GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Opinion

January 30, 2013

Editorial: NOAA regional chief cannot ignore lawmakers' call

First-year NOAA regional administrator John Bullard, who heads the regulation of fisheries from Maine through North Carolina from his perch in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration building in Gloucester’s Blackburn Industrial Park, says he doesn’t believe the Magnuson-Stevens Act allows the flexibility to extend the current Gulf of Maine cod limits, which cut 22 percent from fishermen’s allowable catch a year ago, for another year.

Because of that, he said he will not take that step, and will instead allow new cuts of up to 86 percent take hold for the 2013 fishing year that begins May 1. Saying that the fishing industry simply has to face the reality of NOAA’s latest stock assessment data, he and the Department of Commerce may essentially set those limits today — limits that would absolutely devastate a Gloucester and New England groundfishery that Commerce has already declared an “economic disaster,” but has shamefully refused to push for any money that could ease it.

But a few other folks, it seems, see the Magnuson-Stevens Act a bit differently. Within hours of Bullard’s adamant statement being reported last week, Massachusetts senators John Kerry and Elizabeth Warren joined Congressmen John Tierney, William Keating and Edward Markey in penning a joint letter to Bullard, calling for him to reconsider — especially given that Congress intended the statute to “help prevent the collapse of fisheries.”

On Monday, New Hampshire U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte also wrote to Bullard, urging him to back off his job-killing stance — noting again that Bullard’s interpretation goes against the grain of what Congress intended for the Magnuson legislation and its revisions. And all of the federal lawmakers’ calls come on the heels of a 16-1 New England Fishery Management Council vote to extend the current guidelines as well, backing a proposal initially launched by the Gloucester-based Northeast Seafood Coalition.

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