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December 6, 2012

Update: Push made for release of fish law abuse cases

The chairman of a U.S. House Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight today asked the acting secretary of commerce for a copy of the second volume of case studies into into alleged abuse of law enforcement authority at the National Marine Fisheries Service, as well as a report on recommendations for the agency. The case studies and report were completed and submitted by a special judicial master to the Secretary of Commerce eight months ago.

Congressman Paul Broun, chairman of the subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, also asked Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank for "a complete and unredacted" copy of the original report into fisheries law enforcement abuses of industry businesses, which was released in redacted form in May 2011. Broun, a Georgia Republican, wrote to Blank a day after U.S. Sen. John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, wrote to Blank urging her to release the second volume or case studies by the special judicial master.

As recently as Nov. 18, a Kerry spokesman said, "We believe" the second report by the special master, Charles B. Swartwood III, will be made public "very soon."

"The perceived delay in releasing the report has resulted in further eroding of public trust in the agency," Kerry said in his letter Wednesday to Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank. He said he wanted the report released "immediately, or at the very least, no later than the end of the year."

The Commerce Department, which oversees the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which in turn oversees the National Marine Fisheries Service, did not immediately respond to queries about the Kerry letter.

Since spring, Broun has been attempting without success to get the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration travel records for top executives, including Administrator Jane Lubchenco and Eric Schwaab, her choice to head the National Marine Fisheries Service.

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