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April 5, 2011

Kerry, mayors take fishing push to new level

At the front of a broad, diverse and bipartisan political coalition, U.S. Sen. John Kerry Tuesday renewed the call for the Obama administration to improve its fisheries science, and to do right by the fishing industry of the New England and mid-Atlantic states.

"We've seen some progress in the past few weeks," Kerry said, referring to the announcement by the Commerce Department that it will send teams to Gloucester and other key New England fishing ports to evaluate the hardship engendered by conservative government-set catch limits that minimize allocations of fishermen's catch shares in the groundfishery.

But despite some recent concessions, Kerry said, "Massachusetts still needs a disaster declaration and we've got to deal with catch levels that are strangling our fishermen."

Administration fisheries management policies this past winter began to register as a dynamic national political issue, with the U.S. House voting in February to cut off funding for the conversion of the fisheries to catch share management systems that are steering more of the catch to larger boats and investors while driving out small, independent boats.

Just before the start of Tuesday's special U.S. Capitol meeting of New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang's Ocean and Fisheries Council, Kerry released copies of a letter he and Reps. Barney Frank and William F. Keating, both Massachusetts Democrats, had sent to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke asking that uncaught fish allocated for the soon ending fishing year be reallocated into the base for the 2011 season that begins May 1.

Lang's council meeting was held in the imposing Senate Foreign Relations Committee Room, which was made available through Kerry's office. It will in the same room that Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, examines Locke's suitability to become the next ambassador to China.

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