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November 10, 2011

Catch-share funding ban adds new signers

The bipartisan coalition of U.S. representatives who've urged the House Appropriations Committee to add the so-called Jones Amendment banning new fiscal 2012 catch share rollouts to NOAA's pending budget has nearly doubled in size to 35 members.

Two dozen lawmakers, mostly Republicans from districts along the Gulf of Mexico and the deep South, signed a letter by Florida Congressman Steve Southerland II, asking both the Appropriations panel and the Subcommittee on Commerce and Science to expand the scope of the proposed ban from the Atlantic coast to the Gulf coast as well.

When the Jones amendment passed the House by 10 votes last January, and before the Senate watered it down somewhat, the funding ban stretched along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

The prohibition, however, was largely symbolic since no new rollouts were scheduled in fiscal 2011.

There are, however, three are set to go this year in the Northeast and Southeast. The New England groundfishery — including dozens of boats out of Gloucester — began operating under the catch share system in May 2010.

The Tuesday letter from the Gulf representatives piggy-backed on an similar letter sent a week ago by Congressman Walter Jones and signed by 16 colleagues, including Massachusetts Congressmen John Tierney and Barney Frank.

Jones, a North Carolina Republican, has worked closely with the both Massachusetts Democrats — Tierney, who serves Gloucester, and Frank who serves New Bedford, the state's biggest ports.

Due to parliamentary maneuvers in the Senate, the only option for opponents for this year is limited to getting the amendment added during reconciliation by the conference committee.

But, led by the Environmental Defense Fund and its allies, defenders of catch shares — the Obama administration's signature fisheries policy — have spent more than $250,000 on lobbying by multiple firms, including one featuring a former member of the House Appropriations Committee, and print advertising.

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