On March 20, 2015, NOAA Fisheries released the latest edition of the National and Division Enforcement Priorities for NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement. The priorities listed in this document directly support Fisheries’ mission by focusing enforcement work as effectively and efficiently as possible on sustainable fisheries management and the protection and conservation of marine species. And, while the identified priority areas will be the focus, the Office of Law Enforcement will continue to encourage compliance with and enforce all of the marine statutes and regulations for which NOAA Fisheries is responsible.
Establishing annual enforcement priorities helps us focus our resources and strategically use our state and federal partnerships to monitor the more than 3,000,000 square miles of open ocean and 95,000 miles of U.S. coastline over which we have jurisdiction. These priorities improve our ability to rebuild and protect the public’s fisheries and other national resources and to protect the many fishermen who play by the rules. It is the latest step we are taking to improve compliance through better communication with fishermen.
We accomplish our priorities through the following activities:
- Criminal and civil investigations
- Patrols, inspections, and monitoring
- Partnerships with state, tribal, and federal agencies, and nongovernmental organizations
- Cooperative fisheries enforcement to implement international treaties and obligations
- Outreach and compliance assistance
- Use of innovative technological tools
Enforcement Officer Tim Gould measures crab to make sure it’s of legal size.
The national priorities set in 2015 focus on:
- Helping the fishing industry understand and adhere to regulations that support sustainable fish stocks and a sustainable fishing industry.
- Monitoring fish product imports for compliance with domestic and international laws, regulations, and treaty obligations.
- Implementing compliance and enforcement plans for catch share management.
- Protecting marine resources in National Marine Sanctuaries and National Marine Monuments.
- Protecting marine mammal and endangered species by enforcing bycatch reduction, gear, closed area, and human interaction regulations.
- Supporting observer programs, which collect critical scientific data about fish stock status, bycatch, and fishery interactions with protected species.