EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

January 15, 2013

Editorial: Clueless legislators betray fishermen

It’s bad enough that a set of Republican U.S. House amendments had, as of Thursday, trimmed a Senate-approved $150 million for economic disaster aid for New England and Northeast fisheries down to $5 million — to be divided among six states.

But the idea that those same amendments — pushed by Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, a New Jersey Republican, and Rep. Hal Rogers, a Kentucky Republican and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee — would funnel money to the agency responsible for the disaster and further destroy fisheries and the jobs they support is the ultimate slap in the face to fisheries around the country.

That’s right, these clueless congressmen — while understandably questioning whether fishermen’s disaster aid is appropriate within a bill providing relief to victims of Superstorm Sandy — believe it’s just fine for the bill to include $261 million for NOAA projects to promote so-called “ocean zoning” or marine spacial planning and for NOAA’s development of new weather satellites and other high-tech equipment. Yet any ocean zoning scheme would almost certainly bring more closed fishing areas and further devastate the industry.

Lost in all this, of course, are a few facts: that the Northeast fishery has been declared an “economic disaster” by our own federal government, and that it’s a product of NOAA’s own catch-share fishery policies hatched by Jane Lubchenco, the agency’s now lame-duck administrator.

We can only hope that more lawmakers heed the efforts of Congressman John Tierney, who is pushing to restore the $150 million in fishing aid that was part of the Senate bill — and that these GOP amendments find their rightful home in a legislative trash bin.

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