time, it continues to be in the city's best interests to remain involved and have a seat at the table on the important issue of fisheries management."

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