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Overview:

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), often referred to as the “NOAA Fisheries Services,” is an agency within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration responsible for management, conservation, and protection of the nation’s marine resources. The agency regulates commercial and recreational ocean fishing and manages marine life and habitats in waters 3 to 200 nautical miles from a U.S. shore within an area known in maritime law as an “exclusive economic zone,” where countries have enhanced resource-exploitation rights.

 

The NMFS works to promote the multi-billion-dollar fishing industry through sensible stewardship while balancing the competing interests of economics and conservation. The agency devotes significant time to propping up dwindling catches due to pollution or overfishing, a persistent problem worldwide that’s especially acute for countries harvesting from the Atlantic Ocean. It also conducts research and coordinates conservation efforts with local authorities.

 

In 2010 the agency came under fire for excessively fining commercial fishermen, particularly in the Northeast region, prompting congressional and Inspector General investigations.

more
History:

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has its origins on the country’s oldest conservation agency, the United States Fish Commission of Fish and Fisheries established in 1871. The agency studied and managed live ocean resources at a time when there was already some awareness about depleted fish stocks in the waters off the Atlantic Seaboard. In 1903, the commission came under the authority of the newly created Department of Commerce and Labor. A decade later, when the Department of Commerce and Labor was split in two, the Bureau of Fisheries was added to the Commerce department until 1939, when it moved to the Department of the Interior. A year later, the Bureau of Fisheries merged with the Bureau of Biological Survey to create the Fish and Wildlife Service.

 

In 1956, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service established the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries and the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife, which focused on recreational fishing. In 1970, President Richard Nixon transferred almost all functions associated with the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries to the Department of Commerce and the office was renamed the National Marine Fisheries Service.

 

The NMFS draws its authority for managing marine fish stocks from the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976, amended in 1996. The Act created eight regional management councils to oversee fisheries. The 1996 amendment sought new ways of replenishing depleted fish stocks, which have been falling for decades. In 2007, President George W. Bush signed into law the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006, which updated the Act with deadlines to end overfishing, increased use of market-based management tools, the creation of a national saltwater angler registry and an emphasis on ecosystem approaches to management. Two other acts—the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act—also give the NMFS the authority to conserve ocean wildlife.

 

For more information, see:

A Century Of Conservation

Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act

United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries Annual Reports 1871-1903

History of the National Marine Fisheries

Fisheries Historical Page (Northeast Fisheries Science Center)

more
What it Does:

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) works to conserve, protect, and manage marine resources. The agency assesses and predicts fish stocks, ensures compliance with fisheries regulations and reduces wasteful fishing practices. It also recovers protected marine species such as whales and turtles and works with local communities through six regional offices on fishery management.

 

The two main functions of the NMFS are regulatory and scientific research. The regulatory arm oversees the Office of Sustainable Fisheries, which manages fish stocks for commercial, recreational, and subsistence use. It also oversees the Office of Protected Resources, which protects marine mammals and endangered marine life, and the Office of Habitat Conservation,which runs restoration projects. The office also carries out the 1976 Magnuson-Stevens Act, which established eight regional fishery management councils that submit recommendations for agency approval.

 

The research arm of the NMFS oversees six regional science centers that provide and vet scientific research and data to policy makers and the Office of Science and Technology.

 

NMFS administrative functions include nationwide oversight of law enforcement offices that carry out more than 35 federal statutes and enforces U.S. treaties and international laws. The agency also manages the NOAA Aquaculture Program, which works to create employment and business opportunities in coastal communities with commercial fishing, and the Seafood Inspection Program, which ensures compliance with food-safety regulations at all stages of seafood harvesting, processing, and sales. The Office of International Affairs coordinates policy with other countries, advocates for U.S. interests and also participates in free-trade negotiations.

 

For more information, see:

FishWatch U.S. Seafood Facts (Information for seafood consumers)

National Bycatch Program (Information about NOAA’s conservation efforts to prevent the unintended capture of marine species in commercial fishing)

NMFS Permits (Information about programs requiring federal permits for fishing activities)

 

From the Web Site of the National Marine Fisheries Service

Advisory Committee

Congressional News

Congressional Testimony

Contact Information

Educational Resources

Fishery Commissions

Fishing Permits

Forms

Grant Programs

Habitat Conservation

Image Gallery

Newsroom

Office of Aquaculture

Office of Management and Budget

Office of Sustainable Fisheries

Publications

Regional Fishery Management Councils

Seafood Facts

Student Opportunities

Video Gallery

more
Where Does the Money Go:

National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) duties aid other federal agencies, as well as local, state, and regional governments that conserve and manage marine life. The agency’s work also aids academia, the fishing industry, conservation groups, and international organizations.

 

The agency offers a number of grants through its regional offices and other programs such as the Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant Program, which awards recipients for research and development projects that benefit the U.S. fishing industry and the Prescott Grants, which provides funding for recovery and treatment of stranded marine mammals.

 

The agency also provides a number of financial programs for commercial fishermen including the Fisheries Finance Program, which provides loans to build or reconstruct fishing vessels and facilities, the Capital Construction Fund Program which allows commercial fishermen to defer tax on income from operation of their vessels when used to help pay for a vessel project. The Fisherman’s Contingency Fund Program helps compensate fishermen for economic and property losses caused by oil and gas obstructions.

 

According to USA Spending, 338 grants that included the term NMFS were awarded, totaling more than $301 million between 2000-2011.

more
Controversies:

NMFS Deals with Fallout from Congressional and OIG Investigations

In 2010, the Commerce Inspector General issued a series of reports that found that there were widespread systematic issues that adversely affected NOAA’s ability to regulate the fishing industry, particularly in the Northeast region. The Inspector General found that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) was overzealous in enforcement and levying fines against commercial fishermen, particularly in New England and the Mid-Atlantic states. Dale Jones, the director of NMFS’ Office of Law Enforcement was also accused of document shredding and questionable spending from a fund that contained millions in fines paid by fishermen.

 

Fishermen claimed that enforcement officials would set fines initially high to pressure settlements. One fisherman told the Office of the Inspector General (OIG): “I was fined by [the senior GCEL attorney] $27,000… As time went on, [the senior GCEL attorney] said that 'if you don't pay the $27,000 right now, if you want to go in front of one of my judges, you'll be paying $120,000 to $140,000.' I settled for $25,000 bucks. I was scared to death. They wouldn't give me the boat back. I couldn't get the boat back to fish and make payments until I paid the fine.”

 

The Inspector General found that the Northeast region fined fishermen $5.5 million from 2004-2009, five times more than other regional offices and that the disproportionate treatment stemmed from hiring too many criminal investigators to enforce the mostly civil caseload that NOAA has. The Inspector General said “there are indications in the record that this workforce composition was driven by considerations of the better pay and benefits that apply to federal criminal investigators, rather than by strict mission requirements.”

 

Following the reports, lawmakers put intense pressure on NOAA to reform management; some even called for the resignation of NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco. Jones was removed from his position, though he was kept on in the agency as a fishing program specialist and in January 2012 his career rebounded with a new position as head of the NOAA Enterprise Data Management program. Charles Juliand, a senior enforcement lawyer was also reassigned after Inspector General reports criticized him for displaying “animus” toward members of the New England and Mid-Atlantic commercial fishing industry. Then Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke also worked to resolve the issues raised in the OIG reports.

 

In response, the agency has drafted policies that would provide better guidance to its lawyers in calculating fair and consistent fines. The OIG’s office also said that it would commission a forensic review and, in February 2012, it released a follow-up report on the asset forfeiture fund.

 

In June 2011, NOAA produced an independent auditor’s report (pdf) on the fund.

Summary of the Inspector General's Report on NOAA Fisheries Law Enforcement (by Saving Seafood)

Final Report—Review of NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Programs and Operations (Office of the Inspector General, Department of Commerce)

 

Investigation Snags Fisheries Law Enforcement Office (Saving Seafood)

 

NMFS Criticized for Underestimating Affect of BP Oil Spill on Wildlife

The April 2010 explosion at Deepwater Horizon, an ultra-deepwater offshore drilling rig leased to BP, caused the death of 11 crewmen and the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Four months after the disaster, very large fish kills were reported along the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. In 2011, more than 290 corpses of dolphins and their newborn have also washed ashore in the areas of the Gulf most heavily affected by the disaster, along with endangered sea turtles. Biological oceanographer Dr. Ed Cake believes these fish and dolphin kills are all related to the spill and criticizes NMFS and NOAA for failing to determine the cause of these deaths. He also cites a February 2011 gag order by NMFS that forced marine scientists contracted to document the spikes in dolphin deaths and collect specimens to keep their findings confidential.

 

“In the year since the spill began, NOAA admits to doing no tissue sampling, which to me is scientifically incredible, for if you have forensic samples, you are bound by protocols to have them analyzed right away so they do not degrade, unless your purpose is not to know what is killing these dolphins,” Cake told Al Jazeera English.

 

A March 2011 study in Conservation Letters also found that the true impact of the oil spill on wildlife may have been gravely underestimated, arguing that the fatality figures based on the number of recovered animal carcasses isn’t accurate because most carcasses sink before being spotted.

BP anniversary: Toxicity, Suffering and Death (by Dahr Jamail, Al Jazeera English)

Animal Deaths in BP Spill Possibly Greatly Underestimated: Study (Wiley-Blackwell and World Science)

Massive Cetacean Mortality in Gulf Since BP Blowout, Now Turtles are Dying Too (Daily Kos)

 

The Collapse of Fish Populations

All-Time Low Expected for Sacramento Chinook (TheFishSite)

A Fishy Story: Federal Fisheries Agency Blames Ocean Conditions for California Central Valley Salmon Decline (by Dan Bacher, California Progress Report)

In Alaska, fishing industry drives marine conservation: An interview with Dave Benton of the Marine Conservation Alliance (by Rhett A. Butler, Mongabay.com)

Odd Animal Deaths, Deformities Linked to Gulf Oil Spill? (by Ker Than, National Geographic News)

 

Bush’s Ocean Action Plan

Conservationists hailed President George W. Bush’s Ocean Action Plan, which expanded regulatory powers, as a good step toward addressing environmental concerns in coastal waters. However, some environmental groups expressed concern over the administration’s commitment to funding the plan’s objectives.

Report Card: Lack of Federal Funding Hinders Ocean Health (Environment News Service)

more
Suggested Reforms:

In September 2010, the Inspector General for the Department of Commerce suggested that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) carry out reforms to correct “systemic, nationwide issues” connected with NOAA Fisheries. The Inspector General said that the most recent controversy stems from highly complex fishing laws that make compliance difficult even with the best of intentions. The OIG also questioned whether NOAA’s workforce and management structure is appropriate in carrying out the complicated mission of enforcing regulations with transparent processes. The OIG’s office suggested the following reforms:

 

1. NOAA should exercise greater management and oversight of regional enforcement operations.

 

2. NMFS should strengthen policy and procedures and internal controls to fix the perception that fines had been unfairly levied.

 

3. The agency should reassess its workforce, which presently comprises 90% criminal investigators, to determine if this structure is effective in accomplishing its regulatory mission.

more
Former Directors:

Eric C. Schwaab, 2010-present

 

Dr. Jim Balsiger, 2008-2010 (Acting)

Jim Balsiger returned to his position as the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) regional administrator for Alaska, after serving two years as Acting Assistant Administrator for the NMFS.

 

Bill Hogarth, 2001-2007

After serving seven years as Acting Administrator, Hogarth left government to become interim dean of the College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida. In 2010, he was named the director of the Florida Institute of Oceanography, an independent entity of the state university system in Florida that collaborates with 20 institutes and agencies on marine research.

 

As Assistant Administrator, Hogarth implemented plans to fulfill requirements in the 1996 Sustainable Fisheries act to end overfishing and rebuild the nation’s overfished fisheries. Hogarth said in 2007 that conflicting mandates and vague wording in the law prevented the agency from ending overfishing and caused a number of lawsuits against the agency. One of his first initiatives was to strengthen administrative processes, to reduce litigation.

 

Penelope D. Dalton, 1999-2001

After leaving the NMFS, Dalton served as vice president of the Consortium for Oceanographic Research and Education, a nonprofit organization that represents 99 leading public and private ocean research education institutes, and industry leaders working to advance research, education and ocean policy. CORE also manages scientific ocean drilling, ocean observing, ocean exploration, and ocean partnerships.

 

In 2005, Dalton took the position of Director of Washington Sea Grant (WSG), one of the first programs designated nationally as a Sea Grant College. WSG conducts research and outreach and develops strategic partnerships in the marine community, to serve industries and communities in Washington state and the Pacific Northwest. WSG is part of a national network of 30 Sea Grant colleges administered by NOAA, providing provides a national infrastructure in every coastal and Great Lakes state in the nation.

 

Rolland 'Rollie' Schmitten, 1993-1999

After serving as Assistant Administrator, Schmitten served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Affairs under NOAA, the National Director of Marine Habitat Conservation and was a U.S. Whaling Commissioner from 1995-2005. In 2009, he was appointed to the Washington (state) Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission where he will serve until 2014.

more

Comments

Helene Beck 10 months ago
The U.S. Navy’s plan to increase its intensity in training and testing activities with active sonars and explosives in the waters off Hawaii and Southern California will significantly harm and cause the deaths of marine life, including many endangered marine mammals and sea turtles. Scientific documentation shows that active sonar causes severe injuries and behavioral changes in many marine mammals. Furthermore, scientists have found that the Navy’s sonar and explosives cause fatal injuries to the imperiled sea turtles. You have a legal obligation to protect and reduce harm against the marine life. In authorizing the Navy’s 5-year plan and neglecting to search for alternatives, you are violating the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. I urge you to not execute the Navy’s 5-year training and testing plan in these areas and to find alternatives that will NOT harm the marine life and the environment. Thank you for your urgent attention to this important matter.
Jupp Kerckerinck 1 year ago
Hello, though I am in Germany right now, I am an American citizen. My question is, why does the NMFS believe that it would be helpful to the shark populations to undermine state laws that prohibit the possession and trade in shark fins? There should be a very good reason for it, which I don't understand. The question that comes to my mind is: hasn't the NMFS neglected to come up with a law earlier and is it now the position of the NMFS that they should grab an opportunity to do so by undermining existing state laws? I am working for the protection of sharks for many years and I know that the state ban on possession and trade in shark fins works very well. So there should be a very good reason, other than bureaucratic jealousy, to fix something that certainly is not broken? I would appreciate a good answer.
chip mcknight 2 years ago
i just came across this video online and wondering if this is what our swordfish fishery has come to? a disgussting harvest of small swords that i highly doubt will be sold to the commercial meat market. probably for bait! http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=grklhs0ojj8
GH 2 years ago
i am a recreational fisherman in texas. i fish almost every time offshoar. i do not charter a boat or own a charter or head boat. there for i am not under the jurisdiction of the feds, because i am not enguaged in any comerce. i simply do not even pay attention to what fedral regulations say. i do however obide by texas stae laws. if you look at the laws in title 50 cfr,they do have laws that regulate recreational fishing, but only if you are enguaged in commerce. example, if you ch...
Bob Ofenloch 2 years ago
your recent ruling reducing the keeper size of cod fish from 24" to 19" was a real "winner". the fish from 19" to 23.99" were returned so that most of them matured and increased the species. your ruling will decrease the numbers of cod fish available in the future, and perhaps ruin the cod fishing industry entirely. that's what happens when bureaucrats get involved. nice move folks!!! not!!! instead of killing off a species, why don't you do something about the rulings on striped b...
Joyce Morgan 2 years ago
please include captive members of the whale family in the endangered species act protections. marine parks isolate captive animals for entertainment purposes which is cruel in that they live in pods. please help. thank you, joyce morgan
Stan Walvick 3 years ago
I have just read thru the Madnuson Stevens fishery conservation act, from start to finish, there appears to be a couple major flaws in the implementation of your decisions regarding closers for Red Snapper and other snapper listed in the closer, black sea bass, and grouper. In several places it states that one of the requirements are sound scientific evidence before implementing a decision to act. To date there is no recent evidence to support your actions, as a recreational fishe...

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Founded: 1970 (with predecessors dating back to 1871)
Annual Budget: $880 million (FY 2013 Request)
Employees: 2,835 (FY 2013 Request)
Official Website: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov
National Marine Fisheries Service
Schwaab, Eric
Assistant Administrator

Eric C. Schwaab was appointed in February 2010 to run the National Marine Fisheries Service, part of the Department of Commerce. In this capacity he oversees the management and conservation of marine fisheries and the protection of marine mammals, sea turtles and coastal fisheries habitat within the United States exclusive economic zone.

 
Schwaab grew up in West Baltimore and then farther west in Carroll County, Maryland. He received his undergraduate degree in biology from McDaniel College and a master’s degree in environmental planning from Towson University.
 
He has spent the majority of his 25-year career in natural resource management working for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, where he began as a natural resources police law enforcement officer in 1983. In time he managed Deep Creek Lake State Park, served in waterfront and resource management positions with the State Forest and Park Service, and moved up to be director of the Maryland Forest Service; director of the Maryland Forest, Wildlife and Heritage Service; and director of the Maryland Fisheries Service.
 
In 2003, Schwaab was fired after losing a fight over crabbing restrictions with Republican governor Robert Ehrlich, Jr., who reduced restrictions on behalf of seafood processors. Schwaab had been a leader in the battle save the blue crab population of the Chesapeake Bay.
 
Schwaab then moved to Washington, D.C. to serve as resource director for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. When Ehrlich lost his bid for reelection in 2006, Schwaab returned to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources as deputy secretary, making him the No. 2 for the agency.
 
He served as a member of the U.S. Department of Commerce Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee from 2005-2010.
 
more
Balsiger, James
Previous Acting Assistant Administrator
James Balsiger has a Bachelor of Science degree in forestry from Michigan Technological University, a Master of Science degree in forest silviculture from Purdue University and a doctorate in quantitative ecology and natural resource management from the University of Washington.
 
Balsiger helped lead a fish stock assessment program and served as regional science and research director at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle from 1977 to 1991. Between 1991 and 1995, he worked as the center’s deputy director, assuming the full-fledged directorship in 1996.
 
Starting in 2000, Balsiger served for eight years as administrator of the NMFS’ Alaska region. In February 2008 he was tapped to become the service’s acting director. His new post forced him to move from Juneau, Alaska, to Silver Spring, Md. According to his official biography, Balsiger has authored or co-authored some 33 publications.
 
 
 
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Bookmark and Share
Overview:

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), often referred to as the “NOAA Fisheries Services,” is an agency within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration responsible for management, conservation, and protection of the nation’s marine resources. The agency regulates commercial and recreational ocean fishing and manages marine life and habitats in waters 3 to 200 nautical miles from a U.S. shore within an area known in maritime law as an “exclusive economic zone,” where countries have enhanced resource-exploitation rights.

 

The NMFS works to promote the multi-billion-dollar fishing industry through sensible stewardship while balancing the competing interests of economics and conservation. The agency devotes significant time to propping up dwindling catches due to pollution or overfishing, a persistent problem worldwide that’s especially acute for countries harvesting from the Atlantic Ocean. It also conducts research and coordinates conservation efforts with local authorities.

 

In 2010 the agency came under fire for excessively fining commercial fishermen, particularly in the Northeast region, prompting congressional and Inspector General investigations.

more
History:

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has its origins on the country’s oldest conservation agency, the United States Fish Commission of Fish and Fisheries established in 1871. The agency studied and managed live ocean resources at a time when there was already some awareness about depleted fish stocks in the waters off the Atlantic Seaboard. In 1903, the commission came under the authority of the newly created Department of Commerce and Labor. A decade later, when the Department of Commerce and Labor was split in two, the Bureau of Fisheries was added to the Commerce department until 1939, when it moved to the Department of the Interior. A year later, the Bureau of Fisheries merged with the Bureau of Biological Survey to create the Fish and Wildlife Service.

 

In 1956, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service established the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries and the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife, which focused on recreational fishing. In 1970, President Richard Nixon transferred almost all functions associated with the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries to the Department of Commerce and the office was renamed the National Marine Fisheries Service.

 

The NMFS draws its authority for managing marine fish stocks from the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976, amended in 1996. The Act created eight regional management councils to oversee fisheries. The 1996 amendment sought new ways of replenishing depleted fish stocks, which have been falling for decades. In 2007, President George W. Bush signed into law the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006, which updated the Act with deadlines to end overfishing, increased use of market-based management tools, the creation of a national saltwater angler registry and an emphasis on ecosystem approaches to management. Two other acts—the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act—also give the NMFS the authority to conserve ocean wildlife.

 

For more information, see:

A Century Of Conservation

Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act

United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries Annual Reports 1871-1903

History of the National Marine Fisheries

Fisheries Historical Page (Northeast Fisheries Science Center)

more
What it Does:

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) works to conserve, protect, and manage marine resources. The agency assesses and predicts fish stocks, ensures compliance with fisheries regulations and reduces wasteful fishing practices. It also recovers protected marine species such as whales and turtles and works with local communities through six regional offices on fishery management.

 

The two main functions of the NMFS are regulatory and scientific research. The regulatory arm oversees the Office of Sustainable Fisheries, which manages fish stocks for commercial, recreational, and subsistence use. It also oversees the Office of Protected Resources, which protects marine mammals and endangered marine life, and the Office of Habitat Conservation,which runs restoration projects. The office also carries out the 1976 Magnuson-Stevens Act, which established eight regional fishery management councils that submit recommendations for agency approval.

 

The research arm of the NMFS oversees six regional science centers that provide and vet scientific research and data to policy makers and the Office of Science and Technology.

 

NMFS administrative functions include nationwide oversight of law enforcement offices that carry out more than 35 federal statutes and enforces U.S. treaties and international laws. The agency also manages the NOAA Aquaculture Program, which works to create employment and business opportunities in coastal communities with commercial fishing, and the Seafood Inspection Program, which ensures compliance with food-safety regulations at all stages of seafood harvesting, processing, and sales. The Office of International Affairs coordinates policy with other countries, advocates for U.S. interests and also participates in free-trade negotiations.

 

For more information, see:

FishWatch U.S. Seafood Facts (Information for seafood consumers)

National Bycatch Program (Information about NOAA’s conservation efforts to prevent the unintended capture of marine species in commercial fishing)

NMFS Permits (Information about programs requiring federal permits for fishing activities)

 

From the Web Site of the National Marine Fisheries Service

Advisory Committee

Congressional News

Congressional Testimony

Contact Information

Educational Resources

Fishery Commissions

Fishing Permits

Forms

Grant Programs

Habitat Conservation

Image Gallery

Newsroom

Office of Aquaculture

Office of Management and Budget

Office of Sustainable Fisheries

Publications

Regional Fishery Management Councils

Seafood Facts

Student Opportunities

Video Gallery

more
Where Does the Money Go:

National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) duties aid other federal agencies, as well as local, state, and regional governments that conserve and manage marine life. The agency’s work also aids academia, the fishing industry, conservation groups, and international organizations.

 

The agency offers a number of grants through its regional offices and other programs such as the Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant Program, which awards recipients for research and development projects that benefit the U.S. fishing industry and the Prescott Grants, which provides funding for recovery and treatment of stranded marine mammals.

 

The agency also provides a number of financial programs for commercial fishermen including the Fisheries Finance Program, which provides loans to build or reconstruct fishing vessels and facilities, the Capital Construction Fund Program which allows commercial fishermen to defer tax on income from operation of their vessels when used to help pay for a vessel project. The Fisherman’s Contingency Fund Program helps compensate fishermen for economic and property losses caused by oil and gas obstructions.

 

According to USA Spending, 338 grants that included the term NMFS were awarded, totaling more than $301 million between 2000-2011.

more
Controversies:

NMFS Deals with Fallout from Congressional and OIG Investigations

In 2010, the Commerce Inspector General issued a series of reports that found that there were widespread systematic issues that adversely affected NOAA’s ability to regulate the fishing industry, particularly in the Northeast region. The Inspector General found that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) was overzealous in enforcement and levying fines against commercial fishermen, particularly in New England and the Mid-Atlantic states. Dale Jones, the director of NMFS’ Office of Law Enforcement was also accused of document shredding and questionable spending from a fund that contained millions in fines paid by fishermen.

 

Fishermen claimed that enforcement officials would set fines initially high to pressure settlements. One fisherman told the Office of the Inspector General (OIG): “I was fined by [the senior GCEL attorney] $27,000… As time went on, [the senior GCEL attorney] said that 'if you don't pay the $27,000 right now, if you want to go in front of one of my judges, you'll be paying $120,000 to $140,000.' I settled for $25,000 bucks. I was scared to death. They wouldn't give me the boat back. I couldn't get the boat back to fish and make payments until I paid the fine.”

 

The Inspector General found that the Northeast region fined fishermen $5.5 million from 2004-2009, five times more than other regional offices and that the disproportionate treatment stemmed from hiring too many criminal investigators to enforce the mostly civil caseload that NOAA has. The Inspector General said “there are indications in the record that this workforce composition was driven by considerations of the better pay and benefits that apply to federal criminal investigators, rather than by strict mission requirements.”

 

Following the reports, lawmakers put intense pressure on NOAA to reform management; some even called for the resignation of NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco. Jones was removed from his position, though he was kept on in the agency as a fishing program specialist and in January 2012 his career rebounded with a new position as head of the NOAA Enterprise Data Management program. Charles Juliand, a senior enforcement lawyer was also reassigned after Inspector General reports criticized him for displaying “animus” toward members of the New England and Mid-Atlantic commercial fishing industry. Then Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke also worked to resolve the issues raised in the OIG reports.

 

In response, the agency has drafted policies that would provide better guidance to its lawyers in calculating fair and consistent fines. The OIG’s office also said that it would commission a forensic review and, in February 2012, it released a follow-up report on the asset forfeiture fund.

 

In June 2011, NOAA produced an independent auditor’s report (pdf) on the fund.

Summary of the Inspector General's Report on NOAA Fisheries Law Enforcement (by Saving Seafood)

Final Report—Review of NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Programs and Operations (Office of the Inspector General, Department of Commerce)

 

Investigation Snags Fisheries Law Enforcement Office (Saving Seafood)

 

NMFS Criticized for Underestimating Affect of BP Oil Spill on Wildlife

The April 2010 explosion at Deepwater Horizon, an ultra-deepwater offshore drilling rig leased to BP, caused the death of 11 crewmen and the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Four months after the disaster, very large fish kills were reported along the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. In 2011, more than 290 corpses of dolphins and their newborn have also washed ashore in the areas of the Gulf most heavily affected by the disaster, along with endangered sea turtles. Biological oceanographer Dr. Ed Cake believes these fish and dolphin kills are all related to the spill and criticizes NMFS and NOAA for failing to determine the cause of these deaths. He also cites a February 2011 gag order by NMFS that forced marine scientists contracted to document the spikes in dolphin deaths and collect specimens to keep their findings confidential.

 

“In the year since the spill began, NOAA admits to doing no tissue sampling, which to me is scientifically incredible, for if you have forensic samples, you are bound by protocols to have them analyzed right away so they do not degrade, unless your purpose is not to know what is killing these dolphins,” Cake told Al Jazeera English.

 

A March 2011 study in Conservation Letters also found that the true impact of the oil spill on wildlife may have been gravely underestimated, arguing that the fatality figures based on the number of recovered animal carcasses isn’t accurate because most carcasses sink before being spotted.

BP anniversary: Toxicity, Suffering and Death (by Dahr Jamail, Al Jazeera English)

Animal Deaths in BP Spill Possibly Greatly Underestimated: Study (Wiley-Blackwell and World Science)

Massive Cetacean Mortality in Gulf Since BP Blowout, Now Turtles are Dying Too (Daily Kos)

 

The Collapse of Fish Populations

All-Time Low Expected for Sacramento Chinook (TheFishSite)

A Fishy Story: Federal Fisheries Agency Blames Ocean Conditions for California Central Valley Salmon Decline (by Dan Bacher, California Progress Report)

In Alaska, fishing industry drives marine conservation: An interview with Dave Benton of the Marine Conservation Alliance (by Rhett A. Butler, Mongabay.com)

Odd Animal Deaths, Deformities Linked to Gulf Oil Spill? (by Ker Than, National Geographic News)

 

Bush’s Ocean Action Plan

Conservationists hailed President George W. Bush’s Ocean Action Plan, which expanded regulatory powers, as a good step toward addressing environmental concerns in coastal waters. However, some environmental groups expressed concern over the administration’s commitment to funding the plan’s objectives.

Report Card: Lack of Federal Funding Hinders Ocean Health (Environment News Service)

more
Suggested Reforms:

In September 2010, the Inspector General for the Department of Commerce suggested that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) carry out reforms to correct “systemic, nationwide issues” connected with NOAA Fisheries. The Inspector General said that the most recent controversy stems from highly complex fishing laws that make compliance difficult even with the best of intentions. The OIG also questioned whether NOAA’s workforce and management structure is appropriate in carrying out the complicated mission of enforcing regulations with transparent processes. The OIG’s office suggested the following reforms:

 

1. NOAA should exercise greater management and oversight of regional enforcement operations.

 

2. NMFS should strengthen policy and procedures and internal controls to fix the perception that fines had been unfairly levied.

 

3. The agency should reassess its workforce, which presently comprises 90% criminal investigators, to determine if this structure is effective in accomplishing its regulatory mission.

more
Former Directors:

Eric C. Schwaab, 2010-present

 

Dr. Jim Balsiger, 2008-2010 (Acting)

Jim Balsiger returned to his position as the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) regional administrator for Alaska, after serving two years as Acting Assistant Administrator for the NMFS.

 

Bill Hogarth, 2001-2007

After serving seven years as Acting Administrator, Hogarth left government to become interim dean of the College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida. In 2010, he was named the director of the Florida Institute of Oceanography, an independent entity of the state university system in Florida that collaborates with 20 institutes and agencies on marine research.

 

As Assistant Administrator, Hogarth implemented plans to fulfill requirements in the 1996 Sustainable Fisheries act to end overfishing and rebuild the nation’s overfished fisheries. Hogarth said in 2007 that conflicting mandates and vague wording in the law prevented the agency from ending overfishing and caused a number of lawsuits against the agency. One of his first initiatives was to strengthen administrative processes, to reduce litigation.

 

Penelope D. Dalton, 1999-2001

After leaving the NMFS, Dalton served as vice president of the Consortium for Oceanographic Research and Education, a nonprofit organization that represents 99 leading public and private ocean research education institutes, and industry leaders working to advance research, education and ocean policy. CORE also manages scientific ocean drilling, ocean observing, ocean exploration, and ocean partnerships.

 

In 2005, Dalton took the position of Director of Washington Sea Grant (WSG), one of the first programs designated nationally as a Sea Grant College. WSG conducts research and outreach and develops strategic partnerships in the marine community, to serve industries and communities in Washington state and the Pacific Northwest. WSG is part of a national network of 30 Sea Grant colleges administered by NOAA, providing provides a national infrastructure in every coastal and Great Lakes state in the nation.

 

Rolland 'Rollie' Schmitten, 1993-1999

After serving as Assistant Administrator, Schmitten served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Affairs under NOAA, the National Director of Marine Habitat Conservation and was a U.S. Whaling Commissioner from 1995-2005. In 2009, he was appointed to the Washington (state) Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission where he will serve until 2014.

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Comments

Helene Beck 10 months ago
The U.S. Navy’s plan to increase its intensity in training and testing activities with active sonars and explosives in the waters off Hawaii and Southern California will significantly harm and cause the deaths of marine life, including many endangered marine mammals and sea turtles. Scientific documentation shows that active sonar causes severe injuries and behavioral changes in many marine mammals. Furthermore, scientists have found that the Navy’s sonar and explosives cause fatal injuries to the imperiled sea turtles. You have a legal obligation to protect and reduce harm against the marine life. In authorizing the Navy’s 5-year plan and neglecting to search for alternatives, you are violating the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. I urge you to not execute the Navy’s 5-year training and testing plan in these areas and to find alternatives that will NOT harm the marine life and the environment. Thank you for your urgent attention to this important matter.
Jupp Kerckerinck 1 year ago
Hello, though I am in Germany right now, I am an American citizen. My question is, why does the NMFS believe that it would be helpful to the shark populations to undermine state laws that prohibit the possession and trade in shark fins? There should be a very good reason for it, which I don't understand. The question that comes to my mind is: hasn't the NMFS neglected to come up with a law earlier and is it now the position of the NMFS that they should grab an opportunity to do so by undermining existing state laws? I am working for the protection of sharks for many years and I know that the state ban on possession and trade in shark fins works very well. So there should be a very good reason, other than bureaucratic jealousy, to fix something that certainly is not broken? I would appreciate a good answer.
chip mcknight 2 years ago
i just came across this video online and wondering if this is what our swordfish fishery has come to? a disgussting harvest of small swords that i highly doubt will be sold to the commercial meat market. probably for bait! http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=grklhs0ojj8
GH 2 years ago
i am a recreational fisherman in texas. i fish almost every time offshoar. i do not charter a boat or own a charter or head boat. there for i am not under the jurisdiction of the feds, because i am not enguaged in any comerce. i simply do not even pay attention to what fedral regulations say. i do however obide by texas stae laws. if you look at the laws in title 50 cfr,they do have laws that regulate recreational fishing, but only if you are enguaged in commerce. example, if you ch...
Bob Ofenloch 2 years ago
your recent ruling reducing the keeper size of cod fish from 24" to 19" was a real "winner". the fish from 19" to 23.99" were returned so that most of them matured and increased the species. your ruling will decrease the numbers of cod fish available in the future, and perhaps ruin the cod fishing industry entirely. that's what happens when bureaucrats get involved. nice move folks!!! not!!! instead of killing off a species, why don't you do something about the rulings on striped b...
Joyce Morgan 2 years ago
please include captive members of the whale family in the endangered species act protections. marine parks isolate captive animals for entertainment purposes which is cruel in that they live in pods. please help. thank you, joyce morgan
Stan Walvick 3 years ago
I have just read thru the Madnuson Stevens fishery conservation act, from start to finish, there appears to be a couple major flaws in the implementation of your decisions regarding closers for Red Snapper and other snapper listed in the closer, black sea bass, and grouper. In several places it states that one of the requirements are sound scientific evidence before implementing a decision to act. To date there is no recent evidence to support your actions, as a recreational fishe...

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Founded: 1970 (with predecessors dating back to 1871)
Annual Budget: $880 million (FY 2013 Request)
Employees: 2,835 (FY 2013 Request)
Official Website: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov
National Marine Fisheries Service
Schwaab, Eric
Assistant Administrator

Eric C. Schwaab was appointed in February 2010 to run the National Marine Fisheries Service, part of the Department of Commerce. In this capacity he oversees the management and conservation of marine fisheries and the protection of marine mammals, sea turtles and coastal fisheries habitat within the United States exclusive economic zone.

 
Schwaab grew up in West Baltimore and then farther west in Carroll County, Maryland. He received his undergraduate degree in biology from McDaniel College and a master’s degree in environmental planning from Towson University.
 
He has spent the majority of his 25-year career in natural resource management working for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, where he began as a natural resources police law enforcement officer in 1983. In time he managed Deep Creek Lake State Park, served in waterfront and resource management positions with the State Forest and Park Service, and moved up to be director of the Maryland Forest Service; director of the Maryland Forest, Wildlife and Heritage Service; and director of the Maryland Fisheries Service.
 
In 2003, Schwaab was fired after losing a fight over crabbing restrictions with Republican governor Robert Ehrlich, Jr., who reduced restrictions on behalf of seafood processors. Schwaab had been a leader in the battle save the blue crab population of the Chesapeake Bay.
 
Schwaab then moved to Washington, D.C. to serve as resource director for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. When Ehrlich lost his bid for reelection in 2006, Schwaab returned to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources as deputy secretary, making him the No. 2 for the agency.
 
He served as a member of the U.S. Department of Commerce Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee from 2005-2010.
 
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Balsiger, James
Previous Acting Assistant Administrator
James Balsiger has a Bachelor of Science degree in forestry from Michigan Technological University, a Master of Science degree in forest silviculture from Purdue University and a doctorate in quantitative ecology and natural resource management from the University of Washington.
 
Balsiger helped lead a fish stock assessment program and served as regional science and research director at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle from 1977 to 1991. Between 1991 and 1995, he worked as the center’s deputy director, assuming the full-fledged directorship in 1996.
 
Starting in 2000, Balsiger served for eight years as administrator of the NMFS’ Alaska region. In February 2008 he was tapped to become the service’s acting director. His new post forced him to move from Juneau, Alaska, to Silver Spring, Md. According to his official biography, Balsiger has authored or co-authored some 33 publications.
 
 
 
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