Senator John Kerry today called on the U.S. Department of Commerce and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) to do everything in their power to create a new culture of accountability and correct the cases of law enforcement abuses against fishermen in Massachusetts.
Today, the Department of Commerce and NOAA released a report outlining 30 individual cases of reported abuses such as excessive penalties and retaliatory actions by NOAA enforcement personnel against fishermen and fishing companies across New England.
"Today's announcement is very important and it offers an opportunity to start a new relationship. Administrator Lubchenco called me this morning as she landed in Boston and I offered her my gratitude for her willingness to address systemic problems within NOAA and see this critical review through. It is never easy for an administrator to do what she's done here," said Sen. Kerry. "I'm glad that we all put our shoulder to the wheel and pushed and prodded this process along. For too long, our fishermen have been the victims of intimidation and enormous penalties. Now unfair fines are being refunded and now the reality of what happened has been publicly exposed which may be just as important. Obviously the employees who abused the enforcement process need to go, and as I recommended to Administrator Lubchenco today, NOAA should take any and all appropriate legal action to right the wrongs identified in Special Master Swartwood's findings. This can be a watershed moment in getting back to a point where people trust each other again in this process."
In 2009, Kerry sent a letter to NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco requesting an investigation of allegations of abuse by NOAA employees. After three reports were issued the Office of the Inspector General, Kerry authored several additional letters and held a series of meetings and phone calls with Administrator Lubchenco and U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke urging further action on behalf of Massachusetts fishermen. The Secretary appointed Charles B. Swartwood III as Special Master to review the enforcement cases the Inspector General identified as problematic. Special Master Swartwood's report was released today.