U.S. Sen. John Kerry told NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco today he expects her to be sent the scientific proof she's requiring about the harmful impact of catch share management on the groundfishery — and he expects her to issue a "disaster declaration later this month."
With its implied deadline 11 days away, the request referred to efforts that have so far have been rebuffed by the Obama administration's top commerce and fisheries officials, and noted that Gov. Deval Patrick sought $21 million in direct economic relief from Lubchenco's policies.
Those policies, none moreso catch shares — with its commodification and the job loss from hyper-consolidation across New England's groundfishing industry — have driven a wedge between the administration and a bipartisan coalition in Congress.
The mayors of Gloucester and New Bedford, their congressional representatives, John Tierney and Barney Frank — each of them Democrats — and Sen. Scott Brown, a Republican, have all but written off Lubchenco, a former officer with the Environmental Defense Fund, as a lost cause for dealing with objectively federal fishing issues.
New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang emerged from the field hearing Kerry organized for the Senate Commerce Committee on Oct. 3 calling for President Obama to replace her or suffer the political consequences.
And a videotaped interview with an equally frustrated Mayor Carolyn Kirk after the Commerce Committee hearing — with Gloucester's mayor reminding the president he has yet to respond to her written appeal for relief from policies that she says are destroying fishing businesses — has been cited and played by the Drudge Report and conservative media commentator Sean Hannity.
Kerry, who has undertaken sensitive diplomatic missions for the president and serves on the bi-cameral, bi-partisan Super Committee assigned to craft a approvable deficit reduction program by Nov. 23, has remained hopeful and engaged with Lubchenco on fisheries issues.
But Kerry's frustration was also clear. He said tensions between federal regulators and the fishing community "have reached a boiling point beyond anything I've ever witnessed" in 26 years in the Senate.
Kerry also wrote that he had hard time understanding why Lubchenco has resisted acknowledging the social and economic harm done to the industry by Amendment 16 — which includes the catch share system pushed heavily by the NOAA chief and by EDF.
In all, Kerry's nearly 2,500-word letter discusses 10 specific issues and requests, including a public appeal for NOAA to rectify personal economic disasters suffered by two Massachusetts fishermen — Kevin Scola of Marshfield and Jim Keding of Plymouth — as a direct result of "bureaucratic mistakes."
Keding based a boat purchase on a grossly mistaken and inflated report on the catch share allocation to the boat's permit; Scola's timely swordfish permit renewal application was allowed to sit in the wrong office.
"For those of us who believe in government but also believe in accountability," Kerry wrote, "it is only common sense that we ensure that when such mistakes are made, people are made whole — that's ultimately how we maintain people's faith in government.
"We simply have to help these two fishermen."
For much more on this story, look to tomorrow's print and online editions of the Gloucester Daily Times and gloucestertimes.com.
Richard Gaines can be reached at 9780-283-7000, x3464, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.