Top US seaport’s mayor calls for investigation of NOAA, NMFS and NEFMC

09 Nov 2010

The mayor of New Bedford, Massachusetts, the highest dollar-volume US seaport, has asked for a federal investigation of all parties involved with the implementation of fishing regulations, laws, and frameworks, and into the rule making processes of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the New England Fisheries Management Council (NEFMC).

New Bedford mayor Scott Lang stated that a "lack of fair play and transparency coupled with use of stale science in the development of fisheries management has caused profound and adverse socio-economic impacts that are crippling fishing communities."

In a letter to Commerce Department inspector general Todd Zinser, the mayor wrote: "It is paramount that rules and regulations that impact the livelihood of fishing communities be implemented in an open and transparent manner. Such is not the case today and fishing communities are collapsing as a consequence."

The mayor noted that since the release of the "scathing" January 2010 inspector general's report on the NOAA General Counsel for Enforcement and Litigation (GCEL) and Office of Law Enforcement (OLE), it has been discovered that: GCEL paid Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) out of Asset Forfeiture Funds (60% of salaries for ALJ); and that fishermen were intimidated into settlements.

Lang also pointed out that in defending GCEL from the findings of the IG's September 2010 report, "union attorneys revealed that GCEL received "questionable" bonuses in the amount of $44,000 (€31,616) prior to the conclusion of cases.

According to the mayor: "There is no reason to believe that the rest of the management system is absent this abuse of authority."

He accused NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco of having "predetermined agendas" that "appear to be driven by well funded interest groups, and are outside the open and transparent public process mandated under the Magnuson Steven Act..."

Lang described NOAA assistant administrator for fisheries Eric Schwaab's plans to conduct a review of the fishery management process in New England "a clear attempt to avoid an audit by [the inspector general's] office," and argued that "internal audits are far less effective and probative and fail to get to the root of the problem at hand".

The mayor said the "scientific judgments on what can be caught and what can't be caught are, in our view, overly pessimistic or conservative" .

[Source: Saving Seafood]

 

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