When a budget rider passed the full U.S. House last week, flush with language pulling the funding out of any new effort by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to develop and. or install an new catch share management system, one might have thought it would given NOAA and its chief administrator Jane Lubchenco pause regarding the failing policy's future.
But this is NOAA, after all, so you would have thought wrong.
Indeed, the response by Lubchenco and her increasingly dysfunctional federal agency was to plow full speed ahead toward launching another job-killing catch share system throughout the Northeast — covering a monkfish fishery that, by all counts, is a healthy stock. It's also a stock that's especially important to Gloucester, where fishermen last year landed 1,300 metric tons of the big-mouthed flatfish, second only to New Bedford among New England ports.
The "stay the course" attitude expressed by the tunnel-visioned Lubchenco is just the latest in a series of actions showing that, rather than fix the attitude once voiced openly in Gloucester by NOAA law enforcement personnel — who bragged to officials at the Gloucester Seafood Display Auction that they were "accountable to no one" — she has adopted that attitude herself.
This is, after all, an agency chief administrator who has refused to take any practical disciplinary action against law enforcement personnel who were documented by an Inspector General's probe as misusing and abusing "asset forfeiture" funds drawn from excessive fines and penalties charged to fishermen. And by pushing her catch share system that continues to cost thousands of waterfront jobs while steering control of the fisheries to larger boats and corporations who can buy and control more and more quota, she has thumbed her nose and scoffed at political leaders from Gov. Deval Patrick to U.S. Sens. John Kerry and Scott Brown, who have pushed for a recognition that catch share policies have led to an economic fisheries disaster.
Yes, lawmakers keep calling for Lubchenco's ouster. But talk is cheap — especially in the face of what has emerged as Lubchenco's downright lack of accountability and even contempt for Congress.
Voters following this shameful dismantling of an entire industry should watch lawmakers' actions — with all eyes on November.