Written by Adrianne Madden
Friday, 22 January 2010
Commerce Department Inspector General Todd Zinser has completed his nationwide review of NOAA's fisheries law enforcement practices, and found them lacking.
So now what?
Well, Jane Lubchenco, NOAA Administrator, said in a press statement Thursday that she's directed the agency's enforcement and legal offices to take steps to promote "greater transparency in law enforcement, ensure fairness in penalties and improve lines of communication with commercial and recreational fishermen."
Her direction comes on the heels of Zinser's report, which, among other things, states that the agency's law enforcement operation lacks organization, guidelines and oversight.
Other than that, though, things are great...
The report also found that criminal investigators make up 90 percent of the Office of Law Enforcement's staff even though 98 percent of its cases concern non-criminal infractions, and that heavy fines are issued without consistency and without review.
Lubchenco had requested that the Inspector General conduct the review in June 2009 after complaints from the fishing industry, senators and congressmen about NOAA fisheries law enforcement reached a crescendo. Northeast fishermen have been particularly critical of the agency's enforcement tactics, which they say have been unnecessarily heavy-handed.
Now NOAA must rebuild a relationship with fishermen that because of enforcement actions has become unnecessarily adversarial. To that end, Lubchenco says NOAA will convene a national summit on enforcement policies and practices (no date has been set yet) "in order to hear from constituents and experts in the field."
Commercial and recreational fishing representatives as well as folks from the environmental community, academic institutions and outside experts from law enforcement will take part in the summit, she says. Lubchenco further states she will work to implement the recommendations that emerge from the summit.
If NOAA is serious about working to improve its fisheries law enforcement practice, that's good news. But fishermen, the related businesses and fishing communities that have been most impacted by the adversarial approach, will be the final judges of whether those practices actually improve.
The following was released by the Maine Department of Marine Resources on Jan. 22:
The Maine Department of Marine Resources announced an emergency regulation that will support the continued rebuilding effort in Maine’s scallop fishery. The rule, effective January 23, 2016, will close the Muscle Ridge Area near South Thomaston and the Western Penobscot Bay Area.Read more...
Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which governs commercial and recreational fishing in the state, got a new boss in January. Charlie Melancon, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislator, was appointed to the job by the state’s new governor, John Bel Edwards.
Although much of his non-political work in the past has centered on the state’s sugar cane industry, Melancon said he is confident that other experience, including working closely with fishermen when in Congress, has prepared him well for this new challenge.Read more...