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September 23, 2003 

Commercial and Recreational Fishermen Ask Governor to Redirect Task Force to Address Gaps in Existing Laws

September 23, 2003, GLOUCESTER, MA - In a joint letter to Governor Romney, the Massachusetts Fishermenís Partnership (MFP) and the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) asked that the work of the Ocean Management Task Force (OMT) be re-focused on areas where law and regulatory oversight of environmentally harmful activities is currently lacking. The letter urged that the OMT focus attention on gaps in regulation of marine development proposals, such as placing permanent structures like windmills and pipelines in the marine environment, and pollution, such as wastewater treatment effluent. For the first time, the commercial and recreational fisheries organizations have united to address these critical concerns.

David Bergeron, Executive Director of the MFP, and Michael Doebley, Deputy Director for Government Affairs at the RFA, attended a July 30th task force meeting. Both were concerned by the lack of proper context explaining current local, state, and federal law, and international treaties governing fisheries and the marine environment.

Mr. Bergeron explained, "There is a need to review where current law is inadequate, but it would be a missed opportunity if the Task Force tries to reinvent the wheel in fisheries management instead of sorting out how to assess and manage offshore developments like wind farms."

"Fisheries laws such as the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the Atlantic Coastal Act mandate fisheries regulations for the rebuilding of stocks and care for habitat. We are now beginning to see the positive results of soundly managed fisheries and there will be many more success stories in the future. I did not hear any presenters call the OMTís attention to these facts," said Mr. Doebley.

The ongoing implementation of the Atlantic Coastal Act and the Sustainable Fisheries Act have secured the continuing recovery of fisheries and fish habitat at significant economic cost to fishing communities, though the fisheries make major contributions to the economy and quality of life in Massachusetts. Commercial fishing and related businesses employ up to 20,000 people and produce more than $1 billion in economic activity. Commercial fisheries support an extensive industrial infrastructure including fish buyers, processors, offloading and pier facilities and services, fuel and ice suppliers, haul-out services and maintenance, mechanics, electronics, transportation, accounting and financial services, gear and equipment suppliers, auctions, insurance and other services, brokers, exporters, wholesalers and retailers. More than 600,000 people enjoy recreational fishing in Massachusetts every year. Recreational fishermen drive an industry of boat builders, tackle manufacturers, equipment retailers and marinas. As such, it is imperative to strive to protect the fisheries in every way possible, which includes looking beyond the coastline.

Both commercial and recreational fishermen are concerned that costs and impacts of proposed coastal and ocean development projects are not fully understood. With this landmark expression of their common concerns, commercial and recreational fishery representatives are encouraging the task force to redirect its efforts to address fishery concerns about marine pollution and development.

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