GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Fishing Industry Stories

December 19, 2012

Iconic fisheries scientist loses key UMass post

The University of Massachusetts has replaced the internationally renowned marine scientist Brian Rothschild as co-director of the Massachusetts Fisheries Institute, a partnership of the university and state government which produced the research instrumental in convincing the federal government in September to acknowledge the Northeast groundfishery had collapsed into economic disaster.

A $100 million disaster relief package was affixed last week to a $60 billion bill in the lame-duck session keyed to restoration of damage from Hurricane Sandy in October.

The decision to remove Rothschild from the co-directorship of the institute he helped found 10 years ago was signaled in a press release dated Dec. 11. It featured the announcement of a decision to suspend the operations of a neurotoxin lab; only secondarily did the release describe a restructuring of the Marine Fisheries Institute and then never mentioned Rothschild by name, but noted that Steve Lorhenz, dean of the School or Marine Science and Technology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, had become co-director of the institute.

The decision to remove Rothschild from the institute was made by Marcie Williams, the vice president for academic affairs, based on a review of MFI by Associate Vice President Robert Gamache, and was “agreed to” by Divina Grossman, chancellor of UMass-Dartmouth, John Hoey, Grossman’s chief of staff, explained in a telephone interview.

Calling Rothschild one of “the greatest marine scientists of all time,” Hoey said the switch was made to give the position of co-director the institutional heft of a dean and upgrade fund-raising.

“Everything we do is designed to make SMAST as competitive as possible for external funding,” Hoey said.

Rothschild, who founded SMAST and served as its first dean, is known in many circles as a master fund-raiser.

But in the four years of the Obama presidency, fishermen rose in spontaneous resistance to NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco and her policies, perceived widely as hostile to small scale fishermen, notably and disastrously the transformation of the Northeast groundfishery into a commodity market trading in catch shares. As the depth of the schism grew, Rothschild emerged as the hero to fishermen and an intellectual counterweight to Lubchenco, whose rise to power was propelled by hundreds of millions in grants from the past generation’s industrial foundations.

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