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November 16, 2011

Governor calls for 'disaster' fishing aid

Citing new scientific studies showing that "catch shares have had a devastating impact on the commonwealth's groundfish fishery," Gov. Deval Patrick on Tuesday asked for a federal disaster declaration and $21 million in assistance.

"Federal regulations and management policies have caused a significant consolidation of the groundfish fleet, loss of jobs and reduced revenues — all of which have combined to create a fisheries resource disaster," the governor wrote.

The request, echoing one made a year ago that was rejected by previous Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, went to John E. Bryson, the new secretary, along with two scientific studies, as well as a reference to one from the NOAA Science Center that came out in October. Locke is now ambassador to China.

The governor's request and synthesis of the studies came wrapped with a reminder by U.S. Sen. John Kerry of a pledge he obtained from NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco in October for an expedited review.

In a prepared statement released by the governor's office, Kerry said he believes the new research makes the case "incontrovertible" for the disaster declaration.

In an appearance at a State House hearing of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee organized by Kerry last month, Lubchenco said she would put then-pending request of the governor through a quick study.

But the premise of the request — that the catch share approach she promoted while an officer at Environmental Defense Fund and made into the Obama administration's defining fisheries policy had ravaged the nation's first fishery — holds political dynamite.

EDF and its allies are engaged in a fierce struggle to protect the catch share approach against a bi-partisan coalition in Congress.

Earlier this year, opponents led by Congressman Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican, put a soft bar on new programs for fiscal 2011 when no new rollouts were scheduled.

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