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April 23, 2013

AG urges easing of fish limits

Gov. Deval Patrick has been urged by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley to request that President Obama “ask” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to institute lesser catch reductions than are expected on Gulf of Maine cod and other stocks for the fishing year that begins May 1.

The catch restrictions expected from the Obama administration within days are “essentially a death sentence to the 80,000 jobs created by the industry and a loss of $2 billion to the commonwealth,” Coakley wrote to Patrick on April 10.

State officials said the governor was preparing a definitive response.

“This remains an important issue for the Commonwealth and the Patrick-Murray Administration will continue to vigorously advocate for the fishing industry which is important to the character and economic vitality of Massachusetts,” Reginald Zimmerman, a spokesman for the governor, said in an email.

Paul Diodati, the state director of marine fisheries, and Richard Sullivan, secretary of energy and environmental affairs, have met separately with industry groups in recent days to analyze the best approach for the governor to take with the President; longtime friends, Patrick was a co-chairman of the Obama reelection campaign, and initiated the long delayed request that the Northeast groundfishery be granted disaster status.

His filing was in November 2011, and was quickly followed by similar requests by the governors of the other coastal New England states and New York. But the Commerce Department’s declaration of an “economic disaster” was not granted until 11 months later, and has remained without any tangible assistance or financial aid to the nation’s oldest continuous industry.

Coakley’s letter to Patrick contained the same request made days earlier by a group of more than 60 state lawmakers; it calls for the president to use the authority of his office to have NOAA institute “interim” catch limits for the Northeast groundfishery that was finally declared a disaster by the acting commerce secretary last September.

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