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June 6, 2013

Conservation group sues NOAA to block openings

The day after Peter Shelley, senior counsel for Conservation Law Foundation, derided Attorney General Martha Coakley’s federal lawsuit to block NOAA’s tight new groundfish catch limits as political “soapbox” posturing, CLF and a litigation partner filed two lawsuits of their own against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The attorney general’s suit, filed and discussed last Thursday at a news conference with representatives of the commonwealth’s elected leadership including Gov. Deval Patrick, the congressional delegation and Gloucester’s legislators — state Sen. Bruce Tarr and Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante —asks the courts to reject cutbacks in landings of prime stocks of more than 50 percent up to 78 percent for Gulf of Maine cod, the most essential stock to the nation’s oldest industry.

Yet in lawsuits filed with Earthjustice in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., the CLF suits aim to prevent the agency from allowing fishermen to add to their 2013 allocations up to 10 percent of their uncaught quotas from the previous year, and to begin working in areas that had been closed to commercial fishing for more than a decade.

In a lengthy interview, Shelley explained why he saw important distinctions between the litigation by the attorney general, to allow more fishing, and his own to prevent it for CLF, which was organized in Boston in 1966 and remains the region’s environmental nonprofit most closely tied to the state’s elites, associated over its history with legendary Brahmin families -- Sargents, Cabots and Saltonstalls. CLF’s $12 million in assets have been assembled with grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Boston Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, endowed with the profits of the Intel Corporation the family helped found

“It’s not hypocritical at all,” said Shelley, who criticized Coakley for interfering with the federal regulatory process.

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