WASHINGTON – Representative Barney Frank today called for the resignation of one of President Obama’s top fishing, ocean, and weather advisers.
Frank said that Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, should be replaced following an inspector general’s report that found misconduct within the agency.
“I believe the time has come to appoint a new head of…NOAA, and put somebody in there who’s really going to embrace what we need,” Frank, a Newton Democrat, said during an appearance on New Bedford-based WBSM-AM. “I think it’s time for Lubchenco to go.”
Representative John Tierney, a Salem Democrat, also called on Lubchenco's dismissal in the wake of the inspector general's report.
Frank and Tierney have also clashed with Lubchenco over increasing fishing stocks that are considered vital to the fishing industry in cities they represent, New Bedford and Gloucester.
An audit released last week detailed how fishing regulators misspent millions of dollars that were collected from fines on fishermen. The money went toward items such as a $300,000 luxury undercover boat, cars for managers, and a weeklong training workshop in Norway.
The audit, conducted by the US Commerce Department’s Inspector General’s office, came after complaints from fishermen that fishing laws were being arbitrarily enforced.
In a statement, Lubchenco defended her tenure, saying that she had asked for the audit of the agency, and is implementing several changes in response.
“I will continue to look for ways to improve our law enforcement program,” she said in the statement, which did not specifically address Frank’s call for her dismissal. “The these steps I have taken, combined with actions being planned, will go a long way toward helping us resolve the issues identified by the Inspector General and enhance our efforts to work with the fishing industry and public in a more constructive manner."
Lubchenco was appointed by President Obama and sworn into the position in March 2009, becoming the ninth administrator and first woman to oversee NOAA. The agency oversees a wide range of issues, including daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings, and fisheries management.
“I think she has failed in her duty to the fishermen,” Frank said. “She’s been the head of this agency for over a year, and this shouldn’t have had to come from the inspector general. This is something she should have done. And this was not just a few people misbehaving, this was the culture of this agency.”
This afternoon, Tierney had similar comments.
“For too long our local fishing community has dealt with unfair regulations, treatment, and practices from officials at NOAA,” Tierney said in a statement. “As issues continue to arise, we question whether Dr. Lubchenco and NOAA leadership have done enough to increase responsiveness to the public and Congress, hold agency representatives accountable, and take a critical look at unfair catch share regulations. If the current NOAA leadership is not going to commit to work with local fishermen and end the culture of no accountability at NOAA, I believe it is time for them to be replaced with leadership that will refocus on these issues.”
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.