404 Atlantic coastal fisheries amendments.

[ACFCMA sections 803, 804, 809, and 810]


Section (a) modifies the definition of "coastal fishery management plan" in the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act by removing the third requirement ("recommends actions to be taken by the Secretary in the exclusive economic zone to conserve and manage the fishery"). Section (b) modifies the Secretary's authority to implement regulations in the EEZ: the old language was "necessary to support the effective implementation" of a coastal fishery management plan; the new language is "compatible with" a coastal plan. Section (c) allows persons with valid Maine licenses to fish for American lobster in certain areas of the EEZ known as "Maine pockets."

Legislative history:

The modification to the definition is the result of the weakfish litigation where the court ruled that all three prongs of the definition are prerequisites to a valid plan. The judge invalidated the Federal regulations, finding that there was no valid coastal plan since the plan did not contain explicit recommendations to the Secretary. Section (b)'s modification to the Secretary's authority provides an easier standard to meet and thus would make a challenge to Federal regulations easier to defend; the modification presumably was initiated by supporters of the Atlantic Coastal Act in anticipation of future judicial review of Federal regulations. Section (c) allows some Maine fishermen who supposedly hadn't realized they were fishing in areas of the EEZ to continue fishing in these "pockets" without Federal permits, as long as they obey all other applicable Federal and state regulations.
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