They may disagree on everything else under the sun, but Republican incumbent Scott Brown and his Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren — who are locked in a tense, high-profile struggle for a U.S. Senate seat — agree on the basic problems harming the Massachusetts fishing industry.
Their agreement is that the federal government has been levying excessive fines and overregulating the fleet, which has been further weakened from a combination of statutory limits on catch levels and a commodification market program adopted in 2010 and taken directly from a policy paper co-written by NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco while she was still serving on the board of directors at the Environmental Defense Fund. The lead financer for the policy paper advocating catch shares was the Walton Family Foundation, endowed with Wal-Mart profits and controlled by the family that founded and still owns the world's largest retailer.
Asked by the Times to respond to a 30-second radio ad that began running last week about what ails the fishing industry, Warren issued a statement that did not attempt to differentiate herself from Brown's extensive pronouncements. Brown has also filed multiple bills to ameliorate the problems.
"Our fishermen work hard and play by the rules, and they deserve to have a fair shot at success," Warren said in the prepared statement.
"For years, fishermen have been hammered by unfair enforcement and unfair regulations," she continued. "Federal regulators need to do a better job of working with fishermen and scientists to ensure we have sustainable fishing stocks, but in a way that doesn't drive fishermen out of business. As a senator, I will listen to Massachusetts fishermen, I will stand with them, and I will fight for them."
In his ad, Brown said, "We have a proud tradition of fishing in Massachusetts. It's been the subject of countless books and movies. It's also been a source of strength for our economy, going back to our earliest days. But our fishing industry is dying, and Washington is to blame. Fishermen have been hit with crushing fines, unrealistic catch limits, and arbitrary enforcement.
"As a result, people have lost their jobs, their homes, and their way of life. The agency responsible for this crisis is completely out of touch and unresponsive. ... Our fishermen and their families deserve better from their government, and I'm going to fight to protect them."
The ad also reiterated his March revelation — made simultaneously with Democratic Congressman John Tierney — that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had approved the purchase of a $300,000 cabin boat used by NOAA officials out of Seattle for partying and pleasure cruising around Puget Sound.
Throughout the Lubchenco administration, no one involved in a variety of misbehavior had been punished. The non-, mis- and malfeasance included targeting fishermen for excessive fines, destroying government documents while the inspector general was looking for evidence and misuse of the Asset Forfeiture Fund made of fines paid by fishermen
Paraphrasing a question he asked NOAA's number two appointed leader during a June field hearing of a Senate Homeland Security subcommittee, Brown's radio ad also included the sentence "What does it take to get fired in Washington?"
In early 2010, Brown won a special election to complete the term of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. Warren has emerged as the presumed Democratic nominee to challenge him with national and local fund-raising that has matched Brown.
Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, ext. 3464, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.