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September 21, 2010

NOAA's Cohen still in 6-figure job, with undefined 'role'

Andrew Cohen, the former federal fisheries agent in charge of law enforcement for the Northeast working out of Gloucester, continues to receive his annual salary of at least $123,000 after being relieved of virtually all previous duties, according to official communications.

Cohen remains at his "duty station in Gloucester," but reports "directly" to Acting Law Enforcement Director Alan Risenhoover in Silver Spring, Md., where the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is based.

That and other e-mails from Risenhoover's office did not specify Cohen's role, but made clear that he is "in a non-supervisory position that does not include direct involvement with any enforcement actions in the Northeast."

A NOAA e-mail Tuesday said that Cohen is taking "assignments" that put him in contact with "partner nations to help eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing."

Cohen and his former cadre of agents in Gloucester are believed to be the focus of an investigation by the Commerce Department inspector general into the motives and tactics of a relentless effort to prove violations of the Magnuson-Stevens Act by the Gloucester Seafood Display Auction.

Three cases brought during the past decade against the auction, the linchpin of the seaport economy here in processing fish landed in the Gulf of Maine, were resolved in a settlement last March that absolved the auction of any violation history in exchange for a fine that proved a fraction of Cohen's proposed penalties.

The NOAA e-mails listed Sept. 13 as the date of Cohen's detachment from enforcement actions in the Northeast region, which runs from Maine through the Carolinas and is governed from NOAA's regional headquarters in Gloucester's Blackburn Industrial Park.

Five days earlier, the Times reported that Cohen, since 2003, had been using his government-issue cell phone to conduct a commercial Internet garage sale via eBay and other platforms.

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