Massachusetts Coastal Caucus statement

July 31, 2014
We, the members of the Massachusetts Coastal Caucus, recently learned that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued new regulations for Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan. Recognizing that the regulations would unnecessarily impose significant, negative consequences on our lobster industry and lobstermen, we write to urge NOAA to reconsider the proposed regulations.

We understand the need to balance the economic needs of a vibrant fishing fleet with the protection of our whale population from potential ship strikes and/or entanglements. In fact, our lobstermen have been at the forefront nationally to take protective measures to protect whales from entanglement and virtually eliminate whale fatalities. As a result of existing measures the right whale population, for example, grew from an estimated 263 animals in 1996 to over 450 in 2009. We must continue to protect whales, but we can do this without jeopardizing numerous businesses and fishing livelihoods.   

The recent NOAA regulations will unnecessarily cripple the ability of our fishing fleet to harvest our waters for seafood.  Of particular concern, the proposed regulations include a closure of Cape Cod and Massachusetts Bays to lobster fishing from January 1st through April 30th. This would force our lobstermen to pull out traps as early as November ahead of the busy Christmas season, a time of year when lobstermen earn a substantial portion of their income and weather conditions elevate safety risks for lobstermen removing gear. We have learned from lobstermen that in practice the plan is going to create a six month closure of the resource area, as it will take one month to remove lobster traps and another month to safely replace traps to their original fishing grounds. In addition, the plan could also create a dangerous and impractical “race” to return lobster pots beginning on May 1st – dangerous because limited time and financial considerations will encourage fishermen to overload boats to speed delivery of traps; impractical because Massachusetts ports do not possess sufficient dock infrastructure to support such an all-at-once return of traps. This new plan singles out Massachusetts for a draconian closure while leaving ever other state on the East Coast alone.

Along with the closure, the plan would eliminate the long held practice of fishing single traps and lines. The plan requires lobstermen to lock up three or more traps, leading to significant safety hazards for many of our fishermen who may have boats not large enough to allow for a crew to comply with this rule. The rule will have the practical effect of putting many lobstermen out of business because they cannot afford a larger boat or the overhead of added crew members. We believe a thoughtful plan can protect whales without harming our Massachusetts Lobstermen.

Last week, members of our Massachusetts Coastal Caucus met with members from our Federal Delegation as well as staff from the Attorney General’s Office and Division of Marine Fisheries. After hearing all of the facts we believe this federal plan is significantly flawed and based on incomplete science. Fortunately, we understand that our Division of Marine Fisheries is in the process of supplying NOAA with more accurate information. We hope that after reviewing the additional scientific findings from the Division of Marine Fisheries, NOAA will reconsider their decision on some of these issues. To allow the new rule to stand will be detrimental to Massachusetts fishermen and our economy, while achieving no real conservation benefits.

Yesterday, lobstermen took precious time from their businesses to come and speak with us, and drive home the impact of this rule on their livelihoods. We understand the sacrifice they made by taking a day off from work to share their stories, and we stand with them in their efforts to preserve their way of life.

Senate President Therese Murray
Representative Josh Cutler          

Representative James Cantwell

Representative Vinny deMacedo

Representative Lori Ehrlich

Representative Susan Williams Gifford

Representative Randy Hunt

Representative Timothy R. Madden

Representative Brian Mannal

Representative Sarah K. Peake

Representative William Straus

Representative David T. Vieira

Representative Bruce Ayers

Representative Garrett Bradley

Representative Michael Brady

Representative Antonio Cabral

Representative Thomas Calter

Representative Gailanne Cariddi

Representative Tackey Chan

Representative Leah Cole

Representative Geoff Diehl

Representative Carolyn Dykema

Representative Kimberley Ferguson

Representative Ann- Margaret Ferrante

Representative Sean Garballey

Representative Anne Gobi

Senator Robert Hedlund            

Representative Bradford Hill

Representative Steven S. Howitt

Representative Robert Koczera

Senator Joan Lovely            

Representative Christopher Markey

Representative Paul McMurtry

Representative Rhonda Nyman

Representative Keiko Orrall

Representative Angelo Puppolo

Representative John Rogers

Representative Dennis Rosa

Senator Stanley Rosenberg

Representative Paul Schmid

Representative Frank Smizik

Senator Bruce Tarr

Representative Cleon H. Turner

Senator Daniel A. Wolf           





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Rep. Josh S. Cutler
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