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April 28, 2013

Governor takes fishery case to White House

Gov. Deval Patrick has told Attorney General Martha Coakley that he has briefed a senior advisor to President Obama — Valerie Jarrett — on the “pressing needs of our fishing industry,” including the need for immediately emergency relief from pending drastic cuts in landings that, while not yet posted in the Federal Register, are due to take effect for the groundfishing year that begins Wednesday.

Because of his official position and his friendship with President Obama, Patrick had been urged by Coakley and a large contingent of state lawmakers, led by Sen. Bruce Tarr and Rep. Ann Margaret Ferrante, to appeal to the White House to halt the imposition of a 77 percent cut in the allowable landings of Gulf of Maine cod, the lifeblood of the inshore fleet based in Gloucester, but also found in secondary ports to the north and south.

In his letter sent Friday to Coakley, the governor wrote that he had spoken Thursday to Jarrett, also a personal friend of the president as well as the director of the office of intergovernmental affairs, about the importance of of granting the groundfishing industry “interim” relief for a second year through lesser reductions in allowable landings for Gulf of Maine cod and other stocks.

NOAA Regional Administrator John Bullard last week told the New England Fishery Management Council he intended to impose the draconian cuts, some more extreme than the council recommended, for the new commercial fishing year that begins Wednesday, May 1, though the regulatory order had not been published in the Federal Register by the end of the day Friday. Bullard has repeatedly said he was barred from granting the industry a second year of “interim” action allowing only moderate reductions in Gulf of Maine cod by an unreleased legal memorandum from NOAA General Counsel Lois Schiffer

Bullard has also emphasized that, regardless of whether a second year of “interim” relief was illegal — an assertion disputed by Attorney General Coakley, the congressional delegation, the council itself and the Gloucester-based Northeast Seafood Coalition, the largest groundfishing industry organization — he would not raise the ceiling on in shore cod fishing out of his sense of stewardship to the resource. And he has consistently noted that, in 2012, the fleet has not come close to catching even all the inshore cod that was allowed.

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