FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Chris Smith
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has charged a Florida fisherman and a vessel owner with violating South Atlantic shrimp fishery regulations by fishing for rock shrimp in an area closed to shrimping and for failing to have a certified bycatch reduction device installed in each net that was rigged for fishing.
NOAA has assessed a $15,000.00 civil penalty against the operator of the fishing vessel Dixie Haertel, Thomas Berry of Fort Pierce, Fla., and the vessel's owner, Miss Courtney, Inc., of Mobile, Ala. Miss Courtney, Inc. was also assessed a permit sanction that will forbid the vessel and any other vessel/dealership for which it holds a permit, from fishing for or dealing in federally regulated species of fish for which a federal permit is required for 30 days. Berry and Miss Courtney, Inc. have 30 days from the date they are notified of these penalties to either pay the penalty and accept the permit sanction, seek to have the assessment modified, or request a hearing before an administrative law judge to deny or contest all or any part of the charges and the penalties assessed.
The violations took place on Jan. 19, 2000 when a U. S. Coast Guard aircraft sighted the Dixie Haertel trawling in an area off Vero Beach, Fla., that was closed to rock shrimping. With the support of a U.S. Coast Guard vessel, NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Special Agent Casey Oravetz subsequently boarded the vessel and discovered 2,962 pounds of rock shrimp and 5,623 pounds of penaeid shrimp in the vessel's hold. Oravetz seized those shrimp which were later offloaded and sold for $30,433.15. NOAA intends to seek forfeiture of those proceeds.
"NOAA will aggressively investigate and prosecute illegal fishing activities. One of our most important missions is to enforce the laws that are intended to protect our precious marine resources so that we and future generations can continue to enjoy the sea's bounty," said Senior Enforcement Attorney Karen Antrim Raine of NOAA's Office of General Counsel who is prosecuting the case.
NOAA Fisheries urges citizens to report fishery violations during weekly business hours of 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 a.m. Eastern, to its 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 or NOAA's Internet home page, http://www.noaa.gov/public-affairs/press99.html.
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.