GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Opinion

August 31, 2012

- Obscene 'aid' plan would only seal fishermen's fate

It’s been nine months since Gov. Deval Patrick, with ample scientific ammunition from NOAA and numbers and data supplied by the state’s marine fisheries institute, made a powerful case showing that the job-killing catch share fishery policies pushed by NOAA chief Jane Lubchenco and colleagues is creating an economic disaster for Massachusetts fishing communities.

Now, three other Northeast states have made similar claims. And after refusing to even acknowledge the request, NOAA and the Department of Commerce have now been supposedly working on a response, while U.S. Sen. John Kerry hinted earlier this week that some type of emergency package is in the works.

But the shameful, downright offensive buyout and bailout package now being circulated through New England’s congressional delegation had better not be it.

Indeed, by even discussing a $100 million boat buyout program —and, even worse, some $87.5 million in subsidies for those no doubt larger scale businesses that are willing to go forward – our federal lawmakers are considering a package that won’t provide any true “disaster” assistance at all.

Instead, it would encourage the last of the small, independent boats that form the core of Gloucester’s groundfishing fleet and others to throw in the towel once and for all, and accelerate Lubchenco’s corporately-fueled scheme to bring the industry what one analyst rightfully termed “consolidation on steroids.” And, just for good measure, it would provide $87 million in pure government subsidies to the bigger, more capitalized and corporate fishing businesses — those whose manipulation and abuse of Lubchenco’s and the Environmental Defense Fund’s catch-share management program has already helped to chew up and spit out far too many independent fishermen as it is.

The proposal in the legislative talking stages would work like this: The government would front the $100 million in money to buy out struggling fishing boat owners and captains, though the buyout program would ultimately be covered and reimbursed by the industry. That sounds like the industry’s “survivors” would be on the hook for buying out the smaller boat owners. Yet that might not be a problem, given they would then have access to their quota — and be in line for $87 million in taxpayer-funded subsidies as well.

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