The New England groundfishery, off the northeastern coast of the US, faces the specter of increased closures by management as a result of a lawsuit brought by conservation groups to limit bycatch and prevent overfishing.
In papers filed in March with the presiding federal court, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) proposed a remedy of extending one major closure and creating a new one to decrease fishing mortality. It is up to the court to accept the NMFS proposal or draft another solution, which could include removal of the groundfishery from NMFS jurisdiction, as requested by the conservation groups that brought the suit.
The Conservation Law Foundation and four other NGOs filed the lawsuit last year. They charged that the New England Fishery Management Council - which has direct regional oversight of groundfish management, and submits management plans to NMFS for approval - had violated federal law by failing to adopt a framework for minimizing bycatch and preventing overfishing in a timely manner. Of the 19 groundfish stocks under council management, 15 are considered to be overfished. The court ruled last December that the council had indeed violated the law, and called on NMFS and the NGOs to propose remedies.