Federal Fishery Managers Suspected of Illegal Lobbying in California
Ocean Protection Group Seeks Investigation of National Marine Fisheries Service for
Lobbying Against West Coast Sea Turtle Protection
|Leatherback sea turtle - Copyright Doug Perrine |
Today the Sea Turtle Restoration Project filed papers seeking an investigation into whether the NOAA Fisheries Service, Southwest Region, in Long Beach, CA, violated federal agency lobbying laws when lobbying to defeat California legislation, Assembly Joint Resolution 62 - West Coast Sea Turtle Protection. See the complaint. See supporting documents below. The group filed papers today with the Inspector General of the Department of Commerce and the House Government Oversight Committee.
"Federal fishery managers are out of control," said Teri Shore, Program Director, Sea Turtle Restoration Project. "They are pushing fishing industry agendas when they should be protecting our disappearing marine life and fish."
The sea turtle protection group suspects that senior federal fishery officials from the Southwest Region of National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) violated lobbying laws governing federal agencies when they directly lobbied state legislators, legislative staff and committee analysts in an attempt to defeat the sea turtle protection resolution. The most questionable action was when NMFS Southwest Regional Administrator Mark Helvey testified in person in opposition to AJR 62 at California Senate Natural Resources and Water Hearing on June 25, 2008, in Sacramento - traveling on taxpayer's dollars.
AJR 62 urges NMFS to deny or delay approval or consideration of new longline swordfish permits along the West Coast of California until Endangered Species Act actions related to endangered Pacific leatherback and threatened Pacific loggerhead sea turtles were completed. Endangered sea turtles are caught as bycatch in longlines and discarded injured or dead, making this fishery practice a key factor in their demise and near-extinction. The resolution was adopted by the state legislature on a bi-partisan vote.
NMFS want to open a new longline fishery for swordfish off the California and Oregon coasts that has been rejected by the state of California as recently as last year. NMFS lobbying actions against AJR 62 were attempting to overturn long-standing California fisheries policy that prohibits longline fishing for swordfish, tuna and other large ocean fish within 200 miles of the California coast.
The proposed exempted permit would be granted to applicant Peter Dupuy of Ocean Pacific Seafoods in Tarzana, CA - who is also a member of the Pacific Fishery Management Council's Highly Migratory Species Advisory Subpanel.
According to federal law(18 U.S.C. 1913 "Lobbying with Appropriated Monies),
No part of the money appropriated by any enactment of Congress shall, in the absence of express authorization by Congress, be used directly or indirectly to pay for any personal service, …, telephone, letter, printed or written matter, or other device, intended or designed to influence in any manner … an official of any government, to favor, adopt, or oppose, by vote or otherwise, any legislation, law, ratification, policy, or appropriation, whether before or after the introduction of any bill, measure, or resolution proposing such legislation, law, ratification, policy, or appropriation;
Source: Cornell University
AJR 62 - West Coast Sea Turtle Protection
Letter from Assemblyman Mark Leno to NMFS
Agenda - NMFS lobby meeting with CA Assembly staff.
CA Senate Natural Resources Analysis of AJR 62 w/NMFS as sole opposition.
Testimony of NMFS at CA Senate Committee Hearing.