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Fishing Industry Stories

June 3, 2009

Alaska, Mass. fishing experts up for top job

President Barack Obama needed less time making a nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court than oceans and fisheries administrator Jane Lubchenco has already used mulling which of two candidates she will appoint to head the National Marine Fisheries Service.

But the pivotal choice has emerged between Arne Fuglvog, 45, an Alaskan fisherman, businessman and former appointed fisheries council member turned senatorial aide, and Brian Rothschild, an academic at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.

Rothschild, 73, once taught James Balsiger, the outgoing acting NMFS administrator, at the University of Washington, and has been a rallying force for the New England fishing industry that is in the midst of a wrenching reorganization from effort controls to "catch shares."

Fuglvog is considered by many to be the likely choice for the job that Balsiger, a fellow Alaskan, will give up to return to his state to become NMFS' regional administrator.

Lubchenco's office declined to comment yesterday on the pending selection.

"We are not able to discuss this while the decision is still under consideration," said Justin Kenney, director of communications for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The catch share system, which converts the natural wild resources into apportioned, tradeable rights, similar to IFQs or individual fishing quotas, has been used with dramatic results in Alaska, in multiple fisheries that include halibut and black cod and in the Bering Sea crab fishery that has been documented in the "The Deadliest Catch" TV series.

What viewers don't know is that the competition there was pared from 250 to 120 boats, which put more than 500 non-equity owning deckhands out of work, and also ended the wild race to fish that took place before rights were apportioned and the competitive principle was open access. The landmark "crab rationalization vote" of the Northern Pacific Fishery Management Council that included Fuglvog, the son of a popular and successful entrepreneur in Petersburg, was unanimous in 2004.

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