Shea-Porter Introduces Bill to Create Fisheries Ombudsman

WASHINGTON, DC  — Today, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter introduced the National Marine Fisheries Service Ombudsman Act of 2010 (H.R.5180). This legislation will create an Office of the Ombudsman within National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).  Shea-Porter is a member of the House Natural Resources Committee and the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife, which has jurisdiction over NMFS.  

The fishing industry is a critical part of New Hampshire’s coastal economy, culture and history,” Shea-Porter said. “Fisheries regulations have become increasingly complex and the relationship between our local fishermen and the National Fisheries Service has been strained.  An Ombudsman would provide a needed point of contact and source of information for our fishermen.”

In a January 2010 report, the Department of Commerce Inspector General recommended reestablishing the position of Ombudsman.   Shea-Porter’s bill would do so, creating an independent office that will act as a neutral third party to identify points of conflict and contention between NMFS and fishermen, undertake impartial fact-finding and investigations and mitigate those points of conflict.  The Ombudsman will also serve as a point of contact and receive complaints from those regulated by NMFS and will conduct community outreach and disseminate information about new regulations and requirements.

The Ombudsman will report to Congress annually on their recommendations to improve the services and responsiveness of NMFS, summarize the most pervasive and serious points of conflict, and make recommendations to resolve those points of conflict.