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November 22, 2011

Company tied to NOAA chief to evaluate policy

A $5 billion foundation that has spent tens of millions of dollars promoting the catch share commodification of New England's and other U.S. fisheries has chosen a firm with close ties to NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco to evaluate the nation's newest catch share programs.

The commission is to study the effect of the privatization of the New England groundfishery and the Pacific trawl fishery.

In choosing MRAG Americas Inc. to study both the New England program that began in 2010 and the Pacific trawl program that began this year, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation selected a firm headed by Andrew Rosenberg, a Gloucester resident.

A former NOAA Northeast regional administrator out of Gloucester, Rosenberg got his master's degree at Oregon State University while Lubchenco was a faculty luminary and he lists Lubchenco as a reference on his portfolio.

Fishing interests denounced the selection of MRAG Americas as incapable of producing disinterested research on the catch share programs, both of which are hotly disputed and divisive.

But Bob Trumble, MRAG Americas' vice president, said the company had established a record of "objective and scientifically based work."

He said Rosenberg was overseas and unreachable.

Jim Hutchinson, managing director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, described the Moore Foundation's choice of MRAG Americas to study catch shares as "Astro-Turfing at its best — the D.C. double dip where a firm with direct ties to a government agency is paid to do a study, which promotes a movement that creates more work and increases the firm's net income."

"What good would (the study) be? It's biased," said Tina Jackson, president of the American Alliance of Fishermen and Their Communities. She has been engaged in a bitter struggle with catch share advocates that has recently produced a schism within the New England and national fishing communities.

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