The U.S. commerce secretary has denied a request by Gov. Deval Patrick for emergency increases in fish catch limits, saying there's no new science to justify them.
Secretary Gary Locke said in October he was open to the increases, but needed evidence to support them.
Patrick responded in November with a report by state scientists that said fishermen could safely catch 14,500 metric tons more groundfish without hurting stocks.
A federal fisheries spokeswoman said Friday that the report gave Locke no legal basis to change the limits, because it simply offered a different analysis of the same data regional regulators had already used.
Members of the Massachusetts congressional criticized the decision.
Rep. Barney Frank says the Commerce Department is misinterpreting the scientific data, and that's hurting commercial fishermen.
"The last people in the world who want to see fishing depleted are the fishermen," Frank said. "And they've argued, and I believe correctly, as have the scientific experts at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, that you could increase the catch without in any way endangering the stocks."
Frank says he plans to file legislation that will eventually help raise catch limits. Sen. Scott Brown and House Speaker Robert DeLeo also criticized the decision. Brown called it "a jobs killer" and called on Patrick to appeal the ruling.
The Commerce Department indicated it would be willing to work with the state to find new information that might justify increasing limits.
This program aired on January 7, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.