NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

December 3, 2012

Our view: NOAA chief's stand to cut tuna limit must be last straw

It’s bad enough that America’s Atlantic tuna fishermen — including the North Shore boats and captains featured in National Geographic’s “Wicked Tuna” TV series — will be dealing with the same collective bluefin limit of 1,750 metric tons they faced this year, even when studies show the stock’s biomass at 145 percent.

But New England and other Atlantic tuna fishermen have only foreign officials and scientists to thank that the limits by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas — or ICCAT — aren’t lower than the current figures, again, in spite of the stock’s documented growth. For that was the direction sought by NOAA chief administrator Jane Lubchenco, who, rather than representing the interest of NOAA’s parent Department of Commerce, American fishermen and other U.S. businesses tied to the tuna trade, instead pushed for the catch to be lowered, even in the face of science that showed there was no need to do so.

If this doesn’t spur federal lawmakers and the Obama administration to give her the boot, we can only wonder what will. Lubchenco’s calls at the recent ICCAT meeting in Morocco — thankfully ignored or refuted by respected scientists and government officials from other countries — are nothing short of a disgrace.

They should also not be any surprised. She has, after all, ignored several calls for action from congressional leaders ranging from Congressman John Tierney to Sens. Scott Brown and John Kerry. And she has run her agency against the grain of the president’s own position, figuratively scoffing at his campaign promise to promote “jobs, jobs, jobs” by holding to her job-killing catch share management system that has produced a government-recognized “economic disaster” in New England and across the waterfronts of the Northeast.

By even urging a cut in the tuna limit, Lubchenco has now shown her own disdain for fishery science itself — unless, of course, it advances her own anti-fishing agenda. And her continued presence as NOAA’s leader only ensures that neither the agency’s policies nor its science have even a shred of credibility remaining.

Tierney and Brown especially have spoken in the past about the need for new leadership at NOAA. Lubchenco’s bid to undercut American businesses even in the face of scientific evidence to the contrary has to be the last straw.

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