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February 22, 2012

Fishing rally drawing new, united support

The 2012 multi-coastal fishermen's rally in Washington, D.C. — now a month off, and two years down wake from the prototype that proved recreational and commercial interests could agree on the need for Congress to write some flexibility into the Magnuson-Stevens Act — is set for the same precise place focused on the same precise goal.

Only the ante has changed, said Jim Hutchinson Jr., managing director of the organizing Recreational Fishing Alliance.

"We are approaching an election, and they have not listened to us," said Hutchinson, whose group organized the 2010 "United We Fish" rally at Upper Senate Park, and has again taken the lead structuring an event already granted federal permits for noon on Wednesday, March 21.

As many as 5,000 attended the 2010 rally, and Hutchinson hopes and expects the upcoming reunion to be at least as large, with organizers on a steep learning curve.

This time, the website for the rally, keepfishermenfishing.com, features links to the bills of choice, bus schedule information from sites in Brooklyn, New York, New Jersey, North and South Carolina and Florida (so far) and "things to know" about the rally and getting around Washington, D.C.

Hutchinson said the permit also ensures that no counter rallies that could produce mischief will be allowed.

The agenda, said Hutchinson, is built around bipartisan legislation that is co-sponsored by Massachusetts Congressmen John Tierney and Barney Frank that would remove the requirement for rigid deadlines for the rebuilding of overfished stock.

The cod crisis that has obsessed NOAA leaders and the New England groundfishing industry since late last year grew from a surprising 2011 stock assessment of Gulf of Maine cod that reversed an optimistic 3-year-old assessment by the same NOAA Science Center and effectively shattered expectations of achieving the 2014 deadline for completed stock reconstruction, Hutchinson noted.

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