, Gloucester, MA

Fishing Industry Stories

June 10, 2013

Counsel touts fishery suits as 'education'

In drawing a distinction between a federal lawsuit filed by Attorney General Martha Coakley to halt NOAA’s draconian groundfish catch limits and federal lawsuits like one he filed against NOAA a day later for his Conservation Law Foundation, CLF’s senior counsel Peter Shelley said the action was not “hypocritical at all.”

Shelley said that Coakley’s suit was political, while CLF’s was substantive — challenging the new opening of areas closed to fishing and allowing fishermen to carry over 10 percent of their unused 2012 quote to the 2013 fishing year.

“Our suits are not political,” Shelley added. “They’re strictly based on the facts, and we do it as a last resort.”

Yet in 2001, during a lengthy oral dissertation at a professional conference in Phoenix, Shelley provided a detailed explanation for the political benefits of suing the federal government.

“... Litigation is newsworthy,” Shelley said, according to a transcript of his presentation. “Our objective is to build a political constituency for a healthy ocean.

“That is why the Conservation Law Foundation takes the positions it takes and does the advocacy work it does. That is why foundations support sustainable fishery management support groups like the CLF, and that is why we go to court,” he said. “We do not go to court just to win a motion or a case.

“... The only news outlets that cover (New England Regional Fishery Management) council meetings are the Commercial Fisheries News and the National Fisherman. Their coverage is pretty obscure, at a micro-level, and uninteresting to most people,” Shelley added. “Bringing a lawsuit, on the other hand, guarantees front-page headlines. That placement and exposure gives the conservation community an opportunity to explain to the American people, who are incredibly ignorant about the marine system, about what actually is going on in our oceans. Generating a newsworthy event gives us an opportunity to educate the public.”

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