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November 10, 2011

Kerry steps up call to speed fishing relief

U.S. Sen. John Kerry yesterday pressed federal fisheries regulators to fast-track economic relief for New England's commercial fishermen.

Among the many elements on his agenda, Kerry urged NOAA to reopen to commercial fishing a series of closed areas, including the Western Gulf of Maine Closed Area, 12 miles off the tip of Cape Ann, as well as two closed areas far at sea on Georges Bank.

Kerry also urged next week's meeting of the New England Fishery Management Council to begin liberalizing the 10 percent limit on any rollover of unused quota from year to year, and to reimburse fishermen for inaccurately low quotas granted during the first year of catch share fishing, which began in New England in May 2010.

Most of Kerry's points of emphasis were also endorsed in general terms by Eric Schwaab, the assistant administrator of NOAA for fisheries.

The agenda tracks back to the Oct. 3 State House hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee that was organized by Kerry and featured NOAA testimony from Administrator Jane Lubchenco.

Although Kerry pressed council Chairman Colin "Rip" Cunningham at the State House hearing to move rapidly to free up unused quota to help fishermen struggling with limited allocations, the topic is not on the agenda for the November council meeting, which runs Tuesday through Thursday in Newport, R.I.

However, a council official gave assurances the entire Kerry agenda would be addressed.

"The council will of course respond directly to Sen. Kerry's letter and looks forward to working on the issues he identifies," council Executive Director Paul Howard wrote in an email to the Times. "Many of those outlined in his Nov. 9 letter will be discussed as the council approves the management actions it plans to address in 2012.

Consideration of the "full list" is set for Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. The council meeting is at the Newport Marriott Hotel.

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