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April 20, 2010

Push for catch share delay picks up steam

A recently organized New England anti-catch share petition intended for the U.S. Secretary of Commerce is picking up steam with support from a crewmen's association in Alaska that's lived through catch shares' consolidation and job loss and has reached across the country to form an alliance against the regulatory scheme..

Without intervention by Congress, which is considered unlikely, or by Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, a catch share regulatory program for part of the New England groundfishery goes into effect May 1.

The Crewman's Association has about 1,000 members with hundreds still active, according Executive Director Shawn Dochtermann.

The association filed a request with Locke on April 10 for a "two- to three-year moratorium on catch shares due to their negative consequences and irreversible effects due to past privatization programs in Alaska that have harmed many coastal communities."

April 10 was also the closing date for public comments on the New England catch share policy proposal by the Obama administration, which was ostensibly written by the Environmental Defense Fund and carried into government by Jane Lubchenco when the former EDF vice chairwoman was named to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Rhode Island's Tina Jackson, president of The American Alliance of Fishermen and their Communities, began the New England petition drive against catch shares six days ago.

Yesterday, she said it was "incredibly gracious" of Dochtermann to back the effort in New England after his group was left to fight its battles alone.

"Well, yeah," said Dochtermann, who was contacted by phone as he was about to go fishing from Kodiak, Alaska.

In an e-mail seeking signatures, Meghan Lapp, a researcher for the alliance, said the petition could have an effect because "Congress is not happy about NOAA's request for $54 million to implement catch share programs across the nation, and neither are congressional members — Republicans and Democrats alike — sold on the catch share ideas ...

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