National Fisherman

Mixed Catch 

lincIn Mixed Catch, NF Senior Editor Linc Bedrosian spotlights a wide range of commercial fishing-related news items from coast to coast.

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.

National Fisherman Live

National Fisherman Live: 11/06/14

In this episode:

NOAA report touts 2013 landings, value increases
Panama fines GM salmon company Aquabounty
Gulf council passes Reef Fish Amendment 40
Maine elver quota cut by 2,000 pounds
Offshore mussel farm would be East Coast’s first

 

Inside the Industry

EAST SAND ISLAND, Oregon—Alexa Piggott is crawling through a dark, dusty, narrow tunnel on this 62-acre island at the mouth of the Columbia River. On the ground above her head sit thousands of seabirds. Piggott, a crew leader with Bird Research Northwest, is headed for an observation blind from which she'll be able to count them.
 
Read more...

NOAA and its fellow Natural Resource Damage Assessment trustees in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill have announced the signing of a formal Record of Decision to implement a gulf restoration plan. The 44 projects, totaling an estimated $627 million, will restore barrier islands, shorelines, dunes, underwater grasses and oyster beds.

Read more...

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