March 5, 2009

Mayor calls fish regulators ‘overzealous’

The mayor of Gloucester, Mass., called the National Marine Fisheries Service overzealous in its pursuit of a local auction house.

The federal regulators filed charges Feb. 13 against the Gloucester Seafood Display Auction for selling 66,000 pounds of illegally caught yellowtail flounder and cod between 2004 and 2006.

It is the third time charges have been filed against the company, The Boston Globe reported Thursday.

Owners of the auction house said they would vigorously contest the charges that carry fines of $355,200 and a possible closure of the auction house for 120 days.

Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk said the service was overzealous in its attempt to protect fish.

You have National Marine Fisheries Service to enforce, you have the Coast Guard to enforce, and now you want private enterprises to enforce. It's kind of all over the place. It doesn't really make a lot of sense, Kirk said.

At issue is the company's contention that it cannot be held accountable for the action of fishermen who sell it fish. But, Andrew Cohen, a National Marine Fisheries Service enforcement agent, said the onus is on both parties, to uphold the law.