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January 23, 2011

Editorial: Full criminal probe is only answer to NOAA's stonewalling

A full year after the release of the preliminary report from the office of Department of Commerce Inspector General Todd Zinser, there are tons of serious questions still hovering over NOAA law enforcement's oppressive dealings with fishermen and the fishing industry.

Yet one answer that seemed clear within days after the January 2010 release of Zinser's findings is even more obvious today.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has no interest whatsoever in reforming its vindictive regulation and enforcement oversight of the commercial fishing industry, and bringing to justice those who shamed the agency and any sense of American justice.

And the sooner that members of Congress — especially those who represent home states to the commercial fishing industry — realize that, the better.

NOAA is not about confronting and dealing with misconduct and corruption. It is about protecting it. It is not about transparency. It is about covering things up.

It is not about fairness and complying with its own federal statutes — balancing the needs of an industry with those of the environment, as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

And this rogue arm of the Obama administration — which absurdly sits within the Department of Commerce — is most of all not about jobs. It is about pushing people out of work to further an environmental agenda aimed at steering control an indigenous U.S. industry still built on the backs of family-owned independent businesses into fewer and larger corporate hands.

How else is there to explain that, one year after a litany of scathing findings from Zinser's initial report, nobody responsible for this scandal has been penalized in any meaningful way?

How else to explain NOAA head Jane Lubchenco arranging for soft landings for the worst offenders — even while telling Congress, "I own the problem, and I intend to fix it."

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