RE “FEDERAL agents should do more to regain trust of fishermen’’ (Editorial, June 26). Fair and effective fishing regulation safeguards fishing jobs by assuring adequate fish stocks for the future. All fishermen benefit from a level playing field. Over the past two years, NOAA has significantly improved its enforcement program, with new leadership, higher-level review of charging decisions, and a new penalty policy to ensure fair penalties. We are reshaping the enforcement program to emphasize compliance through better communication with fishermen.
The Asset Forfeiture Fund, established by Congress to provide resources for enforcement, now has clear limits and strong accounting. International efforts to build global support for conservation are critical to protecting American fishermen from unfair foreign competition, and our new policy ensures all international travel is focused on this effort. While Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke has remitted penalties in certain cases, and one case of unfair treatment is too many, those actions must be taken in the context that the vast majority of enforcement in the last 20 years has been fair.
NOAA and fishermen share the goal of building and sustaining healthy fish populations. New enforcement policies, coupled with sound science and effective management, put us firmly on that path.
Assistant administrator for fisheries
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Silver Spring, Md.