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October 12, 2011

AG Coakley testifies to NOAA, catch share 'failings'

lBOSTON — Attorney General Martha Coakley, state lawmakers, industry lawyers and representatives of the fishing industry took turns at a legislative subcommittee hearing Wednesday assailing federal fishery administrators and law enforcers for outdated science, and ill-conceived, improper, job-destructive policies and attitudes.

The catch share system promoted by NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco was a primary target of the witnesses — along with a corrupted law enforcement regime, Lubchenco herself and so-called green nonprofit groups that were said to share an anti-fishing agenda.

"None of us would need to be here if not for the top-to-bottom failings by the federal government to properly regulate our fishing industry here in Massachusetts," said Coakley, the first of seven witnesses — apart from lawmakers — to testify before the panel, the Subcommittee on Catch Share and Fisheries Management of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.

The hearing came a day after Republican Sens. Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire introduced legislation that would terminate any catch share systems that brought about unemployment of at least 15 percent of a fishery in the first year of its conversion to the commodity market system.

"As more and more jobs disappear from Massachusetts ports," Brown said in a statement released with the bill that was drafted in Ayotte's office, "congressional action is needed to save the fishing industry from overzealous federal regulation."

Opposition to Lubchenco has focused on her previous advocacy of catch shares while she was serving as official with the Environmental Defense Fund, and her single-minded focus on the hotly debated regimen, which has come to the New England groundfishery with a hyper-consolidating impact, as Lubchenco had predicted and expressed as a policy goal.

Three industry lawyers, two fishing business owners and a former fisherman — now a deckhand due in part to NOAA's faulty data collection and reporting — followed Coakley to the microphone, echoing and adding specifics to the statement by the state's attorney general.

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