, Gloucester, MA

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February 15, 2011

Fishing interests zero in on enviros' role

It has been nearly a year since America's fishing ports, building on a rally in Gloucester four months earlier, sent an estimated 5,000 people to Washington, D.C. to protest Obama administration fishing policies.

Since the Feb. 24, 2010 gathering at the north side of the Capitol dispersed in high spirits and hopes, there have been a small number of congressional hearings that have brought no profound changes.

But the hearings — and investigations through a federal Inspector General's office — have corroborated for many concern over the way that federal fisheries enforcement agents have used excessive tactics in penalizing fishermen and waterfront businesses.

And they have also galvanized fishing industry activists on three coasts to protest the alleged inside influence by major environmental organizations to carry out a national fishing policy that brings a further consolidation of independent fishing fleets, and encourages the buying, selling and trading of fishermen's catch shares in a policy that opens the door to outside corporate investment and, fishing activists argue, corporate control.

In the provinces since the Washington rally, intense political, legal and public struggles have erupted not only in New England, but along the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific coasts, where fishing allies have dug in against the Obama administration appointees and the Environmental Defense Fund, which has pushed its catch shares management system — and been propelled by enormous investments of the nation's best endowed and ambitious philanthropies.

Soon to be published research using public data bases found that EDF has received more than $30 million in grant funding to advance its catch share agenda, and that the big foundations have poured nearly a half billion dollars into myriad organizations over the past decade to influence government fisheries policy.

"The administration has put in place the most radical environmental people," said Sean McKeon, president of the North Carolina Fishermen's Association."

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