GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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August 3, 2010

Summit ignores fishermen

NOAA officials continue to insist they won't look back

Despite gentle provocation from a former chief counsel of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, top officials of the scandalized federal fisheries law enforcement system Tuesday gave no sign they are rethinking a plan to march forward without looking back for miscarriages of justice.

Indeed, in the day-long PowerPoint presentations, breakout groups and flip charts at law enforcement summit called by NOAA chief Jane Lubchenco, no official at the podium of a Washington, D.C. , hotel even acknowledged that Eldon Greenberg, a former NOAA chief counsel now in private practice, had broached the subject of retrospective justice.

Speaking in the middle of the day's event, Greenberg nudged NOAA to deal with the obvious looses ends of cases that helped trigger an industry resistance last year, beginning in Gloucester, that eventually found the U.S. senators and congressmen from Massachusetts echoing legislative calls for the U.S. Inspector General to intercede and for Lubchenco to step down.

Greenberg acknowledged that the proposal was "controversial," and "can be viewed as a slippery slope" but also said he saw the need for "some internal equity."

Greenberg was the sole speaker out of 12 who represented the fishing industry, which has been victimized by unsupervised NOAA police harassment and excessive fines, according to the general findings of the Commerce Department IG Todd Zinseer, who began his continuing national investigation in June 2009.

Cameron F. Kerry, general counsel to the NOAA's parent Commerce Department, Lubchenco, NOAA chief counsel Lois Schiffer and National Marine Fisheries Service chief Eric Schwaab, who has titular authority over the NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement, used the podium to comment on Greenberg's recommendation.

During a recess, however, Schwaab said in an interview with SavingSeafood.com, the industry news aggregator, that the agency has been given "nothing specific" by the inspector general. While he said NOAA expects future reports from the IG to focus on "a number of cases," Schwaab gave no hint what the agency might do.

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