, Gloucester, MA

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November 8, 2010

Kirk backs New Bedford's push for fed fishing probe

The mayor of the nation's highest dollar-volume seaport has asked for an independent federal investigation of all parties involved with the implementation of fishing regulations, laws and rule-making processes of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, its fisheries service and the New England Fisheries Management Council.

And Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk said Monday night that she, too, supports New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang's call.

In a letter to federal Commerce Department Inspector General Todd Zinser, Lang stated that a "lack of fair play and transparency coupled with use of stale science in the development of fisheries management has caused profound and adverse socio-economic impacts that are crippling fishing communities."

"It is paramount that rules and regulations that impact the livelihood of fishing communities be implemented in an open and transparent manner," Lang wrote. "Such is not the case today and fishing communities are collapsing as a consequence."

The mayor noted that, since the release of the "scathing" January 2010 report by IG Zinser's office on the NOAA General Counsel for Enforcement and Litigation and Office of Law Enforcement, it has been discovered that — among other concerns — the Office of General Counsel paid administrative law judges out of Asset Forfeiture Funds, which are drawn from the fines assessed and paid by fishermen, and that fishermen were intimidated into settlements.

The mayor also pointed out that, in defending the General Counsel's Office from the findings of the IG's September 2010 report, "union attorneys revealed that GCEL received "questionable" bonuses in the amount of $44,000 prior to the conclusion of cases.

At least some of those bonuses were paid to Gloucester-based NOAA prosecutor Charles Juliand for pressing and winning heavy fines against fishermen.

The union representing Juliand has told the Times it views the bonus and other kudos granted Juliand as a clear sign he was only carrying out the instructions of higher NOAA officials.

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