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September 24, 2010
Shortly after arriving in office 17 months ago, I heard troubling complaints about NOAA’s enforcement programs nationwide, and I decided that an investigation was warranted. I requested that the IG conduct a thorough investigation to identify the problems, so that we could take appropriate action. I am fully committed to addressing any and all problems identified. Fair and effective enforcement is essential to our ability to rebuild and protect the public’s fisheries and other natural resources.
Complementing steps NOAA has already taken, Secretary Locke today announced additional strong actions, including the appointment of a Special Master to review complaints identified by the IG. I join Secretary Locke in wanting to get to the bottom of the questions surrounding these enforcement actions. NOAA will take corrective actions if the Special Master and the Secretary determine they are warranted. And we will continue to reform NOAA’s enforcement program.
NOAA has acted quickly and aggressively to implement changes in response to the issues identified in the first three IG reports, and we will do the same with the most recent findings. As the IG states in today’s report, “some issues implicated by particular complaints may be resolved or mitigated by measures taken by NOAA to date in key areas, such as leadership and management; policy, process, and regulations; workforce structure; and communications and outreach.”
Since problems were first identified by the IG, NOAA has listened to concerns and ideas from the fishing community and other partners. NOAA's recent National Enforcement Summit provided helpful additional suggestions for improving compliance and enforcement, while building confidence among our stakeholders.