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April 28, 2011

Grants show new 'green' push for catch shares

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Thursday announced grants totalling $2.25 million to 18 recipients on three coasts to advance the Obama administration's catch share fishery management policy.

Among the recipients are six New England organizations sharing $512,585, and one from Massachusetts, the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen's Association, which received $185,000 to help launch a fishermen's loan fund.

The action by the congressionally chartered nonprofit foundation — which partners with corporate-based foundations, private corporations, global commodity conglomerates and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — is part of a broad and well-financed counter-offensive against most fishermen's push against catch shares, and a House-approved budget amendment that aims to cut off NOAA's funding for expanding the new system.

In New England and farther south, there are pockets of advocates for catch shares, which are already trending to consolidate fishing allocations and permits with the bigger and better-capitalized businesses, while driving smaller operations and independent fishermen to sell out and drop out of the industry.

But, as in Congress, anti-catch share opinion is widely considered to represent a majority in the industry.

NOAA, whose administrator, Jane Lubchenco, has been a crusader for catch shares since her days as an officer with the Environmental Defense Fund, seeks $36.6 million for the program in her fiscal 2012 budget, and has given no indication of rethinking the pace of the implementation.

That's much to the chagrin of North Carolina congressional Republican Walter Jones, the lead sponsor of the anti-catch share amendment which passed the House 251-151 in January.

"It is disappointing, but sadly not surprising to see the lengths to which (NOAA) is going to ignore the congressional position to their catch share agenda," Jones said in a statement to the Times.

EDF has obtained more than $30 million in grant dollars from pro-catch share interests — including the Walton Foundation, founded by Wal-Mart heirs — to spearhead the campaign for catch shares, but has remained officially mute about the clash.

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