WASHINGTON (Saving Seafood) – August 14, 2015 — On August 9, 2015, Bob Jones, Executive Director of the Southeastern Fisheries Association, wrote to the National Marine Fisheries Service urging the agency to reexamine its updated Asset Forfeiture Fund (AFF) policy. The letter questioned the transparency and the effectiveness of the new policy, which outlines how the AFF may be used to fund NOAA Office of Law Enforcement activities.
The policy, which went into effect July 15, 2015, is intended to “establish a stringent policy for effective oversight of the AFF that will ensure no conflict of interest – real or perceived.” However, in his letter Mr. Jones calls into question whether NOAA will be able to effectively implement this new policy.
According to the letter, one of the main issues with the policy is that expected revenue from the AFF is included in NOAA’s annual budget. The letter notes “OLE must raise its own AFF money from the fishermen for all the approved activities listed in your memo,” a situation it likens to small town “speed traps” that invite abuse. It recommends that, as a transparency measure, AFF revenue collection – along with information such as transactions, violations, vessel names, and who paid for fines – should be posted on NOAA’s website.
The letter concludes by recommending that the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement refrain from implementing the new AFF policy until it has been further advertised and discussed with members of the fishing industry, and their concerns are addressed.
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