Sen. John Kerry's office Wednesday announced plans for an Oct. 3 field hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee into the social and economic impacts of government fisheries policies.
The Boston hearing will feature testimony by NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco, as well as members of the fishing industry and government officials — including Mayors Carolyn Kirk of Gloucester and Scott Lang of New Bedford.
The two mayors and other officials and industry leaders have formed a legal bond in seeking to overturn portions of Amendment 16, which has radically re engineered the management system, brought in Lubchenco's controversial catch shares format, and is bringing about a new and rapid consolidation of the fleet.
Lubchenco's unavailability to the Senate Commerce Committee during the spring and summer led to more than one aborted scheduling of the hearing, which Kerry promised to hold last winter after the administration declined to give legal credence to a report by the Massachusetts Fisheries Commission on the hardships created by Amendment 16.
Kerry's office said Wednesday that Sen. Scott Brown and the state's congressional delegation would also be invited to appear at the hearing.
Brown coordinated a late May hearing by another Senate committee into fisheries policies held at Faneuil Hall.
When NOAA frustrated Brown's efforts to obtain government documents related to the regulation of the fisheries, Kerry last month weighed in on behalf of his Republican colleague.
The hearing last spring focused on NOAA enforcement's Asset Forfeiture Fund, which was amassed from fines paid by fishermen, whereas Kerry's hearing is described as starting with National Standard 8 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which required NOAA to consider the social and economic impacts of regulatory policies.
The Asset Forfeiture Fund was said to have held close to $100 million over a 4 1/2-year period, and, according to the Commerce Department inspector general, the fund had been misused to finance overseas travel and acquire a fleet of vehicles for agents. Inspector General Todd Zinser found that Dale J. Jones Jr. — then the director of law enforcement at NOAA, now deposed but reassigned — had authorized a document shedding while teams from the IG's office were still at work on a six-month 2009 investigation into law enforcement abuses.
The spring hearing at Fanueil Hall brought from Brown the memorable question, "What does it take to get fired from NOAA?"
According to Kerry's office, the October Commerce Committee hearing "will attempt to uncover the costs" of Amendment 16 and its catch share program.
Those include, according to Kerry's office, "the government costs of subsidizing monitoring, both the at-sea and on-land job costs and the leasing costs associated with the program.
"It will seek to identify sectors and communities that have been adversely impacted during the first year of catch share management," the statement continued. "Where such areas do exist, the hearing will explore programs, aid and scientific methods that may be employed to ameliorate these impacts."
Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3464, or at email@example.com.