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August 10, 2011

Scientist calls to end rule of NOAA

Influential marine scientist Brian Rothschild has charged NOAA with adopting an "unnecessarily hard-line," wrong, wasteful and job-destroying interpretation of Congress' intent for managing America's fisheries.

Finding no accountability, "no master plan" or will to align policy more closely with what was intended and no hope for redress from the judiciary, Rothschild — who is based at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth and is one of New England's most respected fishing advocates — proposed that Congress create an ad hoc commission to restructure fisheries management in the Northeast.

Rothschild issued his blunt judgments about the performance of the government and the courts in the aftermath of a June ruling by a federal judge in Boston that upheld the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's catch share policy management system, which data shows is bringing about a consolidation of the industry and forcing out small, independent boats and businesses.

Rothschild's full commentary is reprinted in full on Page 8 of today's Times; it was also published in the Wednesday Standard-Times of New Bedford, which is adjacent to Rothschild's Dartmouth base.

A venerable waterman, scientist and linchpin between the Massachusetts fishing industry, academia and the political system, Rothschild's words are read carefully across the country.

Rothschild, who turns 77 Sunday, was NOAA's senior scientist during the 1970s, when the Magnuson-Stevens Act was rolled out. He was also the much-preferred choice of the industry and many members of Congress to head the National Marine Fisheries Service, but Jane Lubchenco, President Obama's choice to lead NOAA in 2009, instead went for Maryland state wildlife official Eric Schwaab, never explaining her strange choice.

In his op-ed column, Rothschild absolved Judge Rya Zobel of much responsibility for affirming the government's groundfishery policies, writing that she was "working within the bounds of standards established in administrative law."

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