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Editorial September/October 2010

Dr. Lubchenco's New Problems and Old Priorities

    Dr. Jane Lubchenco, chief administrator of NOAA, former Environmental Defense Fund vice chairwoman, PEW fellow, “catch shares” advocate, and self-proclaimed “champion of the recreational fisherman,” is in hot water with many calling for her resignation.
   An audit from the Inspector General’s office uncovered huge mismanagement and misuse of NOAA’s $90,000,000 plus Asset Forfeiture Fund (AFF) for a four year period. The audit of Federal Fisheries clearly shows fines levied on Northeast fishermen were considerably higher than in other locations. Funds in the AFF were also used for unauthorized purchases of agency cars, boats, and international travel.
Congressmen Barney Frank, John Tierney, and Walter Jones all call for Dr. Jane’s resignation from her lofty position at NOAA. Congressman Frank has backed off his demand after hearing from the Obama administration.
Senator Charles Schumer has demanded that NOAA sell all unauthorized assets and use the funds to reimburse fishermen who have paid excessive fines, and whose seasons where cut short.
This is just another incident that shows Dr. Jane Lubchenco’s undying respect and support for both commercial and recreational fishermen and her dedication and commitment to bring trust back to the relationship between fishermen and their regulators.
   Because of Dr. Jane Lubchenco’s associations with numerous anti-fishing environmental “business” groups, her allegiance to her former employer, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), also a clearly anti-fishing environmental organization, and her overwhelming support and dedication for their “catch shares” agenda, the bringing to NOAA the EDF’s catch shares manifesto and forcing it on commercial fishermen today and quite possibly the recreational fishermen tomorrow, and the seeding of NOAA and NOAA Fisheries with former employees of many anti-fishing environmental “business” organizations such as Pew Charitable Trusts, EDF and others, and this latest AFF NOAA embarrassment, the Big Game Fishing Journal believes Dr. Lubchenco could never be fair, impartial, and unbiased in the performance of her duties as chief NOAA administrator that pertains to commercial, and recreational fisheries management. We join with Congressman John Tierney and Congressman Walter Jones in calling for Dr. Lubchenco’s ouster from NOAA.
   Ask any fishermen in the know, either commercial or recreational, about the MRFSS data system being used by NOAA fisheries to determine the status of fish stocks. They will reply that it is flawed, broken, erroneous and must be fixed in order to make sound and accurate fisheries decisions. Without accurate science, fishermen are currently experiencing needless fishery closures that are costing jobs and livelihoods. Lubchenco states MRFSS is the “best available” data system. Fishermen say NOAA is in dire need of a new data system, and many fish stocks that MRFSS says are in trouble are really in great shape.
In recent months, Dr. Lubchenco has diverted $54,000,000 in federal funds, earmarked for other NOAA programs, and used this money to further her catch shares agenda. A portion of that money, approximately $1,000,000, was earmarked to obtain better science to be used for their fisheries management decisions that include quotas, and fishery closures. I would assume accurate data and good science to base sound fisheries decisions on that would not affect jobs and livelihoods needlessly would be a priority for NOAA, but it appears EDF’s catch shares manifesto is on top of her list.
   In light of the comments made at the Milken Institute’s “Innovative Funding For Sustainable Fisheries” panel in 2009, and Dr. Lubchenco’s excessively strong support for EDF’s catch shares fisheries management manifesto, and her overwhelming catch shares agenda that is being forced by Lubchenco’s group down the throat of the commercial fisherman today, and possibly the recreational fishing sector tomorrow, the Big Game Fishing Journal is also calling for an investigative authority to look into the reasons for NOAA’s overwhelming push to catch shares management. Is Dr. Lubchenco using her position as NOAA Administrator to bring EDF’s catch shares manifesto to reality because of fishing fleet funding opportunities that will arise for friends of EDF, or is it about an EDF or Pew ideological take over of NOAA Fisheries? Does it really have anything to do with conservation

   Captain Len Belcaro