Top federal fishing regulator in favor of overhauling rules

Top federal fishing regulator in favor of overhauling rules
Newsday – Long Island,NY,USA

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Fisheries regulators voted unanimously Tuesday to eliminate penalties for scallop boats that break off trips in bad weather, a move prompted by the deaths of five fishermen during a December storm.

The 17-0 vote came during the first day of the New England Fishery Management Council’s three-day meeting here.

“It’s great,” said Herman Bruce, a Fairhaven, Mass.-based scallop boat owner. “It gives you a lot of latitude. It changes the way you make decisions.”

One man survived the Dec. 20 sinking of the New Bedford-based Northern Edge in fishing grounds about 45 miles southeast of Nantucket.

After the tragedy, some fishermen blamed federal penalties, saying the fear of economic losses forces fishermen to risk safety by staying at sea in conditions that would normally lead them to head back to port.

U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Mary Landry said Tuesday that there’s no evidence the rules or weather were a factor in the Northern Edge sinking, calling the rough seas and winds “typical winter weather.”

According to the preliminary Coast Guard investigation, the boat’s dredge got caught, causing the Northern Edge to take a sudden turn broadside into heavy waves.

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