After members of Congress and elected state officials complained about unfair enforcement practices against Northeastern fishers and an Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Commerce investigation, NOAA initiated a series of change strategies, including holding a National Fisheries Enforcement Summit.
Based on an extensive assessment, Podziba Policy Mediation identified and recommended 80 participants for the National Fisheries Enforcement Summit, including commercial and recreational fishers, U.S. government agencies, state enforcement partners, fisheries councils and commissions, environmental and conservation groups, academia and NOAA. The Summit design reflected the challenge of convening a diverse group of individuals with varied enforcement experiences across the country. Brief remarks from experts with multiple perspectives were followed by small group discussions that were led by a team of federal facilitators trained on a precisely designed meeting format.
In his article, Civility, A Surprise Visitor to the NOAA Law Enforcement Summit, a participant described the Summit in this way, “my initial internal reaction was ‘oh boy, here goes the bar fight’ but then the unexpected thing happened. A really fascinating conversation began unfolding with everyone being very respectful of each others opinions and folks trying real hard to come up with constructive ideas for helping NOAA enhance the effectiveness of its law enforcement program.”
The diverse stakeholder representatives developed high priority recommendations to NOAA for: improving compliance and enforcement, developing processes for creating and maintaining enforcement priorities at national and regional levels, establishing improvements for NOAA communications with stakeholders, and improving public confidence in the enforcement program, by making it more consistent and transparent. NOAA used these recommendations to inform its enforcement priorities.