Top choice skipped for New England Fisheries Management Council

Posted July 01, 2012, at 6:17 a.m.

The Commerce Department, filling the terms of departing members on the New England Fisheries Management Council, has bypassed the Connecticut governor’s first choice of a “long-time commercial fisherman with a wide range” of hands-on experience for a young academic whose background shows support for old-style hook-and-line fishing tactics over today’s commercial groundfishing draggers.

Matthew G. McKenzie, a faculty member at University of Connecticut Avery Point, was the second choice of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. And the Commerce Department’s selection of McKenzie, who takes the place of environmental executive Sally McGee, was the only deviation from the priority list of nominees submitted to the National Marine Fisheries Service by governors of New England’s coastal states.

McGee, a former senior staffer at the Environmental Defense Fund, is completing her maximum, third three-year term.

Malloy’s letter of nominees made clear his preferred choice was Joseph J. Gilbert, a well-known commercial fisherman with two scallop boats. Gilbert also manages four vessels involved in aquaculture farming and is a member of the Fisheries Survival Fund. Malloy put McKenzie second on his priority list.

McKenzie studied and wrote research papers at University of New Hampshire with Andrew Rosenberg, who is a protegee of NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco and a former regional administrator of NMFS’ Northeast Regional Office in Gloucester. At UNH, he worked on the Gulf of Maine Cod Project.

McKenzie is the author of a book, “Clearing the Coastline: The Nineteenth Century Ecological and Cultural Transformation of Cape Cod,” a study of the forces that turned Cape Cod from a fishing culture to a tourist center.

Efforts to reach McKenzie were unsuccessful, but according to a UConn-Avery Point profile, he helped his father renovate Colonial-era homes on Cape Cod and has maintained a focus on preserving maritime communities.

The Magnuson-Stevens Act, which defines the qualifications of council members, requires specialization in at least one of six areas. McKenzie’s is in the sixth: “teaching, journalism, writing, consulting, practicing law, or researching matters related to fisheries, fishery management, and marine resource conservation.”

Rosenberg is also president of MRAG Americas, a major environmental contractor to NOAA, as well as the chief scientist and senior vice president of Conservation International.

In all, the Commerce Department filled five seats on the 19-member council, which is made up of state designees, representatives of each of the five coastal New England states and at large appointees. With its mix of government officials, working members of the fishing industry, the recreational sector and environmental stakeholders, the council forges fishery management plans that are submitted for consideration by NMFS though the authority resides in the office of the Secretary of Commerce.

The seat given to McKenzie is notable because of its place in a strategic plan to gain control of U.S. oceans and fishing policies by Environmental Defense Fund. A 2005 memo, purported to be written as a grant application and leaked to the Times, noted that it had gained a foothold in the New England council with the appointment of McGee, and intended to use the influence aggressively while an EDF vice president. David Festa, worked to influence policy at the White House level.

This year’s appointments were made at a time when the office is vacant after the resignation of John Bryson who was involved in a bizarre series of traffic mishaps in suburban Los Angeles two weeks ago that ended with police finding Bryson unconscious behind the wheel of his vehicle.

He faces possible hit-and-run charges and was said by the department to be undergoing medical tests after having a seizure while driving.

The decision to appoint former state Rep. John F. Quinn of New Bedford to replace retired New Bedford fisherman Rodney Avila, who, like McGee, is completing his third term, also means that once again Gloucester, will not have a representative on the council.

Vito Calomo, a retired Gloucester fisherman and advisor to Sen. Scott Brown, was the last Gloucester resident to have a council seat, but his final term expired in 2001.

(c)2012 the Gloucester Daily Times (Gloucester, Mass.)

Visit the Gloucester Daily Times (Gloucester, Mass.) at www.gloucestertimes.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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