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April 10, 2012

Tierney, others step up push for fishing reforms

Twenty-one congressmen, including John Tierney, whose district includes Gloucester and all of Cape Ann, have asked the House Natural Resources Committee to send to the full House federal fisheries regulatory reform legislation that was the subject of a bicoastal rally of commercial and recreational fishing interests on the Capitol grounds last month.

Most of those who wrote to Chairman Doc Hastings spoke at the March 21 "Keep Fishermen Fishing" rally. It drew about 1,500 fishermen and allies, reprising many fishermen's call to write explicit flexibility into the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the ire directed at NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco at an even larger rally at the same location in the winter of 2010.

"Fishermen in this country are hurting badly due in large part to flaws in federal fisheries law and the implementation of that law," said the April 3 letter by House members of a bipartisan coastal caucus spanning districts from New Hampshire to Florida. "The tragedy is that much of the economic plight of these fishermen is totally unnecessary for adequate protection of fish stocks.

"Congress can and must do a better job of providing a statutory framework that will yield both healthy fish stocks and healthy fishing communities," the writers noted.

Efforts to obtain Hastings' response to the letter were unsuccessful Monday. But last Dec. 1, when the committee held a three-hour hearing on a package of fisheries management and regulatory reform ideas — some as simple as mandating broadcasts of regulatory hearings, others giving the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration latitude to extend rebuilding deadlines for overfished stocks — the Washington State Republican said, "My intentions are to deal with these bills."

The House with its Republican majority is considered more willing than the Democrat-controlled Senate to write flexibility into Magnuson over objections from major nonprofit groups and administration resistance before Congress recesses for the summer and the homestretch to the November presidential and congressional elections.

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