Rhode Island is looking to help two of its New England coastal neighbors in the lawsuit to force the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to reverse regulations that have resulted in stinging cuts in groundfish catch limits and order the federal agency to better consider the economic impact of its regulations on fishing communities.
Rhode Island filed an amicus brief in U.S. District Court in Boston last week in support of the suit initially filed in May by Massachusetts and joined by New Hampshire in September.
The brief, while setting out material differences between Rhode Island’s fisheries and those of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, supports the view that the regulations will continue to devastate Massachusetts commercial fishermen “and most certainly will ensure that commercial fishing will no longer be the core of the Commonwealth’s economy or communities.”
The concern, according to the brief, is that the current NOAA regulations could set off a chain reaction that would result in “a fisheries management plan that may have a substantial adverse impact on the conservation and enforcement programs that Rhode Island provides and supports.”
“The next time, it could be us,” said Amy Kempe, spokeswoman for Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin. “Rhode Island clearly recognizes that NOAA needs to do a better job of determining the economic impact of its regulations.”
The filing of the amicus brief does not mean Rhode Island has joined the lawsuit as a plaintiff.
Kempe said the Ocean State determined the amicus brief was the appropriate action due to the differences between its fisheries and its two coastal neighbors to the north.
“We have slightly different marine resources and fisheries,” she said. “The regulations would have a different impact on Rhode Island because of the groundfish it targets. Basically, we share the same water, but slightly different fish.”
Rhode Island filed its brief the same day Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley filed a motion for summary judgment in the lawsuit that questions the science employed by NOAA to formulate the stock assessments used to develop the new regulations — which have resulted in 78 percent cuts to the allowable catch limits for cod — and challenges the federal agency’s interpretation of the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
The federal government is scheduled to file its motion for summary judgment by Feb. 14. Massachusetts and New Hampshire have until March 7 to reply to the federal government motion for judgment, while the federal government has until March 28 to file its reply.
Sean Horgan may be contacted at 978-675-2714, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT