Staffing and resource shortages at the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Shellfisheries division have been flagged as an “emerging problem” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA program evaluation reports released in late 2011 cite staffing-related issues in three of the Shellfisheries division’s four units.
A January 2012 letter to DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens, which accompanied the FDA’s bi-annual evaluation of the division, notes that one of the units, “May be currently stretched to its operating limits. FDA encourages the DEC to invest the necessary resources to keep the Growing Area Classification Program in compliance. The FDA is concerned with the loss of staff in the Growing Area Classification Unit which is critical to protecting public health.”
In an interview last month with Gotham Gazette, Commissioner Martens stated that the DEC will not see an increase in staff “anytime soon” due to the state’s fiscal situation. The DEC has lost almost 800 employees since 2008. Agency staffing levels are at their lowest point in over twenty years.