NOAA’s public relations nightmare has been the fisheries enforcement scandal in the Northeast. The resulting uproar over overzealous and arrogant enforcement actions led to a Commerce Department Inspector General’s office probe of enforcement practices in the region, followed by a review of specific cases and now Senate hearings examining NOAA practices.
The findings of Special Master Charles B. Swartwood III prompted the Commerce Department and NOAA to implement steps designed to prevent such abuses from re-occurring. It also led them to issue formal apologies for enforcement actions, and in some cases compensate fishermen for those abuses.
So you’re NOAA chief Jane Lubchenco and you’ve promised to work hard to repair your agency’s dysfunctional relationship with Northeast fishermen. What would your next step towards that goal be?
Would you email the attorney for Larry Ciulla of the Gloucester, Mass., Seafood Display Auction — one of the victims most unfairly targeted by enforcement personnel — that your agency is enforcing Commerce Secretary Gary Locke’s decision to reinstate a 15-day closure of the auction as negotiated in a 2010 settlement of three interlocking cases against it?
Locke’s decision is based on the Special Master’s report and recommendations. Swartwood had written that he didn’t have authority to revisit the penalty and have it erased.
And if you were going to notify Ciulla of your decision, would you do so just as he’s waiting to testify at a Senate subcommittee hearing on how your agency is managing funds to protect the domestic fishing industry?
No, you probably wouldn’t. But LeBron would. And NOAA did.