Regardless of how one feels about the premise of presidential pardons — and recognizing that James A. Bordinaro has long since served his 12 months in prison and paid a $55,000 fine for his role in a 1980s fishing scam — there is real irony in the fact that President Obama chose the former Gloucester fishing executive for one of the 17 pardons issued last Friday.
For, by the timing of the White House announcement, it seems clear now that the president and others within his administration are willing to give higher priority to pardoning a man who, by his own admissions, cheated the federal government and, on the surface, undermined the fishing industry in the process — yet the same administration cannot provide federal relief for today’s fishermen, despite our own Department of Commerce’s recognition that the Northeast groundfishery is an “economic disaster.”
In announcing Bordinaro’s pardon — and the pardons granted 16 others across the country— the White House offered no explanation, other than the fact that the president believes Bordinaro and his pardoned colleagues can, in fact, live “productive lives.” And that’s all well and good.
Yet, today’s fishermen will have a hard time living financially “productive lives” and making ends meet for their families if indeed the dire cuts of up to 77 percent in Gulf of Maine cod limits take hold beginning May 1 as planned. And keep in mind that these cuts are based on science and government assessments ripe with credibility questions, and based on a legal advisory note from a NOAA general counsel whose own credibility and advice was shot down two summers ago by her own Secretary of Commerce. That’s right, NOAA General Counsel Deidre Casey advised then-chief administrator Jane Lubchenco to simply make changes in NOAA enforcement without looking to right past wrongs carried out against fishermen; thankfully, then-Secretary Charles Locke essentially told her to stick that legal advice in the trash and ordered more than $600,000 repaid to wronged fishermen and waterfront businesses.