GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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February 2, 2011

Bill demands reviews of fish policy

Sen. Brown's proposal would check regulatory impact on communities

U.S. Sen. Scott Brown's legislative proposal targeting changes in the Magnuson-Stevens Act would subject federal fisheries policy actions to systematic, independent economic analysis on an annual basis.

And his bill was applauded across the industry Wednesday as a needed lever to compel bureaucratic compliance with the Magnuson Act, which governs the regulation of America's fisheries,

In Gloucester, the Northeast Seafood Coalition, the region's largest industry group, said the National Marine Fisheries Service's failure to balance community well-being and industry harvest with conservation efforts made it necessary for independent evaluation of the impacts of regulatory actions.

Industry attorney Stephen Ouellette made much the same point, but went further, ascribing to fisheries' officials actions "to weaken the industry in advancing "a political conservationist agenda."

"One has to wonder whether NMFS has been stretching the truth and misleading the industry, the general public and Congress," the Gloucester-based attorney added.

Ouellette proposed a "complete retrospective analysis" of faulty projections of landings by regulators, which he has calculated has cost the New England economy as much as $500 million beyond the social costs in moving working fishermen into the ranks of the unemployed.

"The Commerce Department must be forced to comply with an independent fisheries impact statement, so that officials at NOAA and the Commerce Department cannot ignore the situation or tailor the results of the statement to their own purposes," Brown said in a prepared statement.

The seafood coalition and Ouellette together represent a sizeable fraction of the surviving descendants of the nation's original industry, which here in the 17th century.

Mayor Carolyn Kirk also lauded Brown's proposal as well conceived.

"Frequent and neutral third party reviews," she said, are "exactly what is needed," Kirk said.

"The concept of periodic, independent outside review of NMFS actions is long overdue," Ouellette told the Times in an e-mail response to questions seeking reaction to Brown's proposal. The Massachusetts Republican senator outlined his legislation at the start of the week as part of a larger package focused on economic revitalization and job creation or protection.

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