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January 12, 2010

Scallop deals turn spotlight on Cape Cod fisheries group

In December, days after federal scallop permits were devalued by the New England Fishery Management Council on the motion of the representative of the Environmental Defense Fund, the Cape Cod Fisheries Trust — which is advised by EDF — announced a grant from the Walton Family Foundation and plans to buy scallop permits.

The $500,000 grant from the foundation of the family that founded Wal-Mart moved the fisheries trust, the investment division of the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen's Association, toward its capitalization goal of $10 million for the purchase of scallop and groundfish permits. And according to the Dec. 4 announcement, the trust had raised $2 million toward that end.

The previous week, the council on a 10-7 vote on the motion of EDF senior staffer and councilor Sally McGee, decided to hold the scallop harvest for 2010 to a total catch millions of pounds shy of the amount the independent Science and Statistical Committee and the Plan Development Committee said would be viable.

After the vote, representatives of the scallop industry and political leaders, including New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang, Congressman Barney Frank and Gov. Deval Patrick protested angrily. But until Monday, council Chairman John Pappalardo — policy director for the Cape Cod Hook Fishermen's Association — defended the vote against pleas for reconsideration.

Only after days of escalating pressure — including Lang's Freedom of Information filing for signs of influence by EDF and other environmental organizations on the council's vote, and a face-to-face meeting in the governor's office — did Pappalardo agree to put the scallop catch limit issue back on the table when the council reconvenes in Portsmouth, N.H., at the end of January.

Fishing industry sources told the Times yesterday that Paul Parker, director of the trust, has been aggressively seeking to acquire scallop permits since the council action in Newport, R.I. at the end of November.

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