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April 20, 2010

Firm tied to NOAA lands $6M deal

Company with Essex office tapped to monitor catch shares

A global firm with close ties to top federal fisheries officials and the Environmental Defense Fund, architect of the nation's catch share policy, is one of four that has been qualified to provide on-board monitoring — worth as much as $6.5 million a year — when the New England fisheries go under catch system rules May 1.

Marion Veber, the acquisitions officer in charge of the selection, which is expected this week, declined all comment on the matter yesterday and refused to identify the qualified firms competing for all or a part of the monitoring contract for the catch share system.

But MRAG Americas, whose president Andrew Rosenberg cuts a high profile in global fisheries, has posted on its Web site that it has already been selected.

"MRAG chosen to provide sector monitoring for New England groundfish fishery" read the headline under "Recent news."

The Web site reports that MRAG Americas, which has an office in Essex, is "one of the contractors" chosen to place at-sea monitors on boats for the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Robert J. Trumble, a vice president at MRAG, said his company has received official notification of its selection as one of three companies to share the work, with the amounts to be determined the number of monitors each firm has working.

NMFS regional administrator Patricia Kurkul, who succeeded Rosenberg after he left government for academia and the private sector, approved MRAG Americas, A.I.S. Inc. of New Bedford, East West Technical Services of New Britain, Conn., and Saltwater Inc. of Anchorage, Alaska, "as eligible" to provide monitoring, according to the Federal Register and the published terms of Amendment 16, the new fishing regime for the groundfishery.

Interviewed yesterday, Jerry Cygler, president of East West — which he described as a "mon and pop" company but with more than enough experience to win part of the contract — said he believed the plan was for NMFS' parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to make decisions this week.

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