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Response to CBS News Report on NOAA/OLE

On behalf of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA), I object to the CBS News report on NOAA Fisheries Service Law Enforcement. The news segment provided a one-sided perspective, and failed to consider the meaningful standpoint of those who carry out the formidable NOAA mission. On behalf of the 147 NOAA member agents that we represent, the piece focused on issues that were identified in the Department of Commerce, Inspector General’s reports being addressed by NOAA leadership. The interview with Administrator Eric Schwabb failed to give Mr. Schwabb the opportunity to articulate the changes being implemented to improve the Office for Law Enforcement.

FLEOA represents over 26,000 federal agents and officers from 65 agencies, and our membership does not support behavior or practices that compromise the integrity of the federal law enforcement community. With that said, any federal law enforcement agency periodically has internal issues that need to be addressed in order to have the respect and support of their respective constituencies. NOAA Fisheries Law Enforcement is no exception.

The vast majority of federal agents and officers go to work every day to protect the life and property of the citizens of the United States. NOAA agents and their colleagues in the federal natural resource agencies have a unique mission in that they are charged with protecting and conserving our nation’s living marine resources in perpetuity. For many NOAA Fisheries agents, they view their occupation as more than a job, "it’s a passion”. They believe in their mission and their willing to risk their lives in support of it.

These are very difficult economic times for the American public, and the fishing industry is no exception.

Why is it that the media fails to cover recent examples of NOAA agents working with the fishing industry to resolve conflicts between fishing gear types. Recently NOAA agents played a pivotal role in designing a system to reduce gear conflicts in the Gulf of Maine between the inshore fixed gear lobster and mid water trawl herring fleet. Collaborative efforts between NOAA Fisheries Law Enforcement, the US Coast Guard - Sector Northern New England, the states of Maine and New Hampshire and the competing fishers resulted in a marked decrease in gear conflict incidents. This saved thousands of dollars in potentially lost or damaged gear and corresponding investigations.

The media also failed to report on the history of public outreach efforts conducted by NOAA Fisheries Law Enforcement, such as educating fishers on existing or proposed regulations affecting both the commercial and recreational fishers.

FLEOA maintains that this form of partnership is essential for law enforcement to effectively safeguard the public and our nation’s natural resources. Additionally, FLEOA understands the paramount importance of sustaining public confidence that our brave men and women are dutifully carrying out their formidable mission.

However, It is essential that reporting by the news media be fair and balanced. With the multitude of social networking venues available to the public, the news media can greatly influence the public attitude and opinions in any given issue. Therefore, it is imperative that the news media maintain professional objectivity and provide an unbiased accounting of news events.

Sincerely,

Jon Adler
National President

Chris Schoppmeyer
VP for Agency Affairs