FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Chris Smith
A Louisiana seafood dealer and fisherman who violated federal shark fishery regulations by retaining, selling and purchasing shark caught when the fishery was closed have settled their cases with NOAA's Office of General Counsel. The two have agreed to a total of $178,000 in penalties and follow other sanctions.
NOAA charged Mark Vogel, a vessel captain from Kenner, La., and Sharkco Seafood International, Inc., a seafood dealer in Venice, La., with civil administrative penalties and permit sanctions for violating the closure regulations, reporting requirements and trip limits in the Gulf of Mexico shark fishery in 1996 and 1997.
In the settlement, Vogel and Sharkco Seafood International, Inc. admitted all violations as charged. Subject to certain terms, conditions and a probationary period, Vogel will pay a penalty of $20,000 and perform 500 hours of community service. Additionally, Vogel and his wife, Rachel Heidel, who are co-owners of the vessel used in the violations, agreed to lifetime bans from federal fishing. Sharkco Seafood International, Inc. will pay a penalty of $150,000, subject to certain terms, conditions and a probationary period. Additionally, proceeds in the amount of $8,759.37 from the sale of 10,937 pounds of blacktip shark and 303 pounds of fins that were seized from the company in April 1997, were forfeited to the agency.
"Vogel and Sharkco Seafood International agreed that they violated the shark regulations on multiple occasions and will pay for those violations," said prosecutor and Senior Enforcement Attorney Karen Antrim Raine of NOAA's Office of General Counsel. "This case should be a warning to those who violate federal fishery laws that NOAA will investigate and prosecute these and other fishery violations. Many shark populations are overfished. We must protect this national resource and ensure that fishing quotas are observed for those who follow the rules."
The case began when federally-deputized Louisiana officers inspected Sharkco Seafood International, Inc. during a federal shark closure and found over 10,000 pounds of shark. The shark were later determined to have come from the fishing vessel Fly Boy (subsequently renamed Night Moves), a federally permitted vessel. The illegal actions occurred during federal shark fishery closures in September through December 1996, and in April 1997. Subsequent investigation by a NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Special Agent resulted in multiple charges:
Vogel and Sharkco Seafood International, Inc. were additionally charged with landing or possessing shark in excess of the 4,000 pound trip limit. Sharkco Seafood International, Inc. subsequently possessed, had custody or control of, or purchased the shark without making the proper reports.
Reports of fishery violations during weekly business hours should go to the Southeast Region Law Enforcement Division at (727) 570-5344, or after hours and weekends at its National Enforcement Hotline at (800) 853-1964.
This and other Southeast Regional news releases and fishery bulletins are available on the region's Internet home page: http://caldera.sero.nmfs.gov.
NOAA Fisheries is an agency of the Department
of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The agency conducts scientific research and provides services
and products to support fisheries management, fisheries development,
trade, and industry assistance, enforcement, and protected species
and habitat conservation programs.