NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

May 6, 2013

NOAA shows it's answerable to no one

A lot of industry and political leaders said all the right things last week when the Gloucester-based Northeast Seafood Coalition hosted a rally at Boston’s Fish Pier.

State Attorney General Martha Coakley pleaded with NOAA Northeast Administrator John Bullard to take the “no” out of NOAA and essentially let New England’s fishermen at least be able to fish to make a living in the new fishing year that began Wednesday.

And state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante of Gloucester, flouting Bullard’s own regrettable January suggestion that fishermen must face a “day of reckoning” through a series of limit cuts that threaten the industry’s very core, rightfully pointed out that Dale Jones, the NOAA endorsement chief who blatantly allowed the abuse of funds, levied excessive penalties on fishermen and led good ol’ Nixonian-style document-shredding party, according to findings by Commerce’s own inspector general’s office, never faced any “reckoning” at all. In fact, he’s still on the NOAA payroll, sucking up $150,000-plus in taxpayer dollars annually.

But in the end, it was state Sen. Bruce Tarr who made perhaps the most telling statement, saying, “It’s time to prove the power of democracy is stronger than the power of bureaucracy.”

Why is that basic statement so telling? Because Bullard and Commerce officials proved Tuesday that Tarr was dead-wrong. That’s right, folks. All the actions, all of the pleas from officials ranging from Gov. Deval Patrick and Coakley to Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Congressman John Tierney, have achieved nothing.

When it comes to NOAA’s and Commerce’s handling of fisheries, bureaucracy has indeed won the day. And that’s a frightening precedent for any arm of our government to set, especially when it is killing American fishing and waterfront jobs and doing to the family fishing boat what agribusiness has done to America’s family farm.

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