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February 1, 2011

Catch share group pushes private forum

MRAG Americas, a major contractor for NOAA and a provider of on-board monitoring services for the rollout of catch shares in New England's groundfishery, is hosting an invitation-only workshop next Monday as part of a project to create methods for evaluating the success of the new fishery management system.

MRAG — a for-profit company whose president is Andrew Rosenberg, a former high official at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's fisheries service — was contracted for the catch share study by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, which has steered millions of dollars in grants to groups promoting the catch share system, including the Environmental Defense Fund and the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen's Association, the MRAG website notes.

Together, grants to the Hook group and EDF related to New England catch shares have totaled more than $4 million.

Efforts to reach Robert Trumble, the MRAG vice president in charge of the program, were unsuccessful Tuesday.

The invitation-only day-long meeting on New England catch shares is set for Monday at the Sheraton Portsmouth Harborside Hotel in Portsmouth, N.H., according to copy of the invitation obtained by the Times.

Invitations were received by many groundfishermen and marine scientists, including critics of the catch share system.

One of those, David Goethel, who sits on the New England Fishery Management Council, and has been a fierce opponent of the approach, said he planned to attend.

Goethel said he believed the workshop would have about 15 participants.

"I don't know who the others are," he said. "I'm going, I figure somebody from the 'anti'-(catch share) sector should be present."

The MRAG event comes during a fierce scientific and political debate about the efficacy of catch shares that was raised to the desk of President Obama last week by Gov. Deval Patrick, who wrote to his friend with a plea for the president to "set your agencies ... on a course of cooperation with the commercial fishing industry."

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