NOAA 03-R427
Contact: Ben Sherman
NOAA News Releases 2003
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Settlement Also Reached in 2002 Case

Attorneys for the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have issued a $20,000 civil penalty in the case of a vessel cited for illegal Longline fishing in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary’s protected Tortugas Ecological Reserve. NOAA has also obtained a settlement in a December 2002 Tortugas shrimping case.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officers assigned to the sanctuary were on routine patrol in the Tortugas aboard the Point Monroe on March 26, 2003, when they boarded the fishing vessel Can Do, owned by Can Do of Pinellas, Inc., and operated by Stephen P. Thorsteinsson of Madeira Beach, Fla.

A marine fisheries inspection revealed that the Can Do had set five miles of Longline gear within the Riley’s Hump area of the Tortugas Ecological Reserve. A sanctuary officer who remained aboard the vessel as the crew recovered its gear reported that six sand bar sharks, sixteen black tip sharks, one silky shark and two black nose sharks were dead when brought aboard. The officer ordered the crew to release two goliath grouper (formerly called jewfish), two mutton snapper, one black grouper, and one red grouper recovered alive.

Riley’s Hump lies in the Tortugas South section of the reserve, which is closed to all activity except for continuous transit by vessels with their fishing gear stowed. “Commercial fishermen told us that Riley’s Hump deserved protection as a key spawning ground for snapper and grouper,” said sanctuary Superintendent Billy Causey. “Sanctuary officers aboard the Point Monroe and NOAA attorneys understand that the protections of the Tortugas reserve require consistent enforcement if they are to succeed.”

The vessel owner and operator face an additional $7,500 penalty for a second federal count of failing to comply with rules for the at-sea fisheries observer program. FWC officers also wrote a state citation to ship operator Thorsteinsson for having dogs aboard a commercial fishing vessel that processes fish on board. Proceeds of $254.40 from the sale of 636 lbs. of shark meat and $405.00 from the sale of shark fins remain in escrow pending the settlement of the case.

NOAA attorneys recently prevailed in another Tortugas reserve case, when Christine Ho of Abbeville, La., owner of the Miss Christine V, and vessel captain Cu T. Nguyen of Port Arthur, Texas, agreed to a $15,000 settlement for shrimping in the reserve. The Coast Guard vessel Nantucket cited the Miss Christine V on Dec. 16, 2002 and escorted the vessel to Key West, where its catch of 1,117 lbs. of pink shrimp was seized and sold by a NOAA agent. As part of the settlement, Ho and Nguyen will forfeit the $1,733.38 proceeds from the sale.

The Tortugas Ecological Reserve, established in 2001, protects 151 square nautical miles of deep coral reefs and essential habitat for fish and other marine life. The reserve is the largest of the sanctuary’s network of 24 “no-take” areas set aside to protect habitat and preserve the diversity of marine life in the coral reef ecosystem of the Florida Keys.

The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, designated in 1990, protects 2,900 square nautical miles of coral reefs, seagrass meadows, hardbottom communities, mangrove shorelines and mud and sand habitat through a state and federal partnership.

NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program (NMSP) seeks to increase the public awareness of America’s maritime heritage by conducting scientific research, monitoring, exploration and educational programs. Today, 13 national marine sanctuaries encompass more than 18,000 square miles of America’s ocean and Great Lakes natural and cultural resources.

NOAA National Ocean Service manages the National Marine Sanctuary Program and balances environmental protection with economic prosperity in fulfilling its mission of promoting safe navigation, supporting coastal communities, sustaining coastal habitats and mitigating coastal hazards.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resource.

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