Congresswoman Chellie Pingree said she is encouraged by steps to address fisheries enforcement in a draft policy NOAA released today.
"I think this policy is a good first step in rebuilding trust between the agency and local fishermen," said Pingree. "The commonsense changes outlined here will make fisheries enforcement clearer, more consistent, and transparent--exactly what we need to mend that mistrust."
Several reports have been released in recent months raising questions about NOAA's fisheries enforcement. Findings have included inconsistencies in penalties for similar violations, comparatively onerous enforcement for Northeast fishermen, and questionable uses of funds raised through fines and asset forfeitures.
Pingree has been following the enforcement issues since they emerged. Last winter she met with Eric Schwaab, the head administrator for fisheries enforcement, in Port Clyde and last month she joined Commerce Secretary Gary Locke for a meeting with fishermen in Portland to get their feedback on fixing the enforcement policy.
"The message of Maine fishermen was clear at the meeting with Secretary Locke: they're struggling under a new management system, they play by the rules, and they JUST want to get a fair shake," said Pingree. "I'm glad the Secretary took their concerns seriously and this policy starts to address them."
Provisions in the draft policy set a clear system, criteria, and factors for determining appropriate fines.