Bipartisan opposition to the Obama administration's campaign to convert U.S.
fisheries into commodity markets through a national catch share policy came
from multiple fronts Wednesday, as NOAA chief Jane Lubchenco fielded questions
about a $910 million NOAA fisheries budget that proposes big increases in
spending to expand the program.
From 12 programs now managed via catch shares, including the New England groundfishery, the budget targets boosting that number to 16 within four years -- including the local monkfish fishery.
But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's budget also seeks $1 million to fight lawsuits filed to block or limit catch share regimens. Multiple lawsuits are already pending in U.S. District Courts, including one filed by the cities of Gloucester and New Bedford in Boston.
Meanwhile, seven senators and representatives joined U.S. Sen. Kay Hagen, D-N.C., Wednesday in signing a letter telling Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to abandon the catch share campaign which "does not have broad based support from the fishing industry" because of harm it has already done.
One of the signers of the Hagen letter, Congressman Walter Jones, R-N.C., also announced the filing of a federal budget amendment that would bar further spending on any new catch shares programs.
Jones' amendment would "prohibit NOAA from spending any money on the development and approval of new catch share programs in fisheries under the jurisdiction of the Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic, Mid-Atlantic and New England Fishery Management," according to the industry Internet site Saving Seafood.
Despite widespread industry opposition, the $907.8 million budget proposal for the National Marine Fisheries Service proposes shifting money from fisheries research and management and cooperative research programs to increase catch share spending by $36.6 million.
According to the NMFS budget, $11.4 million would be shifted from research and management and $6 million would be shifted from cooperative research into catch share rollout and implementation.
"We are specifically concerned that NOAA has committed significant funding to encourage the adoption of catch share programs when it has not committed sufficient funds to adequately assess the stocks of our nation's fisheries," Hagen and Jones wrote in a letter released Wednesday.
Also signing the protest letter were Sens. Scott Brown, R-Mass. New York state Democrats Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Richard Burr, D-N.C., (D-NC) and Democratic congressmen Barney Frank of Massachusetts, Peter DeFazio of Oregon, Mike McIntyre of North Carolina and Frank Pallone of New Jersey.
The Times was unable to reach Congressman Rep. John Tierney's office for comment Wednesday.
The consumer group Food and Water Watch, which has been a fierce critic of catch shares, praised the effort to fight the catch share management schemes.
"A wildly unpopular management tool, catch shares re-distribute access to fish, usually from smaller scale fishermen to larger, more industrialized operations," said Wenonah Hauter, the organization's executive director. "Catch shares have been proven to decrease job opportunities and wages for workers, skew fisheries toward industrial production, and devastate the
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