March 22, 2011

Whitehouse Statement on NOAA Law Enforcement Reforms

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse today released the following statement regarding the law enforcement reforms announced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The changes are intended to respond to the concerns of New England fishermen who have long called for a fairer and more consistent system for enforcing fishing regulations.

“I’ve heard from many Rhode Island fishermen about problems with regulation enforcement,” said Whitehouse. “I thank Secretary Locke and NOAA for addressing those concerns and enacting these reforms. Local fishermen will now have a fair chance to challenge penalties and plead their case, and can expect greater consistency in the enforcement of regulations across the country.”

According to NOAA, the reforms include:

• Allowing fisherman and businesses that wish to come forward additional opportunity to submit a complaint to the Special Master.

• Allowing fishermen and businesses to request a stay of penalty payment as part of the complaint process.

• Issuing a new nationwide penalty policy that provides consistency and greater transparency on the assessment of penalties and permit sanctions throughout the country.

• Finalizing the Asset Forfeiture Fund (AFF) 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.

• Launching an independent audit of the AFF that will include a targeted review of transactions going back to 2004 to determine if there was fraud or other illegal activity.

• Working with fishery councils, fishermen and stakeholders to streamline and simplify fishing regulations.

Recognizing that fishing communities throughout New England are struggling economically, it was also announced that the Commerce Department will send Economic Development and Assessment Teams to identify the needs of these communities and work with them to develop solutions.

NOAA’s complete announcement is available here:


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