, Gloucester, MA

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January 10, 2011

Frank: Commerce chief lacks 'courage' to make fishing call

Congressman Barney Frank Monday described U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke as a weakling without the "courage" to stand up to his own subordinates.

In a radio interview, Frank said he felt "betrayed" by the decision conveyed in the letter Locke sent Friday — to him and Gov. Deval Patrick — that rejected a scientific and economic finding that the federal government's catch share regulatory regimen, in combination with ultra conservative catch limits, had delivered a body blow to the groundfishing industry based in Gloucester and New Bedford.

Frank, whose district includes New Bedford, described Locke as having been "recaptured" by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration administrator Jane Lubchenco and Eric Schwaab, her choice to head NOAA's Fisheries Service.

Lubchenco, an environmental activist scientist, was instrumental in creating the Obama administration's catch shares policy, and co-writing a policy paper for the Environmental Defense Fund before the 2008 presidential election, urging catch shares as a means of ending overfishing.

That moment has arrived, Steve Murawski, NOAA's recently retired chief scientist, asserted in a lengthy interview with the Associated Press last week. He asserted that the nation this year will mark the "milestone."

"We're the only industrialized nation that has succeeded in ending overfishing," he said. The United States imports 80 percent of her seafood.

"Murawski's statement has justified everything we've been saying (about the strength of the stocks allowing more liberal catch limits to reduce industry hardships)," New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang said Monday in an telephone interview.

Lang and Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk, who have joined their cities to the federal litigation challenging the constitutionality and legality of the catch share regulatory regimen, both said they hoped the governor would appeal the ruling to the White House.

"They can't implement their mandates in a good faith way, it's like Alice in Wonderland," said Lang.

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