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Outreach: NOAA Names Former Commercial Fisherman As Fishing Industry Compliance Liaison; 'I Speak The Regulatory Language'

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SILVER SPRING, Maryland -- Building on NOAA's previous actions to improve its enforcement program and to strengthen its efforts to improve communication with and outreach to the fishing industry, a former commercial fisherman has been tapped as NOAA Office of Law Enforcement's compliance assistance liaison in the Northeast.

Selected through a competitive process, Don Frei will begin working as compliance assistance liaison in mid-April. He will build upon the efforts of Don Mason, a NOAA fishery management specialist who laid the groundwork for the compliance assistance pilot program during a 120-day assignment to OLE.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced this pilot program in September 2010 in response to Office of Inspector General reports and feedback received from stakeholders during NOAA's National Enforcement Summit in August 2010. NOAA has taken proactive and aggressive steps to reform its fisheries enforcement. Fair and effective enforcement is critical to rebuilding and sustaining fishing. Fishermen want to know that those who abide by the rules have their rights protected, and those who break the rules bear just consequences.

"We are confident Don Frei's extensive experience communicating with fishermen regarding fishery regulations will further open the lines of communication and aid fishermen in understanding regulations and improving compliance," said Eric Schwaab, assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA's Fisheries Service.

A native of Maplewood, N.J., Frei was a commercial fisherman for 23 years, starting as a deck hand and working his way up to captain. He spent the first 15 years of his career fishing primarily for scallops and also groundfish from New Bedford, Mass., before spending eight years fishing for scallops in the waters around Kodiak, Alaska.

In 1995, Frei changed careers, earning his college degree and working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on restoration projects in the Cascade Mountains and for the South Florida Water Management District on restoration projects in the Everglades.

Since 2002, he has been a fishery management specialist with NOAA's Northeast Regional Office in Gloucester, Mass., working with industry on regulation and gear questions and on a number of fishery issues related to scallops, herring, mackerel, dogfish and loligo and illex squid.

As OLE's compliance assistance liaison, Frei will interact with stakeholders and work with them to solve problems. While Frei will work for OLE, he will not be an enforcement officer or a special agent.

"I'm very much looking forward to working with the men and women in the industry because not only do I speak the regulatory language, but I also speak the language of fishing because of the years I spent fishing here in New England and in Alaska," said Frei. "I want to help them comply with the rules, and make the lines of communication between NOAA Fisheries and fishermen easier than it has been."

The mission of NOAA OLE is to ensure compliance with the laws and regulations enacted to conserve and protect our nation's marine resources. To report a suspected violation, contact the NOAA OLE national hotline at 1-800-853-1964.

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