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Commerce Sec: fishery fines to be reviewed

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AP Photo/Stephan Savoia

AP Photo/Stephan Savoia

The U.S. Commerce Secretary has ordered a review of questionable penalties assessed against fishermen by the nation’s troubled fishery enforcement office.

Gary Locke announced Thursday he would appoint a “special master” to look at problematic cases identified Thursday by his office’s inspector general.

The IG’s review of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fishery enforcement division was prompted by years of complaints from Northeast fishermen of unfair treatment.

The final report was released Thursday, but a preliminary report in January prompted an audit that revealed widespread mismanagement, including misusing fines collected from fishermen to buy items such as a luxury undercover boat.

Locke also said Thursday he was further restricting how NOAA could use the fines so the money can “never be perceived as being an expense account for law enforcement.”

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