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October 22, 2013

NOAA eyes needs in wake of shutdown

The approximately 150 Gloucester-based NOAA employees furloughed during the federal government’s partial shutdown are back at work, and administrators now are determining how best to resume operations halted by the government’s work-stoppage that ended last Wednesday.

NOAA spokeswoman Maggie Mooney-Seus said regional administrator John K. Bullard has appointed an internal task force and charged it with reviewing all work that was in progress at the time of the Oct. 1 shutdown, then figuring out a way to make up for the lost time.

“We lost some time, and now we have to prioritize what work has to be done,” Mooney-Seus said Monday. “We’re in the process of doing that, and we’ll have more information once this group is finished going through the stuff they’re working on.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration offices at the Blackburn Industrial Park never came to a complete standstill during the almost three weeks of inaction by much of the federal government.

The Northeast Regional office here, which usually has a staff of about 200, continued its regulatory work with a skeleton workforce of about 45 law enforcement officials, seafood inspectors and general fishery staff.

“Our office of law enforcement was still on duty, and we still had observers being assigned to boats,” Mooney-Seus said. “The fishermen were still doing their log books. So, stuff was still going on.”

The shutdown did, however, create a hardship for NOAA Fisheries-affiliated partners, such as the New England Fisheries Management Council, because of the lack of availability of NOAA staff.

“Our work affects other agencies, as well, like the councils,” Mooney-Seus said. “I know they had committee meetings they weren’t able to have because they didn’t have NOAA staff at them. So, we will be talking to the councils and other federal agencies, as well as the fishing industry, to make sure people know exactly how this furlough affected everybody.”

Sean Horgan may be contacted at 978-283-7000 x3464, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT

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