Okay, here we go again. Another behind-the-scenes effort has begun behind our backs, the way it happened before. The newest NOAA effort has begun toward creating a marine national monument in the Cashes Ledge area -- about 80 miles east of Gloucester -- as well as the deep sea coral and seamount area south of Georges Bank, traditional catch areas for our fishermen.
Former U.S. Sen. John Kerry, now secretary of state, has been quixotic and disturbingly vague on the issue, hinting that following the model of Maryland’s sanctuaries and in the Great Lakes, “We also have plans in the works, which we are pursuing for still another significant one in the Atlantic, where we don’t have the kind of presence that we want and should.” Kerry added that the Obama administration is working with senators “engaged in that particular area in order to make that happen.” Unfortunately, current senators Markey and Warren have stayed silent on the subject.
Meanwhile, concerned by what it regards as a lack of transparency and undue influence from conservationists, a House committee on Wednesday sought more answers from the Obama administration on potential plans to create a national marine monument off the coast of New England that would be fully off limits to fishing or sea-bed harvesting. They pressed the Obama administration for the names and positions at all of the agencies working on this New England monument set-aside. They were especially concerned about any third-party organizations meeting with staffers working on the issue, as well as costs incurred. NGOs were high on that list -- and with good reason. Those are the non-governmental organizations, particularly the familiar names of the Conservation Law Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Natural Resources Defense Council, names that have repeatedly surfaced in the installation of our current draconian fishing rules and catch limits, almost seeming to be whispering in NOAA’s ear all the way through the process.
“The American people and those impacted by such potential designations deserve the right to know now what the federal government is or has been doing behind closed doors, given that a true public process simply does not exist under current law or practice,” the House members wrote in a letter to the administration. The Committee on Natural Resources said witness testimony at last week’s oversight hearing on marine national monuments showed “the public input process surrounding the designation or expansion of national marine monuments has been woefully inadequate or even non-existent.” They went on to publicly identify a chain of emails from a cadre of conservationist groups who had been urging Obama to use his powers to create this monument. The members had serious questions about the seemingly cozy relationship between the government enactors and the NGOs -- a situation we have seen and heard denied before in NOAA’s actions.
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