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November 17, 2011

U.S. Senate KOs bid to stop catch shares

U.S. Senate members of a conference committee have blocked an extension of the Jones amendment through the rest of fiscal 2012, setting aside a measure that would have barred the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from converting more fisheries into commodities markets, multiple sources said Wednesday.

Supported by 100 votes on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives last February, the amendment by Congressman Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican, was not added to an appropriations bill for Commerce, Justice and Science.

The spending bill was approved initially by the Senate without the Jones amendment. Jones' measure would have blocked any NOAA funding for expanding its catch share management policies, which have drawn fire and are blamed by many fishermen and Massachusetts lawmakers for forcing fishing industry consolidation and job losses.

Catch shares, a policy initiative of the Obama administration, was introduced without notice to or the approval of Congress by NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco. Although an ardent believer in catch shares, she did not mention her intentions at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee.

Working on the so-called "mini-bus" spending bill since early November, the conference committee sealed the fate of the growing opposition to catch shares by closing the appropriations bill to floor amendments.

The Jones amendment was supported by Speaker John Boehner, according to Jim Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, who was in Washington, D.C., to lobby for the amendment.

"It's a shame (the Jones amendment) was done in by the House of Lords," said Donofrio.

He said Boehner began blogging about fishing as a "jobs issue" in recent weeks.

Among Jones' House allies across the aisle are Massachusetts Democrats John Tierney and Barney Frank.

But NOAA officials Wednesday stood by blocking the Jones amendment as a means of giving fishermen in different fisheries a choice of trying to make catch shares succeed.

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