GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

August 29, 2012

Editorial: Fisheries 'disaster' can't be fixed with dollars alone


Gloucester Daily Times

---- — By all counts, demands for the Department of Commerce to declare an economic disaster for fisheries in Massachusetts — and now in Maine, New Hampshire and New York (see news story, Page 1) — may finally be bearing fruit.

That declaration, of course, is long overdue. For all of the outright contempt she’s shown for congressional lawmakers and others by ignoring their letters and calls, none of NOAA chief Jane Lubchenco’s or Commerce officials’ actions have been more shameful than their absolute refusal to even respond to Gov. Deval Patrick’s fisheries’ disaster request filed more than nine months ago. Indeed, if they chose to reject the governor’s and fisheries’ activist claims, at least that would have shown the respect that a governor and federal lawmakers deserve.

But with growing signs that some form of emergency aid is in the works, let’s also be sure no one also loses sight of a more basic premise. That’s the fact that a few checks for fisheries “disaster” or “emergency” aid will not fix the problems at hand, regardless of how many zeroes are printed between the dollar sign and the decimal point splitting the dollars and sense.

The only way to fix the ongoing economic fisheries disaster is to address the cause of the disaster itself — and that’s Lubchenco’s, NOAA’s and the corporately-driven Environmental Defense Fund’s job-killing catch share management system, which drove more than 22 percent of Gloucester’s groundfishing boats right out of the industry during the first year of catch share fishing, and, by many counts, continues to take a similar toll today.

Yes, economic aid will help. But fishermen have never held out their hands for federal financial assistance — and they’re not doing so now. All they ask for is relief from a disaster that has been created and fueled by Lubchenco, her “consolidation” allies and our own federal government — even while her boss, President Obama, hypocritically campaigns for “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

And that’s not a course that can be stopped by simply throwing money at it.

If there is to be federal disaster assistance for fisheries, it must come with a commitment to bring new leadership to NOAA — and abandon any and all catch share programs once and for all.