BOSTON — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief says she will return to New England to discuss her agency’s management of the fishing industry, after a visit earlier this month led Sen. Scott Brown to call for her ouster.
Jane Lubchenco said in a letter, released by NOAA, that she looked forward to a return visit and likely would stop in Gloucester as part of her still-unscheduled appearance.
“We understand that the Massachusetts fleet has struggled and many continue to struggle,” she wrote. “We are confident that resolution and success is possible.”
Lubchenco visited Massachusetts on Oct. 3 and faced tough questioning from lawmakers critical of a new fish management system she has championed. Brown, a Republican, later called on President Barack Obama to fire her, saying she was indifferent to the industry’s struggles.
Gov. Deval Patrick has asked for a federal disaster declaration and $21 million in economic aid for fishermen hurt by the new system, and Sen. John Kerry backed that request in a letter to Lubchenco last week, in which he also asked her to revisit the state.
The new system went into effect in May 2010. The system sets a quota for each species and awards fishermen individual shares. The shares are managed as groups called sectors. If the fishermen exceed the quota for one species, they must stop fishing all species.
Fishermen previously had a certain amount of time on the water to fish. Some say the new system results in unfair shares of the catch and unfairly favors large commercial fishing operations. But Lubchenco maintains the system is a vast improvement and is key to turning the industry around.
Lubchenco’s letter was in response to Kerry’s. She said NOAA expected to receive a revised disaster request from Massachusetts, which she said would be assessed “as quickly as possible.” She also outlined other steps NOAA would take or was taking. Those steps included:
• Exploring whether previously closed fishing grounds can be reopened.
• Increasing the number of scientific assessments of the health and population of fish stocks, which fishermen have criticized as woefully inadequate.
• Supporting an increase in how much of a previous year’s uncaught quota can roll over to the next year.
Kerry said he appreciated that “we’re in constant contact at this critical time for our fishermen.”