Gulf of Maine Law Enforcement
The National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration Office of Law Enforcement (NOAA OLE) enforces fishing regulations in the Gulf of Maine. Established in 1930, the NOAA OLE is responsible for the protection of the marine ecosystem and most of the national sea life around the United States. The NOAA OLE has six divisions, each maintaining watch over a different region of U.S. coastal waters, including Alaska, Hawaii, Pacific territories, and Caribbean territories, adding up to a total of 95,000 miles of coastline. People can also call them to report violations or illegal activity by other fishermen.
The OLE is in charge of enforcing domestic laws and international treaty requirements designed to ensure marine resources are used in a sustainable way. There are several sub-objectives that the OLE has included under their main purpose, like sustaining fish stocks for use by different stakeholders, prevent illegal harvesting and trafficking of fish and wildlife, and holding accountable those who violate the law. The OLE accomplishes these by conducting criminal and civil investigations, patrolling waters, inspecting fishing vessels, reaching out to different stakeholders (government, community, NGOs, etc.), and using advanced, innovative tools to increase efficiency.
The Office of the General Council (OGC) is NOAA’s civil prosecutor. The OLE and OGC together make up NOAA’s Enforcement Program. The OGC is in charge of assigning penalties for violations. The office has 14 attorneys and one paralegal specialist.
In 2015, the NOAA OLE had 726 investigations, the majority of which were fisheries related. In recent years, the OLE has come under fire for its lack of regulation and being too much of an inconvenience while not significantly stopping violations. A lot of fishery regulation and oversight is now done at the state level now. For example, the Massachusetts environmental police are in charge of inspecting catches at the dock.