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September 23, 2011

Green giants get time with NOAA chief

A week after NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco met privately with 16 environmental organizations to discuss fisheries issues, the Commerce Department inspector general spent a day in New Bedford gauging whether to open an investigation in alleged untoward influences of the so-called "greens" on fisheries and ocean governance.

The petition for the probe was penned in August by Congressmen John Tierney and Barney Frank, based largely on charges by New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang that fisheries policy for years has been driven by non-government organizations with agendas to protect fish from fishermen.

The argument is that the influence has led to policies that are weakening the fishing industry and are at odds with the Magnuson-Stevens Act's mandate to maximizing economic output while conserving the resource.

Among the 16 groups at the meeting were 10 which had recently received grant funding from at least one of four mega foundations pursuing agendas to limit or more aggressively regulate fishing or privatize and commodify the common wealth resource.

The Obama administration is pushing catch share privatization, which in New England's groundfishery, is concentrating landings with the best capitalized businesses while forcing out mom-and-pop fishing boats.

That status was confirmed for the first time by a NOAA report that showed 21 Gloucester-based groundfishing boats dropped out of the industry in 2010.

The groups in the room last week with NOAA chief Lubchenco and her staff included: the Environmental Defense Fund, the primary driver behind catch shares; American Rivers, Center For American Progress, Environmental Law Institute, MCBI, Marine Fish Conservation Network, Mission Blue, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Ocean Conservancy, Oceana, Pew Environment Group, Restore America's Estuaries, Seaweb, The Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund.

Eight of the groups in recent years were granted more than $44 million from the Walton Foundation, controlled by Wal-Mart's founding family, and its stated priority is catch share commodification. Because of its investment in the catch shares' campaign — via investment with EDF — a Wal-Mart boycott has been launched by the Recreational Fishing Alliance and regional groups.

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