BOSTON – The head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says she’s completely committed to reviving New England’s historic fishing fleet, and that a new management system some say is ruining the industry will be the key to its turnaround.

“I firmly believe that recovering the iconic fisheries in New England is paramount,” Jane Lubchenco, who’s been the nation’s ocean chief since March 2009, said in an interview. “The old, dark days are not something anyone wants to continue.”

Lubchenco said she favors limits on how much catch one fishing entity can control so that larger fishing interests can’t force small boats out of the industry. She also wants help for fishermen facing millions in looming costs under the new system. She dismissed the notion that her past ties to environmentalists puts her at odds with the fishermen who disagree with them.

“I have a long-standing great relationship with fishermen as well as environmental groups, and I know they are not at polar opposite ends,” she said.

Lubchenco spoke last week, before she was scheduled to appear in Boston today for what’s likely to be tough questioning before a panel of congressmen convened by U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. The group will discuss the social and economic impact of the new system for managing the Northeast groundfish catch, including cod, haddock and flounder.

The old fishing system tried to stop overfishing with an ever-dwindling allotment of fishing days at sea. It also set daily catch limits on some species, forcing fishermen into the wasteful practice of tossing away any fish — usually dead ones — caught over that limit.

The new system, installed in May 2010, sees most fishermen pooling individual catch allotments in groups called sectors. If the fleet exceeds limits on how much they can catch, or throw overboard, all fishing stops.

Some say the catch allotments were unfairly divided, and smaller operators will be forced to sell or lease their paltry shares to larger interests, eventually obliterating the small boat fleet and leaving New England’s fishing resource in the hands of a wealthy few.

A one-year analysis provided fuel for those concerns, showing a loss of jobs (2,442 crew positions in 2009 to 2,277 last year) and groundfishing trips (26,000 to 14,000), while 20 percent of all vessels accounted for 80 percent of revenues last year, up from 68 percent of revenues in 2009.

But Lubchenco said those trends began under the old system. Now, she said, fishermen are becoming more entrepreneurial because the new system allows them to fish for their quota whenever they choose and play the market. The one-year report indicated that prices for groundfish rose 17 percent under the new system.

The change also saw fishermen catch within their limit on 18 of 20 stocks, success that will lead to healthier fish and higher catch allotments in coming years, Lubchenco said.

But fishermen have heard similar promises for years, and Lubchenco said it’s clear the industry’s problems won’t fade overnight.

“There’s light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s a long tunnel,” she said.