US looks for new law enforcement chief

20 Oct 2010

The US government is looking to hire a new chief for its fisheries law enforcement arm after the former head of enforcement, Dale Jones, was reassigned to monitoring international seafood trade.

The shake-up in National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) enforcement programme has also reassigned Charles Juliand, a lawyer for the agency's northeast regional office who pursued its complaints against fishermen accused of violations.

Juliand has been reassigned to NOAA's legal team for natural resource issues, where he will work on matters related to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco said in a statement.

A report by NOAA inspector general Todd  Zinser cited complaints from fishermen and their lawyers who say they were treated unfairly when trying to negotiate settlements for civil violation cases.

Juliand and union officials who represent NOAA workers dispute those findings, calling them fallout from a political vendetta against the agency.

Zinser's report found loose financial controls and conflicts of interest in how NOAA enforcement handled the money it took in through its asset forfeiture fund, from fines and penalties including the sale of confiscated seafood and fishing vessels.

Lubchenco and her boss, secretary of commerce Gary Locke, have promised to provide more accountability in the enforcement programme.

Recently, Locke agreed that northeast fishing catch limits need more flexibility — a major breakthrough for New England fishermen and their allies in Congress, who have hammered NOAA with complaints that fishery recovery plans are putting them out of business.

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