Jes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and NationalFisherman.com.
Thursday, 23 June 2011
NOAA's leader is bound and determined to keep the Northeast fishing industry on its toes.
After extending a hand to fishermen as she entered office, Jane Lubchenco swiftly turned her back on that sector of her federal agency and opted seemingly to ignore the severity of New England fishermen's suffering under the newly implemented catch shares system and the quickly unraveling story of corruption in NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement.
At long last, she offered a public apology to the Ciulla family, which owns the Gloucester Seafood Display Auction and has been a poster child for abuses of the Northeast fishing industry under the OLE.
But the kicker is that Lubchenco is now attempting to force the auction's owners to shut down for 15 days because that was part of the terms of their settlement more than a year ago when they were fighting the order to close for 35 days.
Commerce Secretary Gary Locke has said the settlement cannot be revisited. According to the Gloucester Daily Times, Lubchenco claims in a letter that she is merely enforcing Locke's decision.
But who is in charge of the agents who so abused their powers? If closing the auction is merely an extension of justice and the result of following the letter of the law, then why hasn't Lubchenco fired anyone who overstepped their authority by issuing excessive fines and penalties to fishermen?
Why are OLE agents handled with kid gloves while fishermen are treated like so much bycatch?
It's one thing to claim your hands are tied if you are drawing a hard line for your own staff as well as the people they regulate. But when your constituents are always alone in the ring of fire — despite the proclamations of independent investigators — your duties as a public servant must be called into question.
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