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January 21, 2012

National pro-fishing rally set for March in D.C.

Commercial and recreational fishing interests have announced plans for a major March 21 demonstration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington to energize the push for amending the law that directs the regulation of America's fisheries.

The "Keep Fishermen Fishing" rally was announced Friday in a release that focuses on the organizers' foes — defined as "a handful of mega-foundations and the anti-fishing ENGOs (environmental non-government organizations) they support to drive fishermen off the water."

To do that, demonstration organizers contend, nonprofit giants such as Environmental Defense Fund have influenced the government to misinterpret the 1976 Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries and Conservation Act, which was amended significantly in 1996 and 2006.

Since the first mass rally, "United We Fish," which drew as many as 5,000 participants on Feb. 23, 2010, the fisheries policies of the Obama administration — embodied by NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, who came to office from academia and a board of director's post with EDF — have sparked fierce resistance on the water and in Congress to the so-called "green" power bloc.

Among the changes sought is the flexibility of time frames for rebuilding stocks, rather than clamping down fishing limits organizers say unduly harm the industry and fishing communities.

The most hotly disputed policy is the administration's effort to transform fishermen's catch into tradeable commodities through an allocation of catch shares.

The epicenter of the fight has become Massachusetts and New England, which came under a catch share regimen in 2010 and has been undergoing accelerated job loss and consolidation of control.

But in the Southeast, the Gulf, the West Coast and Alaska, resistance has also continued to policies perceived to be influenced by corporate foundations and ENGO clients such EDF and the Pew Environment Group.

The Walton Foundation, founded by Wal-Mart heirs, has been a lead financier of EDF's promotion of catch share commodification.

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