Senators John Kerry and Scott Brown, together with Congressmen Barney Frank, John Tierney and Bill Delahunt praised the announcement by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke of $3.35 million in cooperative research grants for the New England region that will support conservation engineering to prevent bycatch.
The Secretary also announced that NOAA would establish a confidential e-hotline for fishermen to report unfair enforcement actions or other breaches of conduct by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) enforcement agents or attorneys. This Enforcement Complaint Hotline will be a link on the NOAA homepage that will allow concerned stakeholders to report any issues to NOAA management through a specific email address - EnforcementComplaintHotline@noaa.gov.
"We've sounded the alarm bells and Secretary Locke has responded," said Sen. Kerry. "This investment is a down payment on rebuilding the trust our fishermen have lost in the system -- it will give them a voice in the process, and promote cooperative research to prevent bycatch. Our fishermen have taken a pounding in this economy and we need to do everything we can to help them."
"I'm pleased Secretary Locke is working to improve the relationship between government officials and the fishing industry. The fishing industry is critical to the Massachusetts economy and thousands of workers depend on it for jobs. There is no question that our fishermen are hurting right now and these funds will help provide fishermen the tools and resources they need to sustain the industry," said Senator Scott Brown.
"I welcome this step to provide fairness in law enforcement and I thank Secretary Locke for his leadership," said Frank. "But we still must address the vital issue of low catch allocations in the ground fish industry, and I will continue to work with the Secretary to fix this problem."
"As I told Secretary Locke during our meeting on Friday, I am pleased to know he is committed to working with the New England delegation to strengthen the relationship between local fishermen and regulators, revisit regulations on choke stocks, and ensure the common sense application of catch share limits," said Congressman Tierney. "Moving forward, I will continue to work with local fishermen to ensure that appropriate action is taken on these and other critical issues. We must finally fix an unfair system that has hurt the fishing community for too long."
"I applaud Sec. Locke's decision to implement these much-needed accountability measures that will benefit the agency as well as our fishermen," said Delahunt. "The establishment of the Enforcement Complaint Hotline is a positive step towards addressing the hostile environment fostered by the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement that was outlined in the Inspector General's report."