Photo 2: Sea turtle entangled in a ghost net. (NOAA Photo Library)
The NOAA Enforcement Section prosecutes civil administrative violations committed under a myriad of laws administered by NOAA. The Enforcement Section also provides legal advice to its primary client, the Office of Law Enforcement, on the development and implementation of enforcement policies and operational guidance.
1315 East West Highway
SSMC3, Rm. 15405
Silver Spring, MD 20910
The mission of the Enforcement Section’s Headquarters office in Silver Spring office, Maryland is national in scope and promotes unified and consistent enforcement of NOAA's marine resource statutes. The Headquarter’s office also is engaged in monitoring and developing legislative and regulatory proposals, responding to Congressional inquiries, conducting Congressional briefings, issuing all penalty schedules, providing legal and policy guidance to NOAA program offices, adjudicating written warning appeals, and taking the lead on any number of cross-cutting issues of nationwide concern. In addition, the Headquarters office facilitates cooperative enforcement efforts with state and federal agencies.
Like enforcement attorneys in the regions, the attorneys in the Headquarters office also prosecute cases. Headquarters attorneys receive these cases from all over the country and such cases are reflective of both national and regional priorities. Handling such cases at Headquarters relieves temporary increases in regional case referrals and supports timely case processing. Headquarters attorneys also prosecute sensitive, politically-charged cases, as well as cases originated from NOAA Headquarters program offices, such as the NMFS Highly Migratory Species Division.
As in the regional offices, Headquarters attorneys devote a significant amount of time to reviewing regulations from various NOAA Headquarters program offices, including those that manage and protect endangered species and marine mammals and those that regulate commercial and recreational fisheries. In addition, the Enforcement Section’s Headquarters office provides legal advice to the previously mentioned NOAA Headquarters program offices and to the NMFS Office of Law Enforcement, particularly in areas involving international cooperative efforts to eliminate illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing.
55 Great Republic Drive,
Gloucester, Massachusetts 01930-2276
In the Northeast region, there are thirteen fisheries management plans (FMPs) and at least forty species of fish regulated by NOAA's NMFS. As in other regions, enforcement efforts here are focused on serious and purposeful offenders. Over the past several years, there has been a significant increase in the number of serious cases being referred to NOAA General Counsel.
Areas of particular concern include the use of illegal net configurations in the multispecies fishery, large-scale violations by fish dealers, incursions into closed areas by scallop and multispecies vessels, and fish landings that exceed trip limits (particularly in the cod and general category scallop fisheries).
In this region, Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) have a large impact on detection of closed area and Days-At-Sea violations. VMS first became mandatory in the fisheries of the Northeast in mid-1998. Over the last several years, many catch seizures resulted from VMS-based information have taken place and a number of closed area cases, based solely on VMS positional data, have been prosecuted.
Photo 3: A tuna seiner circling a school of tuna. (NOAA Photo Library)
263 13th Ave. S., Suite 177
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
The Enforcement Section’s Southeast office enforces laws and regulations covering over 15 fishery management plans, protected species, and National Marine Sanctuaries. Some of the most challenging issues in the region stem from the year-round nature of the fisheries and the large numbers of commercial and recreational fishermen.
High priorities for regional fisheries include enforcement of individual fishing quota (IFQ) measures and fishery closures. Enforcement of regulations protecting Right whales, turtles, corals, and lethal takes of marine mammals are high priorities for protected species. And, within the regional National Marine Sanctuaries, enforcement of regulations that protect sanctuary resources from discharges, commercial takes of those resources, and vessel groundings on coral reefs and seagrass beds are high priorities.
Additionally, the Enforcement Section’s Southeast office reviews proposed regulations, provides enforcement guidance to clients, and participates in a variety of public forums to offer enforcement- related comments and information.
7600 Sand Point Way, N.E.
Seattle, Washington, 98115-0070
The Enforcement Section’s Northwest office works closely with the U.S. Coast Guard and the states of Oregon and Washington to enforce commercial and recreational fishing restrictions for Pacific Coast groundfish species, salmon, and halibut. Groundfish and halibut are regulated in federal waters under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) and North Pacific Halibut Act of 1982 (NPHA), respectively. Salmon fishing is regulated under the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the Pacific Salmon Treaty Act of 1985.
The Northwest enforcement office also enforces compliance under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to protect and recover threatened and endangered runs of salmon and steelhead trout in Oregon, Idaho and Washington. This effort continues to be a regional priority, with emphasis on preventing or penalizing the taking of ESA-listed endangered and threatened species.
Other regional priorities include Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) enforcement issues relating to whales, porpoises, seals and sea lions, and case investigations under the Lacey Act Amendments of 1988 involving fish and shellfish that is harvested or sold in violation of state, federal, foreign, or Indian tribal law, and that is subsequently trafficked in interstate or foreign commerce. The Northwest enforcement section also provides assistance and law enforcement support to the federally-designated Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, under authority of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act.
501 W. Ocean Blvd., Suite 4470
Long Beach, CA 90802
The Enforcement Section’s Southwest office is responsible for a wide range of NOAA priorities, including the Pacific coast groundfish fishery, the Pacific Highly Migratory Species fishery, marine mammals, endangered species, four national marine sanctuaries and issues concerning international trade of fish species.
In the Pacific Coast groundfish fishery, closed area violations, trip limit overages, falsification of records, and the requirements of the Trawl Rationalization are top enforcement priorities as these violations can significantly impact the resource.
Additionally, the Southwest enforcement office continues to devote significant resources to various issues under the ESA and the MMPA. ESA listed salmon and steelhead related issues remain a priority for NMFS along the entire West Coast, and the enforcement effort is developed along with the management plans (e.g., habitat conservation plans) to ensure the survival of the species and promote compliance among the myriad affected people/entities.
P.O. Box 21109
709 West 9th Street
Juneau, AK 99802-1109
The Enforcement Section’s Alaska office is responsible for enforcing the laws and regulations for Alaska’s numerous fisheries, as well as those protecting marine mammals and endangered marine species. Alaska’s fisheries are robust and valuable, resulting in $3.2B in exports and $1.2B in domestic sales per year while employing over 57,000 workers. Our goal is to protect the fisheries, ensure a level playing field for all participants, and achieving maximum compliance. Our highest priorities include prosecuting violations involving harassment or interference with observers; commercialization of sport-caught or subsistence halibut; felony and major civil cases with significant damage to the resource or the integrity of management schemes; maritime boundary line incursions by foreign vessels; violations of the sablefish and halibut individual fishing quota (IFQ) regulations; and violations that involve illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
In enforcing the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act, our highest priorities include prosecuting violations involving lethal takes and Level A harassment of marine mammals, such as Steller sea lions, northern fur seals, Cook Inlet belugas and other whale species.
Our international work primarily consists of advancing the agency’s enforcement interests at the International Pacific Halibut Commission and the North Pacific Fisheries Commission and supporting NOAA in bilateral engagements with Canada and Russia. We also work closely with the United States Attorney's Office in Alaska on cases in which NOAA seeks to prosecute individuals criminally.
Photo 5: Net in the water during trawling operations (NOAA Photo Library)
1601 Kapiolani Blvd., Suite 1110
Honolulu, HI 96814
The Enforcement Section’s Pacific Islands office is responsible for a wide range of priorities, including the Western Pacific pelagic longline and purse seine fisheries, bottomfish fisheries, issues concerning the Pacific Insular Areas, marine mammals, endangered species, and two national marine sanctuaries, and four marine national monuments.
Conserving the Western Pacific pelagic fishery remains a top regional enforcement priority. NOAA devotes significant resources to enforcement of prohibited fishing zones in the Pacific Islands through effective use of the nation's first vessel monitoring system, as well as enforcement of the recent measures to reduce the number of seabird and sea turtle takes by the fleet. With a variety of endangered and threatened marine species in the region, such as Humpback whales, Hawaiian monk seals, and green sea turtles, ensuring that human interactions with those species occurs in a positive manner that does not threaten the survivial of those species is a priority for the region.
With U.S. Exclusive Economic Zones in the Pacific Islands abutting the waters of nine other countries and territories in the Pacific, the Enforcement Section’s Pacific Islands office is actively engaged in the work of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commissions to ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of highly migratory fish stocks (i.e., tunas, billfish, marlin) in the western and central Pacific Ocean. In addition, the office works closely with NMFS Office of Law Enforcement, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Department of Justice to provide a strong enforcement response to any illegal fishing by foreign vessels in remote U.S. exclusive economic zone waters in the Pacific.