FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Gordon Helm
News Releases 2003
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Special agents from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) discovered 12 violations of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) while conducting patrols July 25-28. The violations, involving poundnet leaders that were not removed as required under a final rule imposed in mid-July, were found in federal waters south of Cape Charles, Va. NOAA is an agency of the Commerce Department.
The final rule imposed under the ESA was effective from July 16 to July 30, 2003. The rule prohibited poundnet leaders in all Chesapeake Bay federal waters, and sought to conserve sea turtles listed as threatened or endangered.
“This rule was in place for nine days before we patrolled the area,” said NOAA Special Agent Steven Niemi. “That is nine days after the leaders were required to be out of the water.”
A poundnet leader is a 25 to 75 yard net that usually extends shoreward from the trap portion of the pound net. The poundnet leader guides fish toward deeper water into the trap, where they can be harvested.
“We discovered one poundnet leader in the water that had a stretched mesh size that exceeded the allowable size in place before the rule was implemented,” said Niemi.
Several of the poundnets were missing the Virginia license tag, required to be affixed to the pound net to identify who is operating the net. These violations will be forwarded to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.
“We received reports of fisherman not complying with the rule, and these two patrols verified that information,” replied NOAA Special Agent Logan Gregory. “The fishermen were informed that we would be out there enforcing the rule, and they were given ample opportunity to comply.”
The investigation is ongoing and could result in civil penalties for violations of the ESA up to $25,000 per offense.
When the rule is not in effect, it is legal to use poundnet leaders, but the stretched mesh should not exceed 12 inches.
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