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Office of Law Enforcement: Protecting Our Seafood and Marine Resources

Watch this video to learn more about how NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement helps protect our seafood and marine resources.


U.S. seafood is responsibly harvested under a strong monitoring, management, and enforcement program that works to keep the marine environment healthy, fish populations thriving, and our seafood industry on the job. An essential part of this sustainable fisheries management approach is ensuring that commercial fishermen are knowledgeable of catch regulations and requirements, and that they are in compliance with these laws.

Every day at fishing ports around the country, NOAA’s fisheries patrol officers monitor fishing vessel activity, conduct patrols and vessel boardings, monitor catch reporting, and perform dealer inspections.

Office of Law Enforcement personnel (OLE) work closely with other federal, state, and tribal partners to ensure compliance with the nation’s marine resource laws and take enforcement action when these laws are violated. Patrols are conducted both at sea and in port, and allow OLE to maintain a presence within fishing communities.

A key aspect of the investigative work involves sifting through logbooks, documents, purchase records, receipts, tax records, and computer files. OLE officers and agents also search cold-storage warehouses, inspect catches at the docks, conduct interviews, and testify in court.. When appropriate, OLE refers cases to the Office of General Council for prosecution. Agents, officers, and NOAA attorneys work closely throughout the judiciary process to coordinate on the legal proceedings.

Additionally, officers and agents conduct outreach and information sessions for the fishing community on both existing and new regulations.  These sessions are designed to be interactive and serve to assist the fishing community in complying with the regulations.

NOAA Fisheries’ mandate to end overfishing could not be realized without OLE’s efforts to ensure that the millions of people who rely on our marine resources for their livelihood understand and comply with the regulations necessary to ensure their sustainability for future generations.

To learn more about fisheries patrol officers and the work they do, watch Special Agent Chris McCarron’s interview at the Whaling City Seafood Display Auction in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where hundreds of thousands of pounds of fish and scallops are offloaded by commercial fishermen each day.