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February 22, 2011

Kerry steps up push vs. NOAA

U.S. Sen. John Kerry has put his political weight behind the struggles of the fishing industry in its growing fight for relief from the regulatory, economic and law enforcement policies created and being carried out by the Obama administration.

Expressing disappointment and frustration at the lack of progress in a year's struggle dating to the Feb. 24, 2010, national fishermen's rally in Washington, D.C., Kerry announced plans organize a field hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee — somewhere in Massachusetts, and no later than April.

The hearing would gather testimony for comprehensive legislation aimed at modifying the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the landmark 1976 law that governs America's fisheries and is credited with achieving sustainable stocks and ending overfishing.

Kerry also made it clear Tuesday that he is bringing his concerns directly to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco in a private meeting to be scheduled.

"I've asked for a meeting with Secretary Locke and Administrator Lubchenco because I want them to hear firsthand just how badly these folks are hurting and talk about how together we can provide tangible relief," Kerry said in a statement to the Times.

"By calling for an accountability hearing and by filing comprehensive legislation which covers science, regulations, and enforcement," said state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, the Gloucester Democrat who attended a private strategy meeting with Kerry and about two dozen fishermen in New Bedford on Monday. "Sen. Kerry is using the powers of the Senate to corral a misguided and wayward agency.

Ferrante's work set in motion the pressures on Lubchenco that led to her ask Commerce Department IG Todd Zinser to investigate vindictive law enforcement actions against the fleet and shoreside businesses.

New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang described Kerry's attitude as "extremely disappointed in Locke and Lubchenco."

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