Federal investigator visits New Bedford to hear fishing complaints

NEW BEDFORD — Todd J. Zinser, the inspector general from the U.S. Department of Commerce, came to the city Wednesday and Thursday to hear firsthand from the fishing industry how the regulatory system in the Northeast might be improved.
Zinser’s visit followed an Aug. 8 letter from New Bedford Mayor Scott W. Lang pressing for an investigation into the rule-making process governing the groundfishery, following repeated criticism of the National Marine Fisheries Service and its Northeast Regional Office.
“We wanted to get a better understanding of what they think we might do to be helpful. We get a number of requests for investigations. I try to bring oversight to the issues,” Zinser said in a telephone interview late Thursday afternoon. “What we heard centered around the characteristics of rule-making.”
However, Zinser declined to say whether his visit would spur a full-scale investigation. “We’d like to identify some manageable issues that we could look at and maybe provide some insight,” he said.
Zinser and his staff met with the mayor and such fishing industry figures as Carlos Rafael, Richie Canastra, Harriet Didriksen and Eoin Rochford at City Hall. Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk was also present, along with congressional staffers.
“We’re finally getting some traction in making our case,” said Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., who was not present but was contacted later. “Having the IG look at this will show, I think, that the rules haven’t been done well. All we need is a fair hearing.”
Lang said he was very appreciative of the visit and believed it could prove the first step in a necessary and overdue process.
“I’m very satisfied that we are now moving ahead to reform NOAA,” Lang said.
September 23, 2011 12:00 AM
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