, Gloucester, MA

Fishing Industry Stories

May 2, 2010

Fed lawmakers go over NOAA chief's head

The request by 23 federal lawmakers to deliver higher, emergency catch allocations for the New England groundfishery was sent to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke over the head of — and without even a "cc" to — National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco.

And the disassociation was meant to be a message — a sign of growing frustration with Lubchenco, a number of sources have told the Times.

Harry Gural, press secretary for Congressman Barney Frank, a lead organizer of the letter, brushed aside the omission.

"NOAA is part of the Department of Commerce so there was no reason to cc it," Gural said in an e-mail. "Commerce is likely to have distributed it to those most involved with these issues."

However, unofficial sources told the Times the decision was intended to dramatize the writers' increasing disappointment with Lubchenco, a former board vice chairwoman with the Environmental Defense Fund — the chief promoter of the catch share system that was installed Saturday in modified form to govern the New England groundfishery.

One source with direct knowledge of the discussions about the direction of the letter said the decision to seek help for the fishing industry from Locke and overlook Lubchenco — who has been engaged in lengthy talks and written exchanges with Frank that he has found unproductive — was deliberate, and meant to express frustration with Lubchenco.

"It seems pretty obvious they're going over her head," said a second source close to Frank, who emphasized he was not privy to the precise reasoning for the letter's route.

Meeting May 12

The fishing news aggregator Saving Seafood last week reported that Locke had replied and agreed to meet on May 12 with the letter writers. In addition to Frank and local Congressman John Tierney, they include all eight senators from Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and New York, as well as other House members from those states with coastal constituencies.

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