E. Coast Fishermen Protest New Guidelines

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May 6, 2002

E. Coast Fishermen Protest New Guidelines

Associated Press

GLOUCESTER, Mass. -- Hundreds of fishermen from New Jersey to Maine gathered Sunday at this historic port to protest court-ordered restrictions they fear will destroy commercial fishing in New England's coastal waters.

Cheering and holding signs near 100 fishing boats floating offshore, the 500 protesters demanded an overhaul of regulations that close off more areas and slash their annual days at sea from a maximum of 88 to 70.

"I think it's going to kill it, wipe it out," Myron Lapine, 40, a fish cutter from Gloucester said about the effect the regulations would have on the town's future. "I'm all for conservation but you've got to let these guys fish. That's all they know. . . . These guys are going to get crushed."

The protest was prompted by an April 26 ruling by U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler. The decision came after a coalition of environmental groups won a federal suit claiming the government ignored mandates to stop overfishing.

The new regulations determine fishing days at sea by the average number of days a fisherman used from 1996 to 2001, less 20%.

Fishermen say the rule severely cuts or eliminates fishing for those who turned away from stocks of ground fish--such as haddock, cod and flounder--from 1996 to 2001, as the government wanted.

"It makes me sick to my stomach," said John O'Leary, 45, a fishermen from Port Judith, R.I., who will get no days at sea this year under the new rules.

Fishermen have until Tuesday to file a motion asking Kessler to reconsider her order and until May 26 to appeal.

"This harbor has seen fishing for 400 years and we're not going to let it stop now," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).

The environmental group Conservation Law Foundation said the measures were necessary to save overfished ground fish stocks and help fishermen in the long run.  
 

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