, Gloucester, MA

September 15, 2009

NOAA taps Kurkul predecessor for key post

By Richard Gaines

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has tapped Professor Andrew Rosenberg, a environmental activist and business executive based at the University of New Hampshire, to advise the White House on marine spatial planning or zoning.

The contract was not announced by NOAA, but in response to questions, NOAA spokesman Scott Smulllen said in an e-mail that "Andy will be on a small NOAA contract through the university 'til the end of the year. He will serve 20 to 40 percent of his work week as a senior advisor to the White House Council on Environmental Quality working on Ocean Policy Task Force issues."

Smullen declined to respond to requests for a copy or terms of the contract.

In a telephone interview, Rosenberg said NOAA will reimburse the university for the 20 percent of the time he spends advising the Ocean Policy Task Force, which was created by President Obama in June to develop "a recommendation for a national policy (to ensure) protection, maintenance, and restoration of oceans, our coasts and the Great Lakes."

Featuring Lubchenco as a member, the task force has moving around the nation holding public meetings. One will be held in San Fransisco on Thursday and in Providence on Sept. 24. Webcasts can be viewed live at: (2:30-6 p.m. from San Fransisco, 4-7 p.m. from Providence).

Best known in New England as the Northeast regional administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service in the late 1990s — and predecessor to current, Gloucester-based regional NMFS chief Patricia Kurkul — Rosenberg is also president of MRAG Americas Inc., an environmental consulting company.

Rosenberg has been a major figure in New England Fisheries issues for many years, with a reputation within the fishing community as an environmental hardliner.

"He's very Pew," said one industry veteran, referring to the Pew Environment Group. Rosenberg serves on the advisory committee for the Pew Fellows Program.

An influential figure among ENGOs — or environmental non-governmental organizations — Rosenberg served with Jane Lubchenco, then an academic scientist now the NOAA administrator, on the working group organized by the Environmental Defense Fund that, after the presidential election, began the drumbeat in earnest for converting the nation's wild fish stocks from a commonly held resource to private, tradeable catch shares.

EDF officials have counseled investors of the windfall profits in buying catch shares.

The working group was heavily loaded with Lubchenco's proteges and colleagues, including academic scientists Christopher Costello and Steve Gaines, who co-wrote a controversial paper that in 2008 argued that catch shares can prevent the collapse of fisheries.

EDF and Pew — linked together by Lubchenco, an alumna of both leading ENGOs — have continued to push for catch shares. The New England Fishery is slated to go under catch share principles next spring.

Lubchenco, Rosenberg, Gaines and Costello and the rest of the EDF working group launched the call for catch shares in "Oceans of Abundance: An Action Agenda for America's Vital Fishing Future," with a claim of "a scientific consensus that fishing is fundamentally altering ocean ecosystems which are increasingly likely to yield massive swarms of jellyfish rather than food fish."

The thrice footnoted sentence relies on a much-disputed claim in a scientific paper from 2003 that 90 percent of "large fish have been removed from the oceans."

Rosenberg was the first and only expert quoted by the Washington Post's Juliet Eilperin in the first story to break the news last Dec. 18 of President-elect Obama's decision to put Lubchenco in charge of NOAA.

Rosenberg was listed as a "senior scientist" for COMPASS, the Communication Partnership for Science and the Sea, a pet project of Lubchenco's from her Oregon State University years that brings big-time media together with scientists with an eye toward helping each side.

On her personal OSU Web site, Lubchenco, who helped create COMPASS, describes it as advancing and communicating "marine conservation science to policymakers, the public and the media. Our goal is to accelerate the pace of solutions to important marine environmental problems."

Rosenberg's environmental consulting company has contracts with private firms, NOAA and environmental entities including subsidiaries of Pew and EDF.

Richard Gaines can be reached at