By Steven Fletcher Staff Writer
Gloucester Daily Times
---- — In New Bedford, a fisherman put a paycheck down on the table in front of U.S. Sen. Scott Brown.
Landing his $100,000 catch had cost him $33,000 for fuel, $20,000 for insurance, and at the end of it, the man, captain of the vessel, told Brown he walked away with $800.
“He said ‘I’m not going out, this is a joke,’” Brown said.
Brown runs for re-election this year, after winning a special election for the late Sen. Edward “Ted” Kennedy’s seat in early 2010. He said he’s focused on veterans issues and the economy.
But the fishing industry, he said, is his top economic and policy priority.
“For Gloucester, Fall River, New Bedford and (communities) in surrounding New England states this is the No. 1 issue when it comes to jobs,” he said.
He said yesterday that if re-elected to his seat in the U.S. Senate he will re-file his Fishery Impact Statement Honesty or FISH Act. He filed the act, which would amend the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act by requiring an annual socio-economic update of the impact of the nation’s fishery policy. The act currently sits in the Senate Commerce Committee.
Brown made a campaign visit to Gloucester yesterday, and toured downtown businesses from Virgilio’s to BankGloucester and everything in between. His trip included a stop at the Gloucester Daily Times.
The FISH Act would require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, NOAA, to provide a yearly socioeconomic study of its various fisheries management plans every year
The fisheries management plan most important for Gloucester and Massachusetts governs the groundfish of the inshore Gulf of Maine and offshore Georges Bank. After more than three years of the current management system, NOAA earlier this month declared the groundfishery to be in “economic failure,” but no relief was announced with the finding.
Congress is free to appropriate relief after it reconvenes following the election, or as the new 113th Congress to be elected for office next year.
Simply put, Brown’s bill asks NOAA to track and report on what impact all its policies and procedures have on fishing communities.
Magnuson-Stevens only requires one statement at the start of a new management system.
Brown said he would work for more reliable scientific fisheries data regarding fish stocks; NOAA bases its management practices on such data. He added that he also wanted to find ways involve fishermen with NOAA’s process. But to do that, Brown said the administration has to clean house.
“You have to clean house, fire (NOAA Administrator Jane) Lubchenco ...” said Brown.
With the U.S. Senate under Democratic control, Brown is working on a minority report regarding NOAA fisheries law enforcement.
He said former New Bedford Mayor John Bullard’s appointment as the head of the agency’s Northeast regional office, headquartered in Gloucester, marked a glimmer of hope in reconciling the divide between fishermen and regulators. He said Bullard knows what the fishing industry has dealt with.
The members of the industry, like that fisherman in New Bedford, need stable, reasonable regulations if they’re going to sustain and grow their businesses, Brown said. He said that goes for the rest of the economy as well.
“The way we get out of this economic mess is to create regulatory certainty — the fishing industry has none,” said Brown.
State Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, a Gloucester Democrat, said Elizabeth Warren, the Cambridge Democrat who’s challenging Brown for his Senate seat, has a solid grasp of fisheries issues as well. Warren has said that fishermen have worked hard, played by the rules and deserve to have a fair shot at success.
She’s echoed Brown on fisheries. Ferrante said both Democrats and Republicans know what they’re up against. Warren, she said, has the skills to carry the fight further.
“She has the intellect and fortitude to stand up to those giants,” Ferrante said.
Beyond fisheries, Brown said he’s looking for ways to help improve the overall economy.
He has voted against several bills, including the Paycheck Fairness Act and three “Jobs” bills, because they would have done more harm than good. The 1963 Equal Pay Act, and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, provide for equal pay for women employees, he said.
The Paycheck Fairness Act, Brown said, would have caused women more harm than help on the job front, and created a litany of openings for lawsuits.
Brown said he also opposed several bills aimed at extending unemployment insurance.
He said he wasn’t against the bills themselves, which initially didn’t have a funding source, but some of their attachments. In 2010, he voted to support a compromise bill that extended tax cuts and unemployment insurance.
The Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act, said Brown, carries a list of taxes in itself. While he said he supports extending health care and health insurance coverage to everyone, Brown said the federal law isn’t the way to go about it.
Massachusetts, he said, designed its own, working, health care system. Other states, Brown added, should be given, and be incentivized to take, the same opportunity. What works in this state, Brown said, might not work in others.
Brown called himself the second most bi-partisan senator in the Legislature and said he’d continue that if re-elected.
When asked, he said he wouldn’t consider declaring himself an Independent, a la Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman.
“There’s a place for moderate Democrats and Republicans in the parties to push back against extremism,” Brown said.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.