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May 13, 2013

Gov. gets deaf ear from White House on fisheries

Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to President Obama, has declined to explain why the White House turned a deaf ear to the pleas of Gov. Deval Patrick for relief from what Patrick told her were “impending drastic cuts” in landings allowed the groundfishing fleet concentrated in his state.

Three days after Patrick spoke with Jarrett on behalf of fishermen and lawmakers, a suite of unprecedented reductions in landing limits were announced and put in place by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration, with allowable landings in Gulf of Maine cod slashed 78 percent, and many landings in many other stocks were reduced by more than 50 percent for the new fishing year that began May 1.

Gulf of Maine cod is the essential wild resource of the inshore fleet that is centered in Gloucester, but also spread along the coasts of New England, from Maine to Cape Cod. The cuts that took effect May 1 for the 2013 fishing year are also due to extend through April 2015.

The cuts threaten the very survival of the fleet, which has fished within established limits for a number of years, according to the acting Commerce Secretary in her November 2012 letter to Patrick that granted his request — 11 months after it was submitted – to recognize that the groundfishing industry had slid into a condition of “economic disaster.”

But The White House never got involved publicly in the ill-fated effort during the lame-duck session of Congress last year to appropriate $150 million in disaster relief for the groundfishing ports of the Northeast, Maine to New York, and there remains no aid to address the declared “disaster” in President Obama’s Commerce budget for fiscal 2014, which begins Oct. 1.

In his only public comment about NOAA during the first term was to opine that he thought NOAA would fit better in the Interior Department than Commerce. He did not follow up.

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