A fine mess

This week Congressmen learned more about allegations that in November, enforcement documents were improperly shredded while the Commerce Department inspector general’s office was conducting its investigation of enforcement practices. Reportedly as much as 75 percent of the material in then enforcement chief Dale Jones’s files were destroyed.

People are rightly outraged over the enforcement mess — a Gloucester (Mass.) Daily Times editorial http://www.gloucestertimes.com/opinion/x154921592/Call-NOAA-actions-what-they-truly-are-obstruction-of-justice even calls for obstruction of justice charges to be brought against Jones should it be found that the shredding allegations are true.

But it seems like the fishermen whose fines apparently were excessive in relation to the violations that were committed are getting lost in the shuffle.

What recourse is there for fishermen who were fined so heavily that they were driven out of the industry? Can they be reimbursed for any amounts they paid that were over the average nationwide for similar offenses?

It’s an idea that bears consideration. Doing so could be an important step in restoring balance to the relationship between fishermen and the fisheries enforcement branch.

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