GLOUCESTER - Criticizing an “attitude of indifference’’ that he said is decimating New England’s fishing industry, US Senator Scott Brown yesterday called on the president to fire NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco.
Speaking alongside local officials at a waterfront news conference yesterday morning, the Massachusetts Republican added his voice to others in the state’s congressional delegation who have called for her ouster.
In July 2010, days after the release of a US Inspector General’s report that found misconduct within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Representatives Barney Frank and John Tierney, Democrats from Newton and Salem respectively, said Lubchenco should go.
Yesterday, before a crowd of nearly 100, some of whom stood with him at a podium facing the iconic “Man at the Wheel’’ statue, Brown said, “I am here to call on President Barack Obama to fire Administrator Jane Lubchenco.’’
NOAA released a statement later saying that Lubchenco “understands these are extremely difficult times for fishermen and their families. She has always sought to be a partner in the success of fishermen, to sustain fishing jobs, to create a profitable and healthy future for fishing communities, and to maintain healthy marine fisheries, as she most recently showed by her announcement on Thursday addressing concerns regarding monitoring costs.’’
A spokesman for Lubchenco noted that NOAA had committed millions to pay for on-board catch observers this past week, sparing fishermen the cost of the monitoring.
Earlier this month, Brown and US Senator Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican, introduced a bill that could end a system of managing fishing that has drawn intense criticism from the New England industry.
“Catch-share’’ rules, which went into effect in May 2010, encourage boat owners to organize into sectors that are allocated annual quotas for each imperiled fish species. Sector members must stop fishing when the group exceeds the limit on a particular kind of fish. Sectors also may sell or lease shares to other groups.
The rules, designed to protect and repopulate weak species, replaced a complex system that restricted how many days fishermen could go out annually, where they could go, and the number of fish they could bring ashore.
Many fishermen say this approach is forcing small-boat operations out of business. The bill filed by Brown and Ayotte would end the program in New England if tallies show 15 percent of participating fishermen lost their jobs in the first year.
US Senator John F. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, last week formally asked Lubchenco to support a federal disaster declaration for New England’s fishing industry.
Yesterday in Gloucester, where fishing has as much historic resonance as it does economic impact, some involved with the industry welcomed Brown’s call for Lubchenco to be fired.
“If she cannot step up to the plate of the fishing communities in Gloucester and across the country, then it’s time for her to go,’’ said Angela Sanfilippo, president of the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association at the press conference.
Sanfilippo, whose fishing heritage goes back seven generations to her family’s roots in Italy, said she “personally extended an invitation’’ to Lubchenco to visit Gloucester for an update on how policy changes are hurting the industry and community.
“She said, ‘Oh, that would be great,’ but then I never heard from her,’’ Sanfilippo said.
Brown expressed similar frustration with Lubchenco’s dealings with Congress, saying NOAA has stonewalled requests for information and attempts at oversight.
“You know what I fear, folks?’’ he said, looking toward the “Man at the Wheel.’’ “NOAA won’t stop until this statue right here will be the last fisherman standing in Massachusetts.’’
Bryan Marquard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.