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RFA files challenge to fishery closures

The Recreational Fishing Alliance and industry allies filed a complaint against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. secretary of commerce Gary Locke over the recent recreational closure of the Atlantic recreational black sea bass fishery.

The challenge contends that the recent closure is not only unprecedented for a fish whose stocks are considered rebuilt and not overfished, but that the action is also based upon "misapplication and misuse of a fatally flawed angler survey which NMFS itself has acknowledged is not to be used for this type of decision."

The 40-page complaint was filed Nov. 4 in U.S. District Court of New Jersey.

The complaint requests expedited consideration in hopes of reversing the six-month sea bass closure as quickly as possible on behalf all saltwater anglers and fishery dependent businesses.

"As a result of defendants' actions and failure to comply with the law, the plaintiffs have suffered and will continue to suffer immediate, substantial and irreparable harm, for which there is no adequate remedy at law, and for which they seek expedited relief," the complaint states.

Court documents contend the government violated numerous provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Regulatory Flexibility Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, and National Standard guidelines issued by NMFS.

"These cases are very hard to win, but I think we've got some very strong arguments," RFA co-counsel Herb Moore Jr. said in a statement. "NMFS was extremely arrogant with their sea bass decision and we're calling them out on this one. They purposely chose an insular approach designed to block public scrutiny by claiming that they had good cause to waive prior notice and the opportunity for public comment."

Click here to view full legal challenge submitted on behalf of the recreational fishing community.

Anglers and business owners interested in joining the coalition and supporting the legal challenge are encouraged to look for the "Donate" button on the RFA Web site. Donations can also be mailed to: RFA Legal Defense Fund, PO Box 3080, New Gretna, NJ 08224

As of the court filing date, $18,855 in donations had been collected toward the initial challenge.

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