Fisheries Law Enforcement Updates

Commerce Secretary Announces Additional Reforms to Overhaul NOAA’s Law Enforcement System

March 16, 2011

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke today announced that he would allow fishermen and businesses until May 6, 2011, to submit complaints about potentially excessive enforcement penalties to the Special Master for review, as well as request stays of their penalties as part of the complaint process. This is part of a series of ongoing improvements to NOAA’s Law Enforcement System. The Secretary and NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco also announced policy changes aimed at strengthening, simplifying and improving both the enforcement and the regulatory process for fishermen and businesses. 

The additional enforcement reforms taken by Secretary Locke and NOAA include:

Review of Fisheries Enforcement Complaints Underway


February 17, 2011

The Special Master has given three interim reports of his progress to date reviewing NOAA fisheries enforcement complaints identified by the Commerce Inspector General and sent by the Secretary of Commerce for his review.

View interim Special Master report (2/24/11) [pdf]

View interim Special Master report (1/11/11) [pdf]

View interim Special Master report (11/15/10) [pdf]

NOAA Response to Inspector General's Report on NOAA's Enforcement Program

November 29, 2010

Now available: Under Secretary's response to Inspector General's September 23, 2010 report regarding NOAA's enforcement program

The September report provided the results of the Inspector General's review of certain complaints raised by fishers and others to that office during his review of the enforcement program.  The response describes the review being conducted by a Special Master of certain complaints, personnel changes, establishment of a pilot compliance assistance program in the Northeast, and planned revisions to NOAA's enforcement operations manual.

View Response to September 23rd Report [pdf]

NOAA Takes Steps to Reform Enforcement Practices

October 18, 2010

As part of an ongoing effort to reform its enforcement practices, NOAA’s Office of General Counsel, through its Office of General Counsel for Enforcement and Litigation, is requesting public comment on a new draft penalty policy.

The draft policy is available electronically at and comments must be received by December 20. Please submit written comments to:

Fax 301-427-2210
Mail Office of General Counsel for Enforcement and Litigation
8484 Georgia Ave., Suite 400
Silver Spring, Md. 20910
Attn. Frank Sprtel


To receive a printed copy of the draft policy, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to the above U.S. mail address.

Press release: NOAA Takes Steps to Reform Enforcement Practices

NOAA Proposed Policy on Prohibited and Authorized Uses of the Asset Forfeiture Fund

September 29, 2010

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act authorizes the Secretary of Commerce through NOAA to pay certain enforcement related costs from sums received as fines, penalties, and forfeitures of property for violations of any marine resource law enforced by the Secretary. Fines, penalties, and forfeitures of property received by NOAA are deposited in an enforcement asset forfeiture fund. The Secretary is proposing a new policy to clearly articulate prohibited and authorized uses of these funds to ensure no conflict of interest- either real or perceived - associated with its use while continuing to promote a sound enforcement program dedicated to conserving and protecting our nation's marine resources. The Secretary requests comments from the public on listed prohibited and authorized uses of the funding and, in particular, expenditures for activities that would promote compliance with regulations promulgated by NOAA.

View the proposed policy and submit comments

Announcing Fisheries Law Enforcement Complaint e-Hotline

September 27, 2010

NOAA is committed to improving its communications with its constituents and stakeholders, even if it means hearing their complaints.  Issues surrounding law enforcement are sensitive, and fishermen may be afraid to come forward to report problems.  NOAA already has a web site for the public to provide information involving current investigations or to report possible violations of law (, and an Enforcement Hotline that is operational 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (1-800-853-1964). 

In order to provide further protection to anyone who has information regarding enforcement improprieties by NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement or enforcement attorneys, NOAA will establish another hotline – this one specifically to report unfair or overzealous enforcement actions or other breaches of conduct by NOAA enforcement agents or attorneys.  This Enforcement Complaint e-Hotline will be a link on the NOAA homepage that will allow stakeholders to report any issues to NOAA management through a specific email address ( that will go directly to NOAA Headquarters.  Any complaints received will be reviewed at Headquarters and, as necessary, investigated further.  This should provide fishermen and other members of the regulated community a mechanism for raising issues about NOAA law enforcement without fear of reprisal.  NOAA will evaluate the effectiveness of the Enforcement Complaint Hotline after one year to ensure that it is providing an appropriate outlet for enforcement complaints.  If it is not working, NOAA will take additional actions to ensure that if the regulated community has issues with NOAA enforcement, they will be heard.