Unfortunately, in recent years, fishing jobs and livelihoods have been destroyed by overzealous enforcement actions and excessive regulation from the federal government. While a certain level of regulation is necessary to preserve the ocean's resources, the government should not be imposing draconian and unfair restrictions that are preventing this industry from thriving and creating jobs.
Since becoming a United States senator, I have visited our fishermen in Gloucester and New Bedford and found that the current fisheries system is broken, and must change for the industry to survive.
This Monday in Faneuil Hall, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, and I, in our respective roles as chairman and ranking member of the Federal Financial Management subcommittee of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, will hear testimony from government officials, as well as fishermen who have faced excessive financial penalties from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration over the last decade.
At the heart of the problem is a culture at NOAA that believes they are above the law. NOAA has appointed itself judge, jury, and executioner for New England's fishing fleet, unfairly punishing them with disproportionate fines in their enforcement of controversial regulations.
Fishermen who were fined were forced to pay into the Asset Forfeiture Fund, a NOAA account that should be utilized to help fishing communities navigate the federal red tape. Instead, NOAA spent much of the fine money on hundreds of cars, a luxury boat, and international travel to exotic locations.
These violations of the public trust are outrageous.