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December 13, 2012

Lubchenco departure fuels hope for change in fishing rules

Departure fuels hope for change in fishing rules

Jane Lubchenco, the celebrated academic scientist whose four years at the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration devolved into a bitter political battle with the fishing industry and its congressional and political allies of both parties, yesterday announced her resignation effective at the end of February.

Lubchenco brought to her sub-cabinet position a faith that creating commodity markets trading in catch shares would induce conservation, efficiency of effort and a new profitability for the ports.

In her internal NOAA email yesterday, she proclaimed success on all fronts, but she leaves with the Northeast groundfishery, the high profile case study for catch shares, in shambles, declared a “disaster” by the acting commerce secretary in September, 11 months after Gov. Deval Patrick sought the declaration.

Adding insult to injury, Lubchenco inexplicably went to pains to protect the careers, salaries and reputations of the enforcement agents and litigators, including the chief of law enforcement, who had undertaken campaigns of legal terror against fishermen, extracting irrationally heavy fines for often minute violations of bureaucratic regulations, as multiple reports by the Commerce Department inspector general documented.

Although her internal email announcing her decision to resign proudly proclaimed her service as defined by “transparency, integrity, innovation, teamwork and communications,” she ignored or deflected countless written requests for her reasoning in keeping around the discredited old guard, after the inspector general testified to Congress that then NOAA law enforcement chief Dale Jones shredded the majority of documents in his office during the first active investigation of law enforcement excesses in 2010.

Lubchenco, a MacArthur “genius” award winner, implied in her email announcement that her resignation was induced by yearning for family and academia. “... As wonderful as Skype is for staying in touch, it is not a viable long-term arrangement!” she wrote.

But as recently as Oct. 4, she told Science Magazine’s blog ScienceInsider she hoped to remain a member of a second Obama administration. “There is so much more yet to do, and I want to do everything possible to make [it] happen,” she is quoted as saying.

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