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April 18, 2013

Halt to fishing funds eyed

A total of 26 members of Congress, including Rep. John Tierney, have urged the House Appropriations Committee to reject funding for new catch share fishery management programs in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico until the House Natural Resources Committee completes its rewrite of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

The committee has held a preliminary oversight hearing on the law establishing the overriding principles of fishing governance by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the Exclusive Economic Zone, which was created by the original Magnuson Act in 1976 and extends beyond state waters three miles from shore for another 200 miles.

But because of its size, complexity and fiercely debated elements, the completion of the rewrite is not expected anytime soon, and NOAA, after instituting a catch share program in the Northeast groundfishery in 2010, has a number of new catch share programs in various phases of rollout in the Northeast, the South Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico.

The Northeast groundfish catch share program, whose coverage includes Gloucester and New England, was created without an industry referendum and has mixed with new rigid requirements for the rebuilding of overfished stocks to leave the fishery in a statutory disaster.

“I have a very difficult time with catch shares,” said Massachusetts Congressman Stephen Lynch, who also signed the letter and is seeking the state’s U.S. Senate seat. “(Catch shares) favor multi-national economic fishing interests at the expense of the small family fisherman, and are largely driven by ideology,” he said added in a telephone interview Tuesday.

”Congress has an obligation to hear the concerns of our fishermen before new catch share programs are implemented,” the lawmakers’ letter said. “Job numbers indicate that commercial sector fishing jobs are reduced in fisheries that implement catch share programs. For Atlantic and Gulf Coast fishermen already struggling through difficult economic challenges, any additional job losses could be devastating to the industry.”

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