NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

February 1, 2013

Editorial:

(Continued)

In reality, the limits set Wednesday and the manner in which they’ve come about remind us all once again how utterly dysfunctional administrator’s Jane Lubchenco’s NOAA and the Department of Commerce have become. We now have a Department of Commerce signing off on regulations for a private U.S. industry that are guaranteed to drive the nation’s seafood trade deficit higher than ever, with buyers certain to look overseas, where fishermen can actually still fish.

On another level, we have Bullard insisting that his “hands are tied” through an interpretation of the Magnuson-Stevens Act that even a battery of lawmakers responsible for its content say is a bunch of balderdash.

Indeed, Bullard added insult to injury Wednesday, noting that those fishermen who are able to ply their trade at all in the 2013 fishing year, which begins May 1, will also have to pick up a share of the cost of the federal on-board monitors. NOAA, it seems, didn’t sufficiently budget for the monitors, Bullard reasons, so the fishermen will have to cover the cost difference.

Well, that’s not how it should work — and our federal lawmakers, from U.S. Rep. John Tierney to Sens. Elizabeth Warren and, yes, the newly seated William “Mo” Cowan should take note. If NOAA’s budget can’t cover the cost of the monitors, then the monitoring system is no more. And if Commerce doesn’t come through with aid to address the “economic disaster” its own acting secretary declared last September, then NOAA’s and an appropriate portion of Commerce’s budget is either frozen or dropped altogether.

Bullard’s and NOAA’s hard truth is that, based on questionable data, New England’s groundfishermen will have to shelve their boats and gear for the entirety of the coming fishing year, a downright offensive order from this renegade arm of our own federal government. But it’s time our lawmakers delivered some hard truths to NOAA and the Department of Commerce as well:

Taxpayers cannot be expected to supply their hard-earned money to a department and agency committed to destroying so many small businesses and killing so many jobs in an industry that — wthout NOAA’s help — has lasted nearly 400 years.

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