By Richard Gaines
After executing a strategic campaign to have America's wild fish stocks essentially privatized under catch shares, the Environmental Defense Fund president's decision to reject a Senate subcommittee invitation to discuss the topic at a hearing in Boston next Monday has infuriated the mayors of New England's leading fishing ports.
Mayor Scott Lang of New Bedford, backed by Mayor Carolyn Kirk of Gloucester, urged the U.S. Senate Tuesday to subpoena EDF President Fred Krupp to compel him to testify under oath about the influence of his organization on federal fisheries policy.
"It's time to bring the people in under subpoena to get the facts on what was done behind the curtain," Lang said in a telephone interview.
"I concur with Mayor Lang on taking the step to subpoena (Krupp)," Kirk added in an email to the Times. "We need full transparency as to the depth and breadth of EDF's influence on national policy."
New Bedford is the nation's leading port in value of landings; Gloucester, the nation's first fishing port, ranks 10th in landings value.
But Gloucester has been the epicenter of law enforcement abuse, according to the findings of Inspector General Todd Zinser, and the resistance to it.
Both ports have grated at what is perceived as the forced feeding of the catch share fishery management system to an unwilling groundfishing industry by the alliance of EDF and the federal government during the Obama administration, the use of dubious science to exaggerate the weakness of fish stocks, and the overselling of catch shares as a panacea — all to manipulate the regional governing system before and after the ascent of former EDF board officer Jane Lubchenco to the top national fisheries policy position in 2009.
A high profile academic marine research scientist/political activist, Lubchenco had been promoting catch shares and marine protected areas as vice chairwoman of EDF before being named by President Obama to head the National Oceanic and Admospheric Administration.
Lang and Kirk, meanwhile, were reacting to Tuesday's Times' report that EDF President Fred Krupp has declined a request to testify — or name a substitute witness — to join the Inspector General Zinser, Eric Schwaab, administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service, and a cohort of fishing industry representatives at what will be the first congressional hearing on the fishing crisis that has convulsed the industry and the political system since a cabinet level apology in Gloucester last month for a decade of debilitating fines and disrespectful actions.
Krupp's refusal to honor the request of the Senate subcommittee comes on the heels of Lubchenco's decision to not testify, deferring instead to Schwaab.
But without Lubchenco and Krupp — or a representative of EDF — the subcommittee chaired by Sen. Thomas R. Carper, a Deleware Democrat, with Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, the ranking Republican, loses what could have been an opportunity to assess the influences behind the Obama administration's national catch share policy rollout.
Under Lubchenco and her EDF pedigree, federal fisheries policy has become nearly indistinguishable from EDF dogma in the eyes of much of the industry, both recreational and commercial, fishermen and industry backers say.
With catch shares perceived as imposed — and the government as EDF's enabler or minimally its partner — the rollout by Lubchenco has sparked spontaneous national resistance from the industry's mainstream especially along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, and has divided the West Coast and Alaskan fishing communities in bitter factions.
In touting catch shares both at EDF and NOAA, Lubchenco has relied on research by scientific teams largely financed by the same wealthy foundations — notably the Walton Foundation (founded with Wal-Mart money) — that gave EDF more than $30 million to advance the project.
Both NOAA budgets filed by the Lubchenco administration at NOAA justified catch share implementation budgets of up to $54 million by claiming "scientific evidence is compelling that catch shares can also restore the health of ecosystems and put fisheries on the path to profitability and sustainability."
The sole reference, however, was a non-peer reviewed policy paper by EDF, which repeated the organization's mantra that overfishing was threatening a global oceanic dystopia.
That claim relies on a scientific paper from 2003 by R.A. Myers and B. Worm, also financed by the Walton Foundation, and co-written by Lubchenco along with a more than dozen like minded scientists.
But the evidence had been debunked in the influential cautionary article, "Faith-based Fisheries," by Ray Hilborn of the University of Washington. Hilborn warned that anti-fishing zealotry combined with circulation-seeking publications were putting into print junk that was being passed as bonafide science-gospel, to advance the ultra-greens' agenda.
EDF did not help its reputation in 2009 when it used its website to distort the findings in a paper by EcoTrust, which warned about the social and economic impacts of catch shares — blogging that the criticism was an endorsement — and was called out by the West Coast non-government organization.
While Lubchenco was pressing the New England council to tie up years of research and development to launch the system into groundfishery, David Festa, a longtime colleague of Lubchenco's at EDF, was advising ethical investors at the Milken Institute in Los Angeles that catch shares would provide windfall profits — 400 percent on up — if purchased while the market was still forming.
In 2005, EDF wrote a strategic plan for gaining control over policy to privatize fisheries.
The campaign was to be financed by foundation grants and featured "leveraging the value of our seat ...to work the regulatory process from the inside" while Festa "who served as policy director for two secretaries of commerce in the Clinton administration "built top down support." The paper was leaked to the Times in 2009.
At about the same time of the Milken conference, however, Julia Olson of NOAA's Science Center in Woods Hole published a paper that found dire social ills emanating from fleet consoldation.
Earlier this year, Olson published a peer-reviewed article on the same subject, with the same conclusions — that fleet consolidation, as a byproduct of catch shares, has weakened blobal waterfront economies, communities and coastal cultures.
As a $200 million global organization, EDF has defined itself as a partner of influence to big business and investors, and operates with governence by a board that crosses many fields of global power and influence — including Sam Rawlings Walton, actress Joanne Woodward, former Time-Life President N.J. Nicholas Jr., financier Stanley Druckenmiller and Roger Enrico, the former Pepsico CEO.
Outside EDF, most major conservation organizations that have researched catch shares have concluded that the regimen, which converts the traditional common wild resources into tradeable equity shares, functions not as a conservation tool but in the economic domain — consolidating capacity and encouraging fishing businesses of a larger scale, while forcing out the smaller, indepencdent competition.
The consumer group Food and Water Watch has called a news conference for Thursday in New Bedford to urge Congress to extend its fiscal year bar against new catch share programs, approved on a 251-151 House roll call last winter, into the forseeable future.
Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-700, x3464, or at email@example.com.