Obama Fishing Czar Divides Democrats

Why John Kerry and Barney Frank are lining up against the administration’s “catch share” policy

Ira Stoll
Reason Magazine

The next battle over President Obama’s job-killing regulations may take place on the Atlantic Coast, where fishermen, and the senators and congressmen who represent them, are voicing mounting frustration at the Obama administration’s “catch-share” rules for the fishing industry.

The Republican senator from Massachusetts, Scott Brown, on Saturday stood with fishermen in Gloucester and called on Mr. Obama to fire the administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Jane Lubchenco.

But the frustration at Ms. Lubchenco, who also serves as under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, extends well beyond Republican, Tea Party-backed senators or libertarians for whom the idea of a federally enforced “share” program sounds like some nightmare out of an Ayn Rand novel.

A surprising and growing number of Democratic elected officials are also expressing annoyance and outright opposition. Sen. Kerry, the Democrat of Massachusetts who was his party’s presidential nominee in 2004, said Friday, “Because of federal regulations limiting fishing in our waters, a lot of our fisherman have been put out of business or pushed the brink.” Also last week, he sent a stern letter to Ms. Lubchenco, warning her, “tensions between federal regulators and the fishing community have reached a boiling point beyond anything I’ve ever witnessed in my 26 years in the Senate.”…

…The story hasn’t yet hit The New York Times, Politico, or the Drudge Report. But when it does, it won’t be pretty. At the center of the storm is Ms. Lubchenco, whose official biography fits what to the Obama administration’s critics will seem like a familiar pattern. Like President Obama himself and like Mr. Obama’s initial economic adviser, Lawrence Summers, Ms. Lubchenco has an advanced degree from Harvard. Like Mr. Obama and Mr. Summers, Ms. Lubchenco has little private sector experience, but spent a lot of time teaching at a university—in her case, more than 20 years at Oregon State University. When President Obama nominated her to the NOAA job, she was vice chairman of the board of the Environmental Defense Fund, an environmental advocacy group that promotes catch shares, which are kind of like a cap-and-trade emissions scheme transferred to fishery management…

The entire article, with video, can be read at Reason.com. The 2010 Reason.tv video explores the ways in which “catch shares,” if properly structured and enforced, can help save the ocean’s fisheries and the industry that depends on them.

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