On the 14th of March I interviewed NOAA Office of Law Enforcement Acting Director Alan Risenhoover who came to the office when the last director Dale Jones was accused of being overly heavy handed when fining Gloucester and other Northeast fishermen far in excess of the national average over the years. While I do not have time to transcribe the whole conversation, I have highlighted at what times the major subjects of our conversation started. The conversation lasted almost exactly 20 minutes. Connie Barkley and Tim Hansen were also on the line during the call.
00:41 I started off the conversation thanking Alan for writing a letter back in April of 2010 to the then head of Mexican Fisheries Roman Coral. I also asked Alan if Conapesca or Coral ever responded to the letter.
05:30 I asked how NOAA was going to enforce the new Billfish Conservation Act.
07:55 I asked how the current sequestration and budget cuts in Washington would effect enforcement of the Billfish Conservation Act.
08:45 I am told that the Sea Food Inspection Program, a program that is of great importance to the Sea of Cortes, is funded by the industry and that current budget cuts should not have to great an effect on NOAA’s ability to manage the program but it is still early to know for sure.
09:00 As many who follow the sea food industry know there is are often times mislabeling of sea food products and I asked if they thought mislabeling would be an issue. This is where I was informed that the Billfish Conservation act is not a ban on importation of billfish but a ban on the sale of billfish products.
13:00 I asked Alan at this point how could NOAA enforce the Billfish Conservation act and not enforce the Lacey Act. This is one of the most important parts of our conversation. I was very disappointed with the response to this question.
15:45 I asked what people in Mexico would have to do to get NOAA to enforce the Lacey Act.
17:35 Here at the end of our conversation I expressed to Alan how much frustration their was here in the Sea of Cortes over lack of enforcement of Mexican law in Mexico as well as lack of enforcement of American law that allows illegal fisherman access to the lucrative American marketplace.
I unknowingly predicted the future by mentioning to Alan that I thought very soon conservation groups would start hiring lawyers to file suit against the United States for not enforcing their own laws in regards to importation of illegal fish from Mexico.
It would be just a a few months from the date of this conversation that my prediction would come true and the Center for Biological Diversity and The Sea Turtle Restoration Project would file a petition against the U.S.A. Although this suit does not have anything to do with the Lacey Act it does set a precedent for those in Mexico and the Sea of Cortes area who desperately want to see the exportation of illegal fish products from Mexico stopped.
Please send Alan Risenhoover, head of Law Enforcement, and Tim Hansen. director of Sea Food Inspection Program, an email and ask them to please enforce the Lacey Act and stop allowing fish illegally caught in Mexico to be sold to American consumers.
Director, Office of Law Enforcement
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
NMFS, Room 13362, 1315 East-West Highway,
Silver Spring, MD 20910
SEAFOOD INSPECTION PROGRAM
Seafood Inspection Program
1315 East-West Highway, F/SI
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Director – Timothy E. Hansen
Industry and Consumer Liaison – Kimberly Young
Chief Quality Officer – Steven E. Wilson