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February 22, 2013

Editorial: Executive order is best route to halt fishing atrocity

NOAA Northeast Regional Administrator John Bullard may be right; the Obama White House may well have “other priorities” than to worry about the plight of fishermen — especially when 400,000 or so military personnel might be displaced due to spending cuts forced by a second round of our resurrected fiscal cliff.

In fact, the White House, its Department of Commerce, and its rogue National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under Jane Lubchenco have shown consistently that they don’t give a hoot about this historic industry of mostly small, independent businesses now on the verge of going the way of so many family farms over the last three decades.

Remember 2009, when Obama proclaimed that some of America’s financial institutions were “too big to fail?” Well, his silence on fisheries has long shown that this president believes the fishing industry is small enough to collapse completely — so much so that his own Commerce Department and NOAA have been allowed to do all they can to hasten its demise.

Yet it would be interesting to hear Obama’s take on Bullard’s virtual scoffing at fishermen’s pledge to take their case for aid and regulatory relief to The White House. For in essentially claiming the president and his top advisers can’t be bothered, Bullard — a former New Bedford mayor who should know better — is also willing to let pass the fact that Commerce recognizes the Northeast fishery as an “economic disaster,” yet sees no reason to take a single step to address it.

Thankfully, Gloucester’s former mayor, John Bell, does know better. As a founder and current board chairman of the Gloucester-based Northeast Seafood Coalition, Bell recognizes that, with the clock ticking on a virtual shutdown of Gloucester’s and New England’s cod fishery, the best practical means of seeking relief is through seeking an executive order to put these industry-killing cuts on hold until they can be adjusted or documented through credible, cooperative science.

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