Commerce Secretary: Return $544K in fish fines

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Associated Press

Posted on December 14, 2012 at 6:00 PM

Updated Friday, Dec 14 at 9:01 PM

BOSTON (AP) — The acting U.S. Commerce Secretary has ordered federal fishery regulators to return about $544,000 in unjust fines to 14 fishermen or fishing-related businesses.

Secretary Rebecca Blank also directed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Friday to forgive about $150,000 in debt for two people.

The decision follows the second phase of an investigation launched after persistent complaints by New England fishermen of abusive treatment and excessive fines by nation's fishery law enforcers.

In May 2011, the Commerce Secretary ordered $650,000 in unjust fines remitted to fishermen, meaning a total of $1.1 million has now been ordered returned.

Special investigator Charles Swartwood reviewed 93 cases in the probe, and the secretary ordered money returned or debt forgiven in 27 cases, 23 of which originated in the Northeast.

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