Commerce secretary and NOAA administrator apologize to commercial
Secretary Gary Locke and NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco have
apologized to New England fishermen who were wronged by inappropriate
and excessive enforcement actions enacted by NOAA enforcement staff for
more than a decade.
yesterday, May 17, that $649,527 in fisheries enforcement penalties
will be returned to 11 individuals or businesses after an independent
review of their cases concluded the NOAA enforcement program had in
some instances “overstepped the bounds of propriety and fairness.”
issued yesterday, Locke acted on 30 cases reviewed by the Special
Master, Judge Charles Swartwood III, accepting all of his
recommendations that the law allows and taking additional actions in
several cases. Locke appointed Swartwood to conduct the independent
review of cases identified by the Department of Commerce’s Inspector
General as problematic. The individuals and businesses will receive
their remittances within 30 days of receipt of payment information.
prosecutor, I expect our entire law enforcement program to uphold high
standards and maintain the public’s trust. Enforcement has to be fair,
uniform and consistent. I accepted all of the Special Master's
recommendations in every instance where I have authority to do so under
Magnuson-Stevens Act, and in some cases I went beyond the Special
Master’s recommendation,” said Locke. “In addition, we are implementing
additional reforms to make regulations and enforcement more fair and
effective. We inherited this decades-old problem, but it’s ending on my
businesses and fishermen who will receive returned penalties are the
Gloucester Seafood Display Auction ($16,515) and former New Bedford sea
scallop fisherman Lawrence Yacubian ($400,000), whose cases date back
to the early 2000s.
time associated with the 30 reviewed cases, NOAA investigated over
40,000 incidents and issued penalties or sanctions in about 6,000
cases. Swartwood is currently reviewing approximately 80 additional
applications that were received during a recent application period. The
applications that meet the standards set forth in Locke’s
2011 Decision Memorandum will receive further review.
acknowledge and rectify past mistakes, apologize to the fishermen and
businesses hurt by these mistakes, and rededicate ourselves to work
with the fishing industry to sustain and grow fishing jobs,” said Dr.
Jane Lubchenco, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere
and NOAA administrator, who traveled to Gloucester, Mass., to meet with
affected fishermen and with NOAA enforcement staff in the region.
“Since coming into office two years ago, I made reform of our fisheries
enforcement program a top priority. I believe today marks a major
turning point in NOAA’s relationship with America’s fishermen, and in
particular fishermen in New England.”
after hearing concerns from fishermen, businesses, and elected
officials, Lubchenco asked the Department of Commerce Inspector General
to conduct a national review of NOAA’s enforcement program. Based on
this review and other findings, Locke and Lubchenco instituted sweeping
changes in its enforcement program, including:
leadership at headquarters and in the New England regional office.
to issue charges and settle cases from the field staff to supervisors
penalty policy to give greater clarity for the regulated community.
regulations to place the burden on NOAA to justify its proposed penalty
and permit sanctions in hearings before administrative law judges.
Fund Use Policy that greatly restricts the uses of the fund in order to
ensure there is no conflict of interest, real or perceived, with the
use of the fund.
personnel changes that emphasize compliance over punishment, including
the hiring of a former fisherman as compliance liaison in New England.
of NOAA enforcement reforms instituted over the past two years, click
In response to Swartwood’s report, Locke and Lubchenco announced that,
in addition to returning penalties, NOAA would take the following
management councils nationwide to simplify and streamline regulations
regional fishery management councils to simplify fishery management
regulations and provide routine training for the fishing industry and
other stakeholders on regulatory compliance.
enforcement personnel and enforcement attorneys to attend annual
professional and ethics training to ensure they follow fair, effective
and professional procedures.
liaison program nationwide to assist fishermen at the waterfront better
understand and have stronger incentives to comply with regulations.
strict guidelines to limit communications between NOAA staff and
administrative law judges to ensure there is no conflict of interest,
real or perceived.
analysis to more appropriately balance the number of enforcement
officers and special agents to more effectively communicate with the
industry and match its enforcement needs.
penalties, I want to make it clear that fisheries enforcement serves
fisheries, fishermen, and fishing communities,” said Locke.
primary goal of the enforcement program is to increase compliance with
the regulations necessary to ensure our fisheries are sustainable. NOAA
should strongly enforce marine resource laws, and act prudently to
serve those whose livelihoods depend on the marine resources these laws
protect. NOAA has worked to refocus its fisheries management,
enforcement and compliance programs consistent with these goals.
Today’s decision is one more step in that process.”