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December 12, 2012

Update: Lubchenco leaving NOAA, says she 'returned fishing to profitability'

Jane Lubchenco today announced her decision to resign as head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at the end of February.

Her departure from the Obama administration will end a four-year regimen that promised revitalization of the fisheries via a new economic system based on privatization known as catch shares but instead produced a declared fisheries disaster in the Northeast and a spontaneous resistance by industry all along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

Finding her style to be imperious and rigid, U.S. Congressmen John Tierney, Barney Frank and Scott Brown were united in calling for the president to replace Lubchenco by mid-2010. Fishermen were galvanized by dislike for her personality and policies — especially the commodification of the groundfishery, which has been in a steady decline since her appointment — and held national rallies at the Capitol in 2010 and 2011 that drew more than two dozen members of Congress.

In an email to her subordinates at NOAA, Lubchenco wrote that “I have decided to return to my family and academia at the end of February. I am immensely proud of all we have accomplished in the last four years and know full well that we have been able to do so much only because of your impressive talent and dedication.”

Lubchenco’s email also included a laundry list of achievements including: “ending overfishing, rebuilding depleted stocks and returning fishing to profitability,” none of which has come about. The disaster declaration by Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank last September was a formal admission that the catch share commodification of the Northeast groundfishery had not been successful.

Lubchenco also wrote that her methods were defined by “transparency, integrity, innovation, teamwork and communications.”

However, her four years were dogged by multiple invistigations by the Commerce Department inspector general’s office and two sets of case studies of allegations that NOAA law enforcers, albeit mostly from the previous administration, had abused the rights of the fishing industry.

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