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February 26, 2013

Petition urges NOAA Gloucester shutdown

With the regulated industry facing a virtual implosion based on a disputed legal ruling, an online petition campaign has been initiated to pressure Congress to close NOAA’s nearly new headquarters for the Northeast region in Blackburn Industrial Park and use the annual agency’s regional payroll — pegged at about $15 million a year — to provide relief for a recognized “economic disaster” in the groundfishery.

Found at the web site, http://fishermen.wufoo.com/forms/close-the-nmfs-northeast-regional-office/, the anonymous petition writer invites signers by hoisting the Gloucester-based center for fisheries regulation from Maine to North Carolina on the petard of chief regional administrator John Bullard.

The petition pulls from an Associated Press story statements by Bullard at the Jan. 26 meeting of the New England Fishery Management Council to the effect that “fishery managers are ultimately to blame for weak stocks that haven’t rebounded.

”We set the rules and clearly the rules have failed, There’s no other conclusion,” Bullard was quoted as saying during the tense day.”

”We commend Mr. Bullard for his honest, direct and accurate description of the current reality,” the petition said. The writer opined, however, that “we believe that just as there are consequences for failures in business, so, too, should there be consequences for failures in government.”

The petition asks the Senate Appropriations Committee to begin the process of closing the Northeast regional office, which was built to specifications for NOAA and opened at a cost of more than $13 million in in 2009 for about 200 managers and staff, and redirecting the expenses of operating it to the disaster relief of the groundfishery.

Resentment over the plight of the fishing industry climaxed with the New England Fishery Management Council’s vote to collapse Gulf of Maine cod landings by 77 percent and cut Georges Bank cod limits by 61 percent in the fishing cycle beginning May 1. Both votes were made grudgingly — and only after Bullard wrote to the council two days earlier announcing his decision that, based on “advice by NOAA General Counsel (Lois Schiffer),” NOAA would not authorize a second year of “interim” catch limits like the one for 2012 that offered the industry a lifeline by holding the cutback to 22 percent.

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