September 27, 2010

Commerce Secretary Promises Reform at NOAA During Meeting with Whitehouse

Washington, DC – Last week, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Congressman Barney Frank, Senator John Kerry, Senator Scott Brown, Congressman John Tierney, Congressman Walter Jones, and Congressman Tim Bishop met with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke to seek answers for the New England fishermen, who have long complained that NOAA sets low catch limits and has been excessive in its enforcement of New England fishing violations.

At the meeting, Secretary Locke announced that he would introduce widespread reforms to increase accountability at the Office of Law Enforcement Division of NOAA, following two reports by the Department of Commerce’s Inspector General revealing disproportionally aggressive enforcement practices in New England and mismanagement of enforcement fines.

“I thank Secretary Locke for being forthcoming with us as the Department of Commerce begins to respond to these serious charges,” said Whitehouse. “This is a challenging time for our fishermen and while it is by no means enough, cleaning house at the Office of Law Enforcement Division, where warranted, is a good start.”

“The problems identified by the Inspector General are unacceptable, were allowed to persist for too long and will end on my watch,” said Locke. “We are taking the steps needed to make fisheries enforcement accountable and transparent.” The complete press release by the office of the Secretary of the Commerce can be found here:

Additionally, Secretary Locke agreed to continue working with the New England delegation, and to receive legal arguments that increasing the catch allocation of cod, flounder, and other choke fish species is economically justified and permissible under the statutes of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

“I look forward to engaging with Secretary Locke and the Department of Commerce to resolve the catch limit issue. We also need additional cooperative research efforts to settle disputes between fishermen and government regarding catch limits that will protect the fishery and fish populations,” Whitehouse continued.


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