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May 2, 2013

Editorial: Don't forsake present in pressing for fishery's dire needs

“‘No’ means ‘find another way.’”

With those words on Tuesday, Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk raised an interesting perspective regarding NOAA’s absolutely job-killing — and industry-threatening — cuts in Gulf of Maine cod and other fish stocks for the new commercial fishing year that began Wednesday.

And the mayor’s comment that it was now up to the state and to fishing municipalities to forge policies that can save as much of the groundfishing fleet as possible indeed raises some interesting possibilities, while reflecting the kind of open-minded optimism that Gloucester, other fishing communities and the industry no doubt need.

But the mayor and others looking to carve out a viable solution for waterfront communities anchored to commercial fishing to support their economies would do well to recognize that any such future also demands federal cooperation and aid.

And there has frankly been no sign of any cooperation or accountability on the part of NOAA and the Department of Commerce since the Obama administration first let Jane Lubchenco’s renegade fisheries agency run roughshod over fishermen and their families, state lawmakers, the Inspector General’s Office, congressional representatives and senators. Then there are American taxpayers, who are still paying $150,000 salaries to the likes of former NOAA enforcement chief Dale Jones, who should instead be facing a federal prosecutor’s indictments for allowing a gross misuse of federal dollars on his watch, and then shredding documents even while the Commerce Inspector General’s office was investigating his and others’ actions.

During a waterfront and fisheries forum pulled together last month by former city councilor and harbor activist Valerie Nelson, she and others raised a number of good ideas that hold merit; those include steering NOAA funding into cooperative research projects in which rank-and-file fishermen would earn something while using their essentially now-grounded boats to carry out stock assessments — perhaps even recognizing where the fish might be so as to give NOAA’s flawed scientific efforts some credibility.

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