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November 9, 2012

Election alters fishing's landscape

The first Obama administration was declared a “disaster” for Northeast fishermen in September — 10 months after socio-economic evidence showing reduced landings, fleet consolidation, concentration of revenue, job losses, higher operating costs, and excessive, rigid regulation had been filed with the commerce secretary.

The administration offered no aid, leaving it to U.S. Sen. John Kerry at the helm of the congressional delegation to work its magic during a lame-duck session that begins next week.

Adding insult to injury, the administration has protected a cadre of law enforcers whose “gestapo” tactics — as a fishermen put it in a congressional subcommittee field hearing in Gloucester in March 2010 — made fishermen feel like villains instead of independent small businessmen, and has kept under wraps for more than six months a completed set of case studies of chronic law enforcement abuse of fishermen and businesses.

But with the election and the transition in process to a second Obama administration and a new Congress, the cast of characters is changing, and with it, a new chapter in the fishing industry’s struggle for survival is in the making.

In the changing of the guard, many are already missing Republican Sen. Scott Brown and Rep. Barney Frank, the undisputed lead advocate for the fishing industry operating along the coast from Maine to North Carolina, but concentrated around the twin capital ports, Gloucester and New Bedford.

And it was Brown, who formed an easy bi-partisanship with Frank and Sen. John Kerry, who gave the resistance its defining question: “What does it take to get fired at NOAA?”

But while Brown was bested Tuesday by challenger Elizabeth Warren, she is seen as a protege of Frank’s. And returning to Congress is Rep. John Tierney, who joined with Frank and Brown to demand — without effect — that the White House remove and replace Jane Lubchenco as NOAA’s chief administrator.

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