New England editorial roundup
The Portland Press Herald, Aug. 9, 2012
As tensions heat up on both sides of the Canadian border over a glut of low-cost Maine lobster being kept out of New Brunswick processing plants, there is something every Maine patriot should do: Eat more lobster.
The industry, which pumps more than $1 billion into the Maine economy each year, is not only one of our most dependable economic drivers and a steady source of employment in coastal communities, it also is our iconic product. Travel from our state and you'll inevitably hear the question, "Eat a lot of lobster?"
That's because for most of the world, Maine lobster is a luxury food, lumped in with filet mignon and caviar. Only in Maine do we see soft-shell "shedders" in our fish markets for affordable prices because they can't be shipped long distances for the live trade.
This year, the shedders came earlier, robbing Maine lobstermen of the most lucrative part of their business. The overabundance of soft-shell lobsters on the market made the price crash. Now, Canadian protests are interfering with shipping to processing plants, the only other market for these lobsters.
This dispute has rightly attracted the attention of Gov. Paul LePage and Sen. Olympia Snowe, who has called on U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to intervene.
It also has revived long-range policy discussions about Maine's vulnerability because of its lack of processing facilities. Canada has a dozen plants on its side of the border, while we have only three. If warmer ocean temperatures are going to make this year's early shedding an annual event, the state should be prepared to process the lobster.
Although important, none of these efforts is likely to help Maine lobstermen right now. The biggest boost they could get would be for Maine people and their visitors to make the most of this situation and follow advice of 50 businesses bound together in the Maine Lobster Lovers Celebration, which urges all of us to take care of our neighbors by eating more lobster. If only it were always this easy to help.
Eagle Tribune of North Andover, Mass., Aug. 10, 2012
When Gov. Deval Patrick last November submitted his formal call for an economic disaster declaration for the state's commercial groundfishery, he presented a strong case, backed by troubling marine science data.
Indeed, the data -- compiled from the first year of fishing under National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco's beloved, corporately-backed catch share management system -- noted that, of 96 groundfishing Gloucester boats at the time, 21 had been forced to the sidelines, all victims of Lubchenco's job-killing consolidation policies.
The Commerce Department and Lubchenco's NOAA, of course, have still not granted that declaration. They also haven't rejected it. In true Lubchenkian form, they've shown no commitment to accountability and continue to ignore the governor's request altogether, save for a Lubchenco letter sent to a governor's cabinet member vowing an answer "soon." That was in February.
So it's perfectly justified for U.S. Sens. John Kerry and Scott Brown to once again try to step up the pressure for action on the disaster declaration, as they have in a letter sent this week to acting Secretary of Commerce Roberta Blank, who oversees NOAA. And they should get an immediate answer, for this time, Commerce and NOAA have no choice.
Now, there can be no disputing the need for a disaster declaration. And there is no way that Lubchenco or anyone else in charge of regulating America's fisheries can even question that there is a pending economic calamity threatening the entire groundfishery in the coming months.
That's because NOAA's own data and 2013 catch limit projections are making the case. There are forecasts for Gulf of Maine cod limit cuts of more than 70 percent and cuts in the take for other species closely following suit. That, of course, would carry beyond the 22 percent cut already in place for the current year. And all of that would make the economic disaster even worse that what Patrick envisioned when he filed his request a full nine months ago.
There is a reason Lubchenco is resisting a disaster declaration: The disaster has been triggered by her own hand.
By all counts, the catch share system is driving more independent fishermen out of business. And while the system has worked for the bigger boats and larger corporations -- just as Lubchenco and the Environmental Defense Fund had hoped -- their increased landings are also now threatened by the NOAA assessment data.
Indeed, at least one state official has raised the possibility that the reported drop in cod stocks -- in stark contrast to an encouraging stock assessment just two years earlier -- is due in part to larger, offshore trawlers scooping up in-shore cod.
All of this leads to the conclusion that Brown, Congressmen John Tierney and Barney Frank and others have already drawn: Lubchenco's hopelessly dysfunctional agency and its parent Commerce Department desperately need new leadership.
But New England's fishermen cannot wait for the Obama administration or our federal lawmakers to force out Lubchenco.
It's long past time that Blank and Lubchenco concede catch shares have helped bring about a fisheries failure and issue the disaster declaration, extend federal aid to fishermen and, above all, eliminate the catch share policies that threaten to kill the local fishing industry.