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August 11, 2011

Kerry joins Sen. Brown in push against NOAA

U.S. Sen. John Kerry has agreed to join Sen. Scott Brown in attempting to dislodge from NOAA and make public a suite of documents including those that then-Commerce Secretary Gary Locke relied upon when he "chose not to discipline" members of the law enforcement force implicated in carrying out injustices against the fishing industry.

"As one of the most senior members of the Commerce Committee, Sen. Kerry is asking the Department of Commerce to respond to the questions in Sen. Brown's letter so we can get answers about the Asset Forfeiture Fund, the Office of Law Enforcement, and the impact of NOAA law enforcement on our Massachusetts fishermen," Kerry's press secretary, Jodi Seth, told the Times in an email Thursday.

Seth was referring to a July 29 letter from Brown to Eric Schwaab, administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service, that described the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's refusal to turn over documents as "disrespectful to the American people, Congress and the Massachusetts fishermen who have suffered because of NOAA's mismanagement of the fisheries."

She said Kerry had renewed Brown's request in a telephone call to Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank, who has taken the request under advisement.

Kerry's office declined to speculate on subsequent steps available to Kerry should he, like Brown, be rebuffed.

Seth also said Kerry was working to reschedule a hearing in Massachusetts for September or October on Amendment 16, the contentious groundfishery regimen that includes the catch share management system. Kerry, like many fishing advocates has said that the system, which allocates "shares" of fishermen's assigned catch under a system that encourages outside investment, large-capital fishing businesses and driving out small boat businesses.

In an oped column this week, fisheries scientist Brian Rothschild of the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth asserted the new system had killed "hundreds if not thousands" of industry jobs.

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