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February 28, 2011

Kerry still weighing catch-share stand

Pondering how he might vote on the so-called Jones amendment — should the House-approved cutoff of funds for future NOAA catch share programs come to a Senate vote — Sen. John Kerry announced Monday he would be holding a "due diligence" meeting Thursday with Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco.

Lubchenco is the lead advocate for the catch share management program, which she began promoting while an academic scientist and officer of the Environmental Defense Fund before President Obama nominated her to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Kerry also said Monday he hoped to gain insight into catch shares via a field hearing he plans to schedule in Massachusetts for the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

"It is accurate to say that Sen. Kerry is doing his due diligence on catch shares" by meeting with Locke and Lubchenco as well as holding the field hearing," said Kerry's press secretary, Whitney Smith.

But state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante said she would "encourage" Kerry, a fellow Democrat, to vote for the Jones amendment which was approved by 259-159 in the House two weeks ago.

"The reason is because nothing has happened so far to capture NOAA's attention so they understand the noose on our fishing community," Ferrante told the Times Monday. "Perhaps a vote to block future catch share programs will capture their attention and force them to consider common sense solutions."

"Even though the Jones amendment says nothing about groundfish," Ferrante added, "the initiative and spirit of the amendment speaks volumes."

Ferrante's recommendation is consistent with the announced commitment of U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, who is advised on fisheries issues by her colleague and mentor, state Sen. Bruce Tarr.

Over the weekend, Brown announced his decision to support the amendment that was sponsored by Rep. Walter Jones, who like Brown and Tarr is a Republican, with a district that includes North Carolina's Outer Banks.

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