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March 1, 2013

Lubchenco leaves NOAA, 'disaster' behind

Jane Lubchenco’s provocative tenure as NOAA administrator ended Thursday, three years, 11 months and nine days after it began, with the groundfishey she promised to save in an apparent death spiral.

Her next stop will be Stanford University, which has hired the marine scientist long associated with marine protected areas and other concepts to limit or control fishing for the spring semester to be the Mimi and Peter E. Haas Distinguished Visitor at Stanford’s Haas Center for Public Service.

No successor or acting head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been named.

In the Obama administration, she delivered on his 2008 campaign promise for “change you can believe in,” but the changes she brought, while audacious in nature — junking the original notion of the wild stocks as commonly held for an allocation of catching rights based on the principle of commodity trading — did not produce the promised results, conservation of the resource and profitability for the participants.

Her appointment brought into authority over the oceans and atmosphere a figure many in the fishing community came to see as an ideologue, and her initiatives triggered angry protests by fishermen and their families, as she moved quickly to institute her program which was predicated on making the still largely locally owned industry more open and available to investors.

The first protest, outside NOAA’s Northeast headquarters in Gloucester’s Blackburn Industrial Park in October 2009, featured a effigy of Lubchenco lynching fishermen. In February 2010, up to 5,000 fishermen and supporters gathered at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., united for the first time in history by common concerns. A third protest followed in D.C. a year later.

Along the way, Lubchenco refused to appoint the celebrated marine scientist Brian Rothschild, a favorite of the industry, to head the National Marine Fisheries Service, despite Rothschild getting the endorsement of Barney Frank, then the congressman for New Bedford, and the leader of an informal congressional fishing caucus,

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