The acting U.S. Commerce Secretary has ordered federal fishery regulators to return about $544,000 in fines to 14 fishermen or fishing-related businesses, most in the northeast.

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Secretary Rebecca Blank also directed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 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. The names of the fihsermen or the fishing businesses that received their fines back have not been revealed.